What is a vacuum bomb? The Thermobaric weapon or aerosol bomb Russia has reportedly used on Ukraine

Reports from Ukraine have suggested that Russia has begun using vacuum bombs - but what are they?

By Abi Whistance
Tuesday, 1st March 2022, 9:28 am
Updated Tuesday, 1st March 2022, 10:21 am

Human rights organisations and Ukraine's US ambassador has accused Russia of attacking Ukraine with vacuum bombs - a weapon that has been condemned by multiple international organisations.

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There has been no official confirmation that thermobaric weapons have been used, however a report by CNN stated that one of its teams had seen a thermobaric rocket launcher on Saturday (26 February).

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People protesting outside the Chinese Embassy in Dublin over the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Photo: PA/Niall Carson

Below is everything you need to know about vacuum bombs - from how dangerous they are to how they work.

What is a vacuum bomb?

A vacuum bomb, also known as a Thermobaric weapon or aerosol bomb, sucks in oxygen from the surrounding air to generate a high-temperature explosion.

Fears have risen after reports suggested that Russia has begun using them, however this is yet to be officially confirmed.

However there has been footage published of Russian vehicles in possession of thermobaric rocket launchers.

How does a vacuum bomb work?

The vacuum bomb works in two stages.

The first stage releases an aerosol made up of very fine material, this aerosol is extremely flammable.

The second stage then ignites that cloud, creating a fireball, a huge shock wave, and a vacuum as it sucks up all surrounding oxygen.

The blast can last for a lot longer than a regular explosive and is capable of vaporising humans.

Are they as dangerous as other bombs?

Vacuum bombs may not be able to penetrate a tank, but they are able to destroy buildings and cause catastrophic injuries to civilian life.

The effect of using one can cause devastating damage to an area, and the vacuum that is created in the first stage of detonation can suck the air out of human lungs.

Despite this, the use of vaccum bombs is not illegal.

Have they been used before?

Yes - the bombs have been in use since the 1960s.

Both Western and Eastern forces have been known to use vacuum bombs, most notably in the war in Afghanistan over the past few decades.

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