Not really, but the impact that a new Chinese weapon can potentially have on our force posture in Iraq is not that far off.
Jane’s reveals that China’s Xinshidai Company is churning out thermobaric warheads for the venerable RPG-7. Thermobaric explosives are ‘volumetric’ – the explosion comes from a cloud rather than a point source, and produces a blast that lasts longer. Even though this increase in duration is measured in milliseconds, it makes thermobarics far more destructive than condensed explosives, against both buildings and people.
The Russians were first to produce a portable thermobaric rocket with the RPO-A Shmel (which seems to be one of these that produces many of the casualties in Beslan). The US followed with the SMAW-NE, which was used to great effect against buildings in Fallujah where one round “would incinerate the target or literally level the structure.”
[…] [T]hermobaric rounds represent a particular threat to US forces. The type of blast injuries they cause are much harder to treat in the field, and are not prevented by body armor — in fact, armor may even make injuries worse. Armored vehicles provide little protection unless they’re “buttoned up.” Buildings stop being cover and start being a liability. A study by the Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory’s Project Albert indicated that thermobaric weapons in enemy hands would significantly increase US casualties.
Even if Chinese leaders decided to hold this round back from global distribution the Chinese system is rife with corruption, and the demand for a force leveler like this so intense that one could easily imagine significant numbers getting “lost” on the way out of the factory. Thermobarics are not WMD’s, and the fact that we have used them against Iraqis will make the insurgents feel perfectly justified about using them back at us. The only real question is whether insurgents will get these rounds, and how much pain will come down when they do.
Needless to say Iran will have a hefty stockpile of these ready to greet an invasion force.