The Air War In Afghanistan
SUBJECT AREA Aviation
WAR SINCE 1945 SEMINAR AND SYMPOSIUM
The Air War in Afghanistan
Major Keith J. Stalder, USMC
25 January 1985
Marine Corps Command and Staff College
Marine Corps Development and Education Command
Quantico, Virginia 22314
Author: STALDER, Keith J., Major, U.S. Marine Corps
Title: The Air War in Afghanistan
Publisher: Marine Corps Command and Staff College
Date: 25 March 1985
The purpose of this study is to examine the Soviet
invasion and occupation of Afghanistan and determine the
effect that this venture, particularly the air war, will
have on Soviet tactics as it relates to the U.S. Marine
Corps. The paper starts with a brief background covering
the geography, history and people of Afghanistan. The
invasion is examined and a general discussion of the course,
opposing forces and character of the conflict are provided.
An analysis of fixed wing operations is then presented
which focuses on air order of battle, surface-to-air threat,
infrared countermeasures, employment of attack aircraft,
chemical warfare and problems encountered by Soviet air-
crewmen. A detailed look at the new Soviet Su-25 FROGFOOT
is provided and possibilities for its employment in other
theaters is discussed.
The greater portion of the study is devoted to a review
and analysis of the helicopter air war in Afghanistan. This
section emphasizes developments in Soviet air support
doctrine and technique, order of battle, employment, Afghan
Air Force participation, and concludes with a detailed
appraisal of the capabilities and limitations of the Soviet
Mi-24 HIND attack helicopter.
The final part of this study is an evaluation of the
Soviet experience in Afghanistan and significant areas which
warrant notice by Western military planners. A brief review
of Soviet helicopter research and development trends is
included to support specific recommendations to counter
Soviet helicopters. The analysis terminates with conclu-
sions about the impact on conventional Soviet doctrine which
the study suggests.
The principle sources used are technical military
periodicals, Defense Intelligence Agency doctrinal manuals
and analyses of Soviet military writings.
Because this paper is an unclassified document, the
author thinks it appropriate to draw the reader's attention
to the quantity and quality of reference sources which were
available for analysis. A recent article in Time magazine
Accurate information on the situation in
Afghanistan remains scarce. Foreign correspon-
dents were forced to leave the country in early
1980, and since then very few visas have been
issued to Western journalists. As a result, the
world must rely largely on accounts by American
and West European diplomats in Kabul. The
diplomats admit that most of what they pass along
is unconfirmed, while reports from the mujahidin
are often exaggerated.1
Nevertheless, the quantity of unclassified information
available for analysis is quite extensive. The following
reference sources are a sampling of those consulted during
the research for this work:
o Current books on the subject.
o Applicable journalistic reports on the subject, to
include assessments by newsmen who have actually
traveled inside Afghanistan with mujahidin forces
during the occupation period.
o Analyses of published Soviet military and press
writing on the subject.
In the last category, there are three groups of
articles which can be affiliated with Soviet involvement in
1. Those that openly admit a strong Soviet military
presence and emphasize a peaceful, noble fulfillment of the
"international duty" (internatsyonalnly dolg). Articles and
pictures from this type of article are always careful to
avoid any references to combat activities.
2. Articles which refer to some mysterious troop
exercises (ucheniya) which are taking place in some
undisclosed areas. The scenarios of these "ucheniya" closely
resemble the situations Soviet troops are facing in
3. Articles regarding troops in "exercises" which
supposedly are taking place in military districts bordering
Afghanistan. Central Asia, Turkestan and the Transcaucasus
military district have terrain closely resembling
The articles of the second and third groups may
emphasize actual combat operations taking place in
Afghanistan under the cover name of "troop exercises." They
may also reflect actual troop exercises designed to reflect
conditions and scenarios typical of combat operations in
Afghanistan. i.e., combat in high mountains; pursuing small
groups of the enemy; helicopter reconnaissance; independent
helicopter operations against targets in mountainous
terrain, and motorized rifle-helicopter joint combat
The quality of the unclassified information available
for scholarly analysis, however, varies. To ensure a
greater degree of accuracy and reliability, every possible
attempt has been made to find general agreement by at least
two sources before citing a fact within this composition.
The interests of security on the frontier . . . compel
the more civilized state to exercise a certain ascendancy
over neighbors whose turbulence and nomadic instincts render
them difficult to live with. . . . The greatest difficulty
is in knowing where to stop.
-- The Czarist foreign minister,
Prince Gorchakov, 1864
The revolutionary process in Afghanistan is
-- Leonid Brezhnev, 1980
Do not accept the orders of the infidels; wage Jihad
-- The Koran
Scipio unleashed the Roman Legions who razed the city
to the ground, sold the surviving inhabitants into slavery,
and sowed the ground with salt.
-- Polybius, 146 B.C.
Afghanistan is located in the heart of south central
Asia and is completely landlocked, the nearest coast lying
about 300 miles to the south. It is bordered on the east
and south by Pakistan (1125 mi), the west by Iran (510 mi),
the north by the Soviet Union (1050 mi) and a small 50 mile
border in the northeast with the Peoples Republic of China.
The geography can best be described in two words -
mountains and desert. These natural barriers have been
historically instrumental in the country's role as a neutral
The most significant geographic feature of Afghanistan
is a mountain range, the Hindu Kush, rising above 21,000 ft.
It is a natural barrier between the fertile northern plains
and the southern dry areas. North of the Hindu Kush is a
large plain with an average elevation of 2,000 ft. South of
the mountains is an area of higher plateaus, sandy deserts
and semi-deserts. The nation's average altitude is 3,000
ft. Only one river, the Kabul River, drains into a major
tributary (Indus River) that ultimately empties onto the
Arabian Sea. Almost all other rivers of the country ori-
ginate in the central highlands and empty into inland lakes
or dry up in the deserts. None are navigable.
In general, Afghanistan has extremely cold winters and
exceedingly hot summers, typical of a semi-arid steppe
climate. There are variations, however, the Uindu Kush
being the factor. In the north, sub-arctic climates of cold,
dry winters prevail which are inf luenced by the Atlantic low
depression. On the border of Pakistan and the southwest, the
summer (July - September) maritime tropical air masses bring
in humidity and rain.
The annual mean precipitation increases from west to
east. In the arid west, approximately 3 inches fall each
year while in the mountains of the northeast, there is an
average of 15 inches annually.
Vegetation is sparse in the southern area and only when
the monsoons bring in rain, do patches of grass grow. Plant
life becomes more dense towards the north and includes many
trees. The fir line is about 10,000 ft. and below that,
cedar, oak, walnut and ash forests are abundant.
The country is about the size of Texas and small
fertile valleys provide about twelve percent arable land
used primarily for subsistence agriculture. There are few
paved roads and no railroads at all.1
Apart from half a dozen cities and provincial capitals,
it is a land of tiny scattered villages. The social pattern
is tribal. Every man regards himself a warrior, and a rifle
or any firearm, no matter how ancient, is a prized posses-
sion and symbol of manhood. Infant mortality is fifty
percent before age five and per capita income is estimated
to be one hundred fifty dollars a year.
Afghanistan has a political character which over the
span of centuries, remains obstinate, defiant, inward
looking and hostile to all foreigners.
The nation of Afghanistan was the object of the "Great
Game" of nineteenth century Geopolitics - the compelling
saga of competitive interaction pitting British power
expansion northward from the Indian subcontinent and Russian
power expansion southward through Central Asia. A land of
primitive people undisposed to capture by either empire,
Afghan territory became a buffer. Twice, fearful that
Russia might be gaining advantage there, British forces
preemptively invaded Afghanistan. Both expeditions.
encountered fierce hostility from Afghan tribes and both
forays ended in retreat. As to the dangers awaiting
intruders on this rugged landscape, Kipling offered his
countrymen sobering advice:
When you're wounded an' left on Afghanistan's
An' the women come out to cut up your remains,
Just roll to your rifle an' blow out your brains,
An' go to your Gawd like a soldier.
In drawing the borders of Afghanistin, the competing.
imperialist powers showed little concern for ethnic conse-
quences. Thus, much of Afghanistan's major tribe--the
Pushtuns (or Pathans)--extends eastward into what is now
Pakistan, as do the Baluch and Brahui peoples. Meanwhile,
to the north, the Soviet-Afghan border cuts across the lands
of the Tajiks (the second largest Afghan tribe), Uzbeks, and
Turkmen. Similarly, Afghanistan's western border with Iran
divides not only Baluch, Brahui, and Turkmen, but also
Farsiwan, Aimaq, and Ziailbash. Only the Hazara tribe in
the country's central mountains is contained within
Among Afghanistan's roughly 15 million people (no
serious census has ever occurred), some 20 languages are
spoken, but most Afghans speak one of two tongues: the
Pushtun language, called Pashto; and the special form of
Persian spoken by the Tajiks, called Dari. Throughout
Afghanistan, the religion is Islam (80 percent Sunni, 20
percent Shiite); and with little competition from other
influences, Islamic values, as interpreted by local mullahs,
have comprised the country's main cultural influence for
centuries. Beset by widespread disease and malnutrition,
Afghans alleviated their poverty by sharing based on strong
ties of family and tribal affiliation. This village
orientation, accentuated by pervasive illiteracy, has made
the country resistant to centralized control, even by those
proffering constructive reform. In Afghanistan, nationalism
is essentially an expression of tribalism.2
In April 1978, the Soviets established a Marxist
government and initiated a campaign through their puppet
regime to indoctrinate the Afghan population in Communist
ideology.3 The campaign included a redistribution of lands,
forcing many households to move hundreds of miles from where
families had lived for generations. People were forced to
move to regions of the country dominated by strange tribes
speaking alien languages.4 The once meager production of
wheat dropped dramatically.5 Government efforts to reduce
illiteracy, curb the powers of feudal lords and eliminate
the 'bride price' violated centuries of tradition.6 Despite
the religious significance of the green flag of Islam, the
Amin government hoisted a red flag which became a symbol of
tyranny. Illconceived attempts to reform the traditional
society, almost overnight, caused resentment and shock that
led directly to insurgency.
The Amin government was unable to repress this growing
rebellion which began to be labeled a holy war or jihad. By
December 1979, the rebels, or mujahidin controlled 21 of 28
Christmas Eve 1979 was quiet everwhere in the world
community in 1979 except in the city of Kabul, Afghanistan.
There, as feared by many and predicted by none, the air
suddenly filled with Soviet aircraft. A recalcitrant
population and a government not fully committed to Marxist
ideology had again precipitated the wrath of Soviet leaders.
In a swift five-hour operation, elements of the Soviet
elite 105th Airborne secured Kabul airport, paving the way
for a massive, single lift by some 280 individual I1-76,
An-22 and An-12 aircraft filled with Soviet assault troops
and equipment. This lift, and another 100 sorties, brought
in the remainder of the 105th plus the 103rd and 104th
Airborne from the general reserve in the Moscow area.
Three days later, on the evening of 27 December, the
operation gained momentum when the 105th moved to the inner
city in BMD armored assault vehicles. Their objective was
to seize the key points, isolate the government and neutra-
lize Afghan army resistance.
In an example of classic Soviet planning, this last
task had been simplified by a ruse which the local KGB
(Committee of State Security) and Soviet advisers had
perpetrated on the Afghan defenders. The ruse was simple--
recall all Afghan Army tanks and tracked vehicles for
modifications during the days shortly before the invasion.
This effectively removed all armored resistance by the
Afghan Army because most of the Afghan armor was in mainte-
nance shops or motor pools with engines inoperable as the
When the 1005th moved into Kabul, the first four
motorized rifle divisions -- the 357th and 66th at Kushka
and the 360th and 201st at Termez -- began to roll across
the common border. These were supported by several squad-
rons of MiG-21 FISHBEDs and MiG-23 FLOGGERs.
Organic equipment accompanying the invasion forces,
included air defense weapons and chemical decontamination
equipment. This aspect is particularly interesting in
light of the fact that the Soviets had unquestioned air
superiority and the Afghan insurgents had no chemical
By mid-January, the 40th Army field headquarters had
been established at Bagram Air Force Base, north of Kabul,
and was in full control of air operations under the command
of Marshal Sergei Sokolov, Soviet first deputy defense
minister. Two more motorized rifle divisions, the 16th and
54th, had been inserted, and the country was divided into
two major operational areas. These were fully supported by
helicopter gunships and tactical air support. The major
Afghan Army resistance had been contained, and the cities
vere under firm control by mid-April.10
The ease and quickness with which the Soviets invaded
the country demonstrates that this was not an impromptu
operation. Considerable planning preceded the incursion.
some observers have speculated that the movement by air of
nearly 10,000 Soviet troops to South Yemen and Ethiopia in
late October was actually a rehearsal for the massive Soviet
airlift that was an integral part of the invasion.11
It is possible to speculate at length on the reasons
for the invasion. Fear of divergence from the Moscow party
line and of possible 'contamination' had been key motivating
factors in the Soviet invasions of Hungary in 1956 and
Czechoslovakia in 1968, both of which transpired in U.S.
presidential election years.
When the Shah of Iran was toppled in January 1979 and
the Afghan insurgency had heated up, the situation began to
rapidly unravel. Iran turned hostile to both superpowers.
It appeared as if a broad-based Islamic movement might
topple the Afghan government. More significantly, U.S.
Fleet deployments had increased and the Soviets believed
that the U.S. might soon move to reestablish the position of
strength in Iran. The Soviets had been able to live with a
pro-western Iran, but losing Afghanistan could create
Afghanistan could possibly become the linchpin in a new
NATO-Chinese encirclement of the Soviet Union. In Soviet
eyes, the American fixation on Iran was simply a cover for
Five Years of War
The current order of battle is difficult to assess in
an unclassified format but the conflict pits roughly 140,000
Soviet troops in country and an additional 30,000 on the
Soviet side of the border, against 85,000 to 100,000 freedom
fighters.12 Soviet forces are composed of seven motorized
rifle divisions and five air assault brigades (about 2,000
men each), 240 gunships, 400 other helicopters, 30-45
MiG-23s, 75-90 MiG-21s and a variety of transport aircraft.13
Tanks have been estimated at 1,850 and armored personnel
carriers at 2,700.14
Tu-16 BADGERs flying from bases in the Soviet Union
routinely support ground operations against the mujahidin.15
Rebels come from at least six loosely organized and
disunited resistance groups who fight in platoon to regi-
mental strength. In the West there is a popular misconcep-
tion that the mujahidin are the beneficiaries of an
effective covert supply of weaponry. Nothing could be
further from the truth. The principle sources of the
limited arms the rebels possess are captured Soviet weapons
black marketeering, and Afghan Army defectors.16 This meager
supply consists of SA-7s, RPGs, 82mm mortars, AK-74s,
Enfield rifles, and 12.7mm machine guns.17 The rebels have
made use of an inordinately high number of dud 250 kg
Soviet bombs, recovered following air raids. These make
crude mines and booby traps. 57mm rocket pods recovered
from the wreckage of helicopters have been used to good
effect as well.
Initially, the Soviet Union planned to secure the
countryside with military surrogates of the Afghan Army.
This foundered on the Afghan Army's low morale and high
desertion rate. Over 80,000 strong when the "Revolution"
began, Afghan forces now number less than 30,000 and exhibit
little will to fight.18 Few in the Afghan Army are
communists and informants throughout the organization enable
the mujahidin to learn of Soviet operations in advance.
Unable to "Vietnamize" the war, Moscow has intensified
its effort to brutalize the Afghan population into submis-
sion. The central theme of Soviet occupation is one of
sheer and inhuman brutality. Most of the atrocities visited
on the population are the result of calculation. They are
not the misfortunes of collateral damage. Whole sectors of
the country have become free fire zones. In areas where
Soviet convoys have been attacked, ground and air forces
have raided villages, destroyed crops, and bayonetted women
and children.19 Small antipersonnel mines disguised as
ballpoint pens, books and watches have been air dropped
indiscriminately with the intent of maiming the rebels and
their supporters.20 Most victims have been children and
livestock. A Red Cross hospital in Pakistan now specializes
An incident occurred in 1981 in which twelve rebel
sympathizers were executed by running over them with tanks.22
Irrigation wells are systematically polluted, refugee
columns are strafed, and camps in Pakistan are subjected to
On September 13, 1982 one hundred and five civilian
males who had fled to the shelter of a tunnel were incin-
erated alive when Soviet troops pumped gasoline into the
tunnel and ignited it with rifle fire.23
Although the popular press in the United States has
avoided or equivocated on this issue, there is no doubt
about Soviet use of lethal chemical agents in Afghanistan.
The State Department reports 59 separate incidents in 15
provinces.24 Lethal agents include persistent and non
persistent varieties including tricotlecene toxins which
kill in a particularly painful and spectacular fashion, with
predictable psychological effects.25 This fact of the war
will be addressed in more detail in a following chapter.
In short, Soviet policy includes a combination off
scorched earth and migratory genocide. Cruelty and atro-
cities characterize the Soviet effort in Afghanistan.
After five years of war the situation has changed
little. Experts estimate that rebels control from 75 to 90
percent of the country.26 It is probably more accurate to
say that neither the Soviets nor the freedom fighters
control 90 percent of the countryside. Soviet forces are
free to move into almost any area but they do not possess
enough numerical strength to physically occupy the ground.
In any case, only major cities and base areas are safe for
the Soviets at night.27
Losses on each side are difficult to know. NATO
intelligence estimates place Soviet dead at 5,000 to 10,000
with an additional 10,000 casualties from wounds and
illness.28 Soviet expenditures are estimated at from one to
three billion dollars annually. Rebel losses are unknown
but up to four million Afghans are thought to be refugees.29
The Soviet invasion has a unique place in contemporary
history. It represents the first time since World War II
that Soviet ground forces have engaged in protracted combat
outside the Warsaw Pact area. We no longer have to specu-
late about the nature of Soviet war fighting. They are
providing us with many examples.
Fixed Wing Air War
Soviet Frontal Aviation assets in Afghanistan are under
the command of 40th Army Headquarters at Kabul which is the
overall Soviet command for Afghanistan. The Senior Air
Force officer in Afghanistan is this headquarters' Chief of
Aviation. The Soviet Air Force's operational headquarters
are in Termez, on the Soviet side of the border.1
The Afghanistan Air Force is under the operational
control of the Soviet Air Force resulting in the usual
complaints by Afghan allies that they do not receive a fair
share of the air assets. One former officer of the Kabul
regime's 7th Tank Division, now with the guerrillas,
reported that his former unit was "wiped out" in an eight
day battle at Pul-a-Khumn while receiving no air support.2
There are seven major airfields in Afghanistan from
which fixed wing operations are conducted. These are:
Herat, Shindand, Farah, Kandahar, Jalalabad, Bagram and
Kabul.3 In addition, Soviet medium bombers (probably Su-24
FENCERs and Tu-16 BADGERs) operate from Soviet bases to
conduct high altitude strikes against the mujahidin.4 Those
strikes have been aimed primarily at villages, towns and
along major highways where the rebels assemble for opera-
tions against Soviet installations.
Currently, Frontal Aviation assets in the country
include 45 FLOGGERs, 90 FISHBEDs, 90 Su-17s, 30 Su-25s and a
small detachment of 6 - 12 MiG-25s (FOXBAT B and D).5 In
1981 the Su-25 FROGFOOT was deployed to Afghanistan in what
amounted to an Op-Eval of the airplane.6
Afghan Air Force assets currently include 45 MiG-21s,
60 - 75 Su-7s, 90 MiG-17s, 45 I1-28s and 45 L-39s. In early
1984 a new Afghan regiment of 45 Su-22s was being organized
by the Soviets in Bagram.7
On the whole, Soviet fixed wing operations against the
rebels have been remarkably similar to U.S. operations
conducted in South Vietnam during that conflict. Close air
support, for the most part, is conducted by helicopters.
The threat to Soviet air power consists of small arms and
SA-7s. This permissive environment allows strikes to be
conducted in the 'circle the wagons' fashion which
characterized U.S. tactics in the south during the Vietnam
Both fixed wing aircraft and helicopters routinely
dispense flares before, during and after weapons delivery to
counter attacks by rebel forces armed with SA-7s.8
The appearance of decoy flare dispensers on Soviet
tactical aircraft in Afghanistan is significant and has an
obvious impact on our tactics and weapons system
No data in open source literature verifies the effec-
tiveness of flare countermeasures or provides insight as to
quantity carried, programmed dispensing, burn times or other
technical information of interest. One eyewitness account
reported that helicopters and fixed wing aircraft employ
flares by having one aircraft dispense them above the target
area while another aircraft conducts multiple passes without
dispensing flares.9 This suggests a lack of understanding
the best methods of employing infrared countermeasures.
The rebels have apparently begun to concentrate their
efforts with SA-7s against transport aircraft which carry no
Soviet fixed wing losses to the mujahidin are unknown.
Rebel 12.7 and 14.5 mm guns have apparently caused Soviet
aircrews to increase weapons release altitudes since mid
1983. Prior to 1983, Soviet aircraft (primarily MiG-21s)
would make weapons delivery runs from high altitude and
release at 2,000 feet.11
There is little evidence to suggest that fixed wing
aircraft are frequently employed in the traditional close
air support role in Afghanistan.
Support of troops in contact is primarily accomplished
by helicopters. Doctrinely the Soviets identify four
missions for aircraft:
air defense cover
'Support' refers to delivery of ordnance in support of
friendly forces operating far beyond breached enemy defenses
and is analgous to our concept of deep air support or
interdiction. 'Aviation escort' usually refers to delivery
of ordnance in close proximity to friendly troops near the
In Afghanistan there appears to be a conscious decision
to perform support mostly with fixed wing assets and
aviation escort with helicopters. In a permissive environ-
ment which is a fluid counterinsurgency, this is probably a
natural process. Another explanation may lie in the
rigidity of Soviet command and control arrangements. In
Afghanistan, Forward Air Controllers are assigned to ground
regiments when fixed wing or helicopters are assigned for
aviation escort. These FACs are called forward air guides
(avianovodchiki) and are experienced pilots. The preference
is to have a qualified helicopter pilot direct helicopter
strikes and fighter bomber pilots direct fixed wing strikes.
The air guide is expected to call for air strikes from a
control and target identification post (similar to our DASC)
when the regimental commander needs air. He then provides
target location for the pilots and information on the ground
situation. The air guide normally will not attempt to mark
a target but will mark friendly positions with pyrotechnics
The pilot is primarily responsible for identifying the
target although the air guide will assess and adjust for
successive runs. According to doctrine minimum safety
distances are between 200 and 700 meters from friendly
In Afghanistan problems have occurred between ground
and air forces, especially at lower levels. Procedures
worked out before launch often inhibit flexibility and
prevent change as the situation evolves. With the air guide
at regimental level this is not so strange. The battalion
commander normally has no communications with any air
support agency. The plans for mutual cooperation worked out
beforehand are often incomplete and damage assessment data
are slow in traveling up the chain of command. Rebels
report flights of HINDs overflying guerrilla groups
in the open to attack unoccupied trench lines from which the
rebels had just fled.14 This tendency to act "as directed",
even if it makes no tactical sense, is recognized as a
failing by the hierarchy and presumably corrective action of
some sort is underway.15 A note of caution is in order at
this point. It would be extremely naive to assume that all
Soviet air operations are characterized by blind execution
of preplanned strikes. The presence of air guides on the
battlefield and reliance on the helicopter, with its
natural advantages of endurance, observation and flexibil-
ity, over fixed wing aircraft, for close air support in a
permissive environment, point to a sharply rising learning
Although a variety of fixed wing aircraft are employed
by the Soviets in Afghanistan the Su-25 FROGFOOT deserves a
close look. It seems to be tailor made to the nature of the
war with the mujahidin. In comparison with the FLOGGER and
FITTER, the Su-25 emerges as a classic shturmovik
(assaulter) modeled on the WWII Ilyushins. Except for the
fact that the Su-25 first appeared in 1977, one might
conclude that it was designed and built especially for the
war in Afghanistan. The airplane arrived in country in
November 1981 and it is generally thought that it's deploy-
ment was meant to serve as an operation evaluation.
The Su-25 is most frequently compared to the A-10 to
which it bears a resemblance of sorts. The FROGFOOT is
smaller than the A-10, has 25% less wing area and is 10%
lighter at maximum operating weights. The Su-25 has pure
jet engines which provide about 25% more thrust than the
A-10s. It is generally thought that the Su-25 is 20% faster
than the A-10 with a commensurate advantage in energy
In detail, the Su-25 is a straight forward design. The
twin engines are installed below the trailing edge of the
wing, and exhaust through abbreviated tailpipes. The
geometry of the center-section, with high-set inlets and
low-set engines, is reminiscent of the Sepecat Jaguar, but
the engines are wider apart and the basic fuselage is both
thicker and deeper. There is no all-round vision canopy,
and the cockpit is faired into a long, broad spine extending
back to the fin; the spine and fuselage allow plenty of
space for internal fuel. The nose forward of the cockpit,
is drooped and tapered, in the Jaguar/MiG-27 style, to
improve the downward view and the tapered tailcone carries a
triangular fin and the trapezoidal stabilator.
The size of the inlets and engine housings tends to
confirm reports that the Su-25 is powered by a non after-
burning version of the Tumansky series developed for the
MiG-21. These could be either R-13-300s, of 11,240 lb
(5,100kg) dry thrust, or the uprated 12,370 lb (5.610kg)
R-25 which powers the MiG-21 FISHBED L/N. While such
engines do not offer a spectacular thrust to weight ratio or
impressive specific fuel consumption, they are cheap,
dependable, and can easily push the airframe to its Mach
The Su-25 is one of only three twin-engined, single-
seat Soviet combat types (the others being the MiG-25 and
Su-15) and the first kind designed for Frontal Aviation.
Survivability is probably the main reason. The engines are
far enough apart to be protected from single round strikes
or contagious failures. While the Su-25 does not display
all the damage-limiting features of the A-10, it should be
more survivable than the MiG-27 and Su-20. Its fuel, for
instance, can be all carried in easily-protected fuselage
tanks, and its simpler systems are more readily protected or
It is probable that the Su-25, like the Mi-24 helicop-
ter, is designed to be relatively invulnerable to small
caliber fire, rather than featuring the much more demanding
23 mm protection applied to the A-10 and AH-64. Western
defensive guns tend to be of larger caliber than 20-23 mm,
so such protection would be of limited use to a Soviet type.
Instead, one could expect the design to feature more
widespread, lighter armor such as ballistic nylon.
The Su-25 is believed to carry an internal, multi-
barrel cannon of 30 mm caliber, although details of its
installation are not apparent in illustrations published so
far. Others weapons, including the expanding family of
Soviet-developed precision-guided bombs, can be carried on
external pylons. Three pylons are visible under each wing
of Afghan-based aircraft, unequally spaced along the span.
There are provisions for as many as ten stations. The belly
appears free of pylons, which is not surprising. The wings
provide plenty of space for stores, and a clean underside
allows a short, simple landing gear which, in turn, puts
engines and avionics at a convenient working height.
External weapons include guided or unguided bombs,
carried two to a pylon on tandem racks, and a selection of
tactical air-to-surface missiles (ASMs). Seven new Soviet
tactical ASMs have been introduced in the past decade. The
Su-25 could also carry the unusual gun-pods seen on the
FLOGGER-J, with barrels which can be depressed for ground
strafing, and with more pylons available it would be
possible for the FROGFOOT to carry the AA-8 APHID for self
Offensive and defensive avionics of the Su-25 are
similar to those carried by the MiG-27 and Su-20. Nav/attack
systems on these types make use of laser rangefinding.
Doppler ground-speed measurement is probably used and,
possibly, some form of terrain-avoidance radar to provide
accurate clear weather weapon delivery and ASM guidance
information, presented to the pilot through a head-up
display. Newer Frontal Aviation aircraft also carry an
internal electronic countermeasures or surveillance system.
On swing-wing types, the system's four antenna are installed
on the intake ducts and the tailfin, but the Su-25 has
ECM/ESM pods at the tips of its wings, like the Lockheed
Certainly, the most effective Soviet fixed wing
aircraft in Afghanistan is the Su-25 FROGFOOT. It is used
in both a close air support role and for deep air support
against point targets. They are operated in loose pairs,
going in separately and usually low. Resistance sources
emphasize the accuracy and lethality of the Su-25. FROGFOOT
operations in the Soviet 1983 autumn offensive in the
Panjshir Valley were devastating, but their performance in
the Summer 1984 offensive was considerably better. Resis-
tance sources emphasize that the accuracy of the Su-25 has
improved considerably. They can hit point targets in rough
terrain with great accuracy. Reportedly, in the Summer 1984
offensive, FROGFOOTs destroyed concealed fortified objec-
tives which they could not reach bin 1983. The ranges at
which they released munitions and hit are longer, but there
is no indication that 'smart-munitions' have been used.
Nonetheless, aiming and gunsight systems have been
In summary the Su-25 improvements which have been made
possible by the war in Afghanistan may eventually prove to
be one of the conflict's greatest contributions to Soviet
airpower. Even if the Su-25 is judged to be unnecessary for
Europe, it might prove well suited to the combat conditions
foreseen for the Eastern borders of the Soviet Union. There,
fighter and SAM defenses are far weaker and long logistic
lines favor a simpler aircraft. Deployment of the FROGFOOT
could release more capable types for the western theater.
The Su-25 could also be a useful aircraft to some of the
Soviet Union's allies, clients and less trustworthy
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The planning and coordination of most of the air effort
takes place in Termez just across the border from
Afghanistan. At Termez the Soviets are believed to be
basing both Su-24s and Tu-16s. This base houses many of the
maintenance and support activities which aid prosecution of
the air war.
Tu-16s and Su-24s operating from the Soviet Union
provide high altitude strikes aimed primarily at rebel
assembly areas and lines of communication.
The fixed wing aircraft most frequently mentioned by
eyewitnesses is the MiG-21. The section is the basic
fighting element and attack profiles are usually commenced
from high altitude with multiple passes in the same target
area. The high altitude attack is not always used. One
journalist mentioned seeing both MiG-21s and Su-25s use "nap
of the earth" low level attacks to deliver cluster bombs
with drogue chutes.19 Given the nature of the threat to
Soviet aircraft, it seems unlikely that a low level ingress
is a standard tactic. Descriptions of low level attacks can
probably be attributed to efforts by the Soviets to surprise
the rebels or to weapons delivery profiles required for
retarded ordnance. Most fixed wing strikes appear to be
conducted in an interdiction role rather than close support
of engaged troops (where helicopters are used). Good use is
being made of air guides (forward air controllers) including
helicopterborne air guides, primarily in the terminal
control of attack helicopters and to a lesser extent
The first use of the mechanized airborne force was in
Afghanistan. A task force some 10,000 strong consisting of
an Air Assault Division and two regiments were airlifted
into the country over a period of twenty days.
An-12s and An-26s serve as reconnaissance aircraft,
provide battlefield illumination during night combat
operations, serve as airborne command posts and provide
logistic support of all types.21
The illumination mission typically consists of flights
of two An-12s dropping four to seven flares which light up
an area of three square kilometers for up to 10 minutes.22
A wide range of aviation ordnance is used in
Afghanistan and is delivered by both fixed wing aircraft and
helicopters. These munitions include: napalm, anti-
personnel cluster bombs, anti-personnel mines, 57 mm
rockets, 80 mm rockets, anti-tank guided missiles, air to
surface missiles, white phosphorous rockets, smoke, fuel air
explosives, 250 kg bombs, 500 kg bombs, internal and pod
mounted gun, decoy flares and a variety of lethal and
non-lethal chemical agents. Accounts from journalists who
have managed to sneak into Afghanistan frequently note that
a high number of bombs are duds. The use of anti-personnel
mines in the area denial role is a wide spread practice in
Afghanistan. One such mine is the PFM-1, nicknamed the
Green Parrot by rebel forces.
This small mine, like mines mentioned earlier which
resemble pens, watches and small books, is designed to maim
rather than kill. The Green Parrot is small (112 mm) and is
constructed entirely of plastic. It is shaped like a tissue
paper tube with two small wings A direct pressure of about
ten pounds will detonate it. Reports from Afghanistan
reveal that as many as 200 amputations a month are caused by
Fuel air explosives (FAE) have been used in four
provinces of Afghanistan since the war began. The FAE bomb
has the shape and size of a 500 kg bomb and in those cases
where the delivery was witnessed, it was delivered by a
Su-17 FITTER. The bomb explodes in the air and a crater 30
feet in diameter and up to 8 feet deep is left. There are
no signs of burning or fragments and victims show no
external injuries. The lethal radius seems to be about 500
Of all the Soviet methods and actions in Afghanistan,
the reliance on chemical weapons has perhaps the greatest
importance as a lesson for potential adversaries. Soviet
chemical warfare started as early as April 1979 when
helicopters fired rockets filled with non-lethal agents
during the suppression of an uprising in Herat.
In one attack in Wardak province in 1981 a helicopter
fired rockets into a group of mujahidin on an inaccessible
hilltop. All died immediately, "as if frozen in place". A
soldier of the Soviet Chemical Troops (KHV) captured by
rebels said that his mission was to examine villages after a
chemical attack to determine whether they were safe to enter
or required decontamination. He also reported that hem and
his fellow KHV troops visited contaminated areas to collect
soil, vegetation and water samples as well as to perform
autopsies on Afghan villagers found in the contaminated
areas. Another defector described the use of several lethal
agents derived from sulphuric acid, phosphorous and
In 1983, the Soviets began to use a tar-like substance
which is delivered by aircraft using CBU type munitions.
This agent falls in large droplet's which lay on the ground
for months. When stepped on or driven over by vehicles, the
droplets burst into flames with predictable results. This
persistent agent has proven very effective in an area denial
Chemical agents are usually delivered by helicopters.
Aircrews are told to wear gas masks as precautionary
The loss of life from chemical warfare in Afghanistan
is unknown, but it is safe to say that this aspect of the
war alone should be the subject of a detailed study. There
is a persistent and efficient use of chemical weapons.
Chemical warfare is an integral component of Soviet small
unit military operations which we could ignore only at great
Experience in Afghanistan suggests that "weapons of
mass destruction" or not, chemical agents are as much a part
of the Soviet inventory for conventional war as the bayonet
is for the Marine Corps. Not to use them would be to ignore
Marshal Sokolovsky's dictum: "A war must be conducted
decisively, using the necessary forces and means to achieve
political and military goals. The need for success is
incompatible with the requirement for limiting the scale of
combat operations".28 The Soviets would forfeit the benefits
of a marked superiority in training and equipment by not
using chemical agents at the outset of hostilities.
"The fewer helicopters you had the more troops you
required . . . give a hundred men helicopters and they will
do the work of a thousand . . . a battalion with six Wessex
helicopters was worth more to me than a brigade without
-- General Sir Walter Walker,
Commander of British Forces
during the confrontation with
He had learned what every other commander - British,
French, American and now Soviet - has learned: the helicop-
ter is the single most important weapon in counter-guerrilla
operations. For the Soviets, with 140,000 troops attempting
to subdue a people of some 15 million, the mobility and
firepower of their helicopter force makes the war possible.
Tank communism triumphed in Czechoslovakia, water cannon
communism is winning in Poland and helicopter gunship
communism is in full sway in the mountains of Afghanistan.
A Soviet military writer describes the dilemma which
surrounds the conduct of air support.
"The airplane did not have sufficient maneuver-
ability to ensure the pilot a strike from his
first and subsequent approaches without the loss
of visual contact with the target. Heavy assault
planes overcame that anti-aircraft zone rapidly,
but were slow in deploying to the target. Light
planes, on the other hand, were able to change
their flight direction rapidly, but came out of
the anti-aircraft zone slowly . . . Assault
planes' pilots were given an impossible task -- to
perform three operations at the same time: seek
the target, avoid anti-aircraft fire, and not lose
sight of the front line. Under these conditions,
pilots frequently made strikes against their own
This thought process has provided the impetus for
development of the helicopter as an element of the Combined
Arms Army in the Soviet Union.
Over the past decade, Soviet military thought has
increasingly recognized assault helicopters as an integral
part of the family of weapons for aviation support. Mi-4
and Mi-8 helicopters fitted with rockets and machine guns
provided aviation support during the exercises Dnepr (1967),
Dvina (1970), and various Shield maneuvers. In 1976, three
major exercises, Sever (North), Kavkaz (Caucasus), and
Shield, featured heliborne operations designed to lend
immediate fire support to ground forces. Especially since
1976, the Soviets have conducted training designed to weld
tank, motorized rifle, and attack helicopter teams. Heli-
copter crews receive detailed training in various types of
ground forces operations.2
Despite a long period of uncertain commitment to direct
support, current Soviet writers now view direct support in
all its forms as the fundamental mission of Frontal
Aviation. Colonel-General G. Skorikov stated in August
1978: "The Air Force's modern technical equipment makes it
possible to strike the enemy's means of attack, to support
troops, to struggle for dominance in the air, to carry out
special reconnaissance, and to solve other complex tasks.3
Colonel-General Skorikov notes that "the third genera-
tion of warplanes and helicopters is being successfully
mastered." He and other top military figures clearly take
pride in the attainment of a well-balanced tactical air
force, capable of performing all missions of direct support.
For the first time since 1945, the Soviets have several
different types of aircraft to perform each of four direct
support tasks. This in itself offers Soviet tacticians
considerable flexibility in combat, for the relative
strengths of one aircraft can compensate for the weaknesses
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Structural changes have also taken place in the Soviet
organization for air combat. Theater (TVD) Air Forces have
replaced the numbered Tactical Air Armies and there is now
an element known as army aviation (armeiskaya aviatsiya).
There is a great deal of confusion regarding the new
structure in Western open source literature. The term Army
Aviation in the Soviet context has a different meaning than
that of Army Aviation as applied to the United States Army.
Soviet Army Aviation denotes an Army level aviation force
with helicopters flown by Air Force pilots although they are
referred to as 'army aviators'. The helicopters are still
the 'property' of Frontal Aviation. It is not unlike the
organization for combat used by the Marine Corps in forming
MAGTFs. It is interesting to note that the Soviets, too,
use composite units to increase flexibility.
Taking the Group of Soviet Forces Germany (GSFG) as an
example of the new organization, each of the five ground
armies has its own attack helicopter regiment of two
squadrons of about 20 HIND D/Es each and an Mi-8 HIP E
squadron, also of 20 helicopters. A flight of six HINDs is
also included in the helicopter squadron which each of the
19 divisions now has. So, in a four-division army in GSFG
approximately 64 HIND D/Es can be expected. With each
divisional commander having sixteen HINDs, decentralization
has been taken even further.
The Soviets have aimed through these actions for a
closer relationship between air and ground forces. The
creation of 'Army Aviation' seeks to overcome previous
shortcomings by giving army commanders their own helicopter
assets. With this decentralization, it should be possible
to achieve shorter response times to requests for air
support, greater tactical flexibility and more effective
integration with ground forces. The Soviet experience in
Afghanistan will serve to reinforce the concept of the
helicopter as the weapon of first choice for air support.
Order of Battle
Combat helicopters played a key role in the initial
Soviet intervention in Afghanistan as early as April 1978
and at that time some Aeroflot Mi-8s were pressed into
service by installing rocket pods on them.
It is difficult to estimate the current level of
helicopter forces in the country, but as of this writing
Soviet forces probably include: 132 Mi-24s, 105 Mi-8s and
Mi-17s, 37 Mi-6s, and an assortment of Mi-2s, Mi-4s, special
duty Mi-8s, and a handful of Mi-26s. Thirty-five additional
helicopters of unknown type deployed to Bagram in the spring
of 1984 and are not included in the figures above.4
Additionally, the Afghan Air Force has 150 Mi-8s and Mi-24 A
and Bs organized in three composite regiments at Kabul
In an article published in Krasnaya Zrezda (29 April
1980) entitled "Wings of the Motorized Rifleman" Lt. Col.
Romanov describes some of the tasks and characteristics of
helicopters in Afghanistan:
lift motorized riflemen to "high and inaccessible
provide direct fire support with rockets
the swiftness of the heli-borne assault
operate in severe weather "wind gusting to over
20 meters per second" (44 mph)
special aerial mine laying by the Mi-8
deliver BMP anywhere with Mi-6
lift mountain guns and mortars with prime movers
provide aerial target identification and fire
adjustment (FACs and AOs)
evacuate the wounded
resupply ammunitions and rations
Some additional functions performed by helicopters in
Afghanistan which Romanov did not mention are:
Airborne command and control
Airborne radio relay
Delivery of chemical agents
Demonstration heli-borne assault
It is clear that the helicopter is the single most
important weapon in the Soviet-Afghanistan war.
Helicopter Close Air Support
The HINDs first went into action in Afghanistan in 1979
- 1980 (employment of HIND units predates the invasion in
December 1979) and used tactics that revealed little fear of
the opposition. HINDs would engage rebels from a hover, at
low altitude. Attacks with machine guns, 57 mm rockets,
cluster and 250 kg bombs would also be made in diving
attacks from about 3,000 feet, breaking away at the end of
the delivery with a sharp evasive turn or terrain-
hugging flight before repositioning for another pass. The
Soviets would use these tactics with up to four HINDs in a
circular pattern similar to the 'circle of death' used by
Soviet I1-2 Shturmoviki during World War II.7
While these tactics could be deadly against unarmed
civilians, significant losses were incurred and by late 1980
changes were taking place.
Targets are now preplanned to the maximum extent
practical and air guides on the ground or in scout heli-
copters provide terminal control of the strike. Typically,
a flight of from two to six HINDs will approach the target
at medium altitude and descend to about 300 feet when five
to ten miles away. The flight is briefed by the FAC who
describes the target, route in and out, marks his own
position (if the FAC is on the ground) and coordinates
timing. On instruction from the FAC, the flight lead climbs
to acquire the target and deliver fire in a shallow dive
commencing at the maximum range of the weapon (usually
rockets or guns). The lead's wingman follows and the second
section may provide suppressive fire while the lead element
jinks off target. The second element may also provide high
cover, ready to attack whoever opens fire on the attacking
element.8 HIND D and Es are most effective using this
method although HIPs participate as well by standing off
with 57 mm or 80 mm rockets.
One of the keys to the success of Soviet air support,
by both fixed wing aircraft and helicopters, can be attri-
buted to the growing employment and efficiency of their
FACs, particularly FAC(A)s.
One of the prime innovators in the evolution of Soviet
combat helicopter tactics appears to be Colonel Boris
Gregor'vich Budnikov. While a Lieutenant Colonel, Budnikov
commanded a composite helicopter regiment based at Kabul in
1980. A 5,000 hour pilot and one of the rare Soviet media
'stars' of the war, Budnikov's views were expressed to his
fellow air force officers in "Maneuver and Shock", Aviatziya
I Kosmonautika 4-1980 and "The Mountains Do Not Forgive
Mistakes", 9-1980 issue of the same journal. Budnikov has
supported the use of scout helicopters for target acquisi-
tion, both for attack helicopters as well as fixed-
wing aircraft. These tactics have apparently been adopted.
Reports from Afghanistan have mentioned the use of scout
helicopters, although these are usually HINDs or even HIPs
rather than lighter helicopters.
Like their U.S. counterparts in Vietnam, Soviet
commanders prefer to gain altitude for directing the
operations in command helicopters. This certainly is
consistent with their use of scout helicopters (which may
very well contain the flight commanders) but, as in Vietnam,
has resulted in the loss of some senior officers.9
Target marking is typically accomplished with smoke or
white phosphorous rockets. Ground based FACs usually mark
their own position with red smoke.
Initially, the Resistance recognized the smoke rockets
as a warning sign for an impending aerial strike, and
dispersed. In a Panjshir Valley offensive, a FAC helicopter
marked the targets only seconds before the aerial strike, so
that Resistance forces had scant time to escape. The
effectiveness of these aerial strikes is very high.10
It is interesting to judge the gunship's area satur-
ation capability to gain an appreciation for the opposition
that the mujahidin face. Four Mi-8s are capable of carrying
a total of 758 57 mm rockets which can cover an area of
250x300 meters. Moreover, helicopter delivered rocket fire,
unlike artillery for example, does not suffer from the
drawbacks of reverse slopes and dead space.11
In addition to the usual range of air delivered
munitions, the Soviets have adapted the AGS-17 automatic
grenade launcher to the HIND E. This weapon delivers a
30 mm grenade out to 1,200 meters with a rate of fire
between 40 and 58 rounds per minute.12
Considerable use of helicopters to escort convoys is
natural given the nature of the terrain and opposing forces.
Each supply convoy carries a FAC whose job it is to direct
helicopters to strike any force which attacks the convoy. In
researching convoy escort a number of interesting items
regarding the relationship of the Soviets to the Afghan Air
Force become apparent. Normally, Afghan piloted helicopters
are not assigned to strike sensitive targets. They do
perform tasks such as convoy escort.
Despite heavy political indoctrination of Afghan pilots
it is apparent that the Soviets do not fully trust them to
conduct operations against the mujahidin without super-
vision. Afghan aircrews are informed only at the last
moment of the nature of the operation and a Soviet officer
always accompanies the Afghan piloted helicopters and can
countermand any order given by an Afghan officer. All
maintenance work at one base is carried out by Soviet
technicians who control all spare parts.13
Another unusual facet of the helicopter close air
support war in Afghanistan is the use of Forward Arming and
Refueling Points (FARPs). A Helicopter Expedient Refueling
System (HERS) called the GZST-4-1250 is used to refuel
helicopters in remote locations while HINDs carry additional
ordnance in the cabin with which to rearm in the field. The
GZST-4-1250 is an air transportable system which can be set
up by four men in thirty-five minutes and can refuel four
aircraft simultaneously. A HIND clan be field refueled and
rearmed in about 60 minutes or simply 'hot pumped' if no
rearming is required.14
In the December 1982 issue of Aviatsia i Kosmonavtika
(Aviation and Cosmonautics), an article appeared describing
a Soviet heliborne training operation in the mountains. It
emphasized the importance of close cooperation among all
branches of troops involved in the operation. The training
most likely is based on Soviet experience in Afghanistan,
since it began by naming several helicopter pilots who
recently received medals for achievements in "combat and
political training." Additionally, although the location of
this exercise was not given, some of the pilots named were
identified in other articles of the Soviet military press as
being from the Turkestan Military District. This military
district is a primary staging and support area for Soviet
troops in Afghanistan. Generally, the article is written for
Soviet aviation personnel, however, it does focus on the
problems of working with motorized rifle units.
The airmobile operation consisted of a helicopter
regiment landing motorized rifle troops in the "enemy's"
rear. The article attributed the success of the operation
to close coordination between aviation personnel and the
landing troops. It stated that prior to their service in
this region, the pilots had "some" experience in working
with motorized rifle troops. However, in a mountainous
desert region, that experience proves to be insufficient.
This particular operation was successful primarily
because the pilots had received additional training in
landing troops in mountainous settings. These helicopter
crews were well acquainted with maneuver unit commanders
down to company and platoon levels. This factor played an
important role in coordinating the actions of the helicopter
crews and motorized rifle units.
In the operation described, two groups of helicopters
carried the motorized rifle troops, while a third group of
helicopters provided fire support for the landing operation.
During the flight to the landing area, the heliborne troops
fired on enemy positions. They did this by firing through
During the landing process, the commander of the
helicopter regiment provided "control over the operation"
from a separate helicopter. A fourth helicopter group was
assigned an evacuation and rescue mission.
After the troops landed and while they were engaged in
fighting the "enemy" for control of the area, the helicop-
ters provided fire support. Once the enemy dispersed and
retreated deeper into the mountains, the helicopters
returned to their airfield.
The article concluded that such missions are now common
and that the pilots "would fly a similar mission on the
During a Panjsher offensive in May 1982, Soviet
helicopters inserted blocking forces that acted as the
'anvil' to the 'hammer' of the mechanized combined arms
The Soviets have conducted heliborne operations of many
sizes. On 21 April 1984 the Resistance destroyed the upper
structure of the Mattok bridge on the Ghorband river, south
of Salang tunnel. When they concentrated for a repeated
attack on the bridge, the Soviets launched a surprise
heliborne operation that wiped out the entire force,
estimated to be 1,500 - 2,000 strong.
The rebels tried to hide during the day in a valley,
the Soviets landed two companies, some 200 troops, on two
mountains which control the back exit from the valley, and
blocked it. Almost immediately, the trapped Resistance
forces were subjected to aerial strikes by helicopters and
aircraft. Any attempt to advance out of the valley was
blocked by the Soviet troops. Available reports emphasize
the ferocity of the Soviet fire support and the high level
of casualties. Apparently, some of the attacks were carried
out too close to the heliborne troops. There were casual-
ties among them. Thus, in a relatively brief operation, the
Soviets virtually eliminated the threat to their main axis
of transportation before any meaningful damage could be
Whenever a Soviet troop column or supply convoy moves
into rebel territory, it is accompanied by a mixture of
HINDs and HIPs. While half of the helicopters remain
overhead watching for Resistance activity, the others land
troops on key terrain ahead of the advancing column. These
troops provide security until the column passes after which
the process is repeated.17 Another variant of this activity
involves flank protection for advancing forces. While one
helicopter element is moving to capture a commanding height
or road intersection in an aggressive airstrike combined
with disembarking troops, helicopters of another element
will apply wait and see ambush tactics, ready to move to
another 'hide' position or to attack from the flank any
enemy threatening the advancing force.18 This type of
leapfrogging tactic generally makes it difficult for the
Afghan rebels to halt Soviet offensives by striking at
A typical rebel tactic in the early stages of war was
to besiege villages containing Soviet forces. Hostile
tribesmen, usually in rocky defensive positions surrounding
the towns, were attacked first by rockets and napalm from
MiG-21s and then by rockets and machinegun fire from the
Mi-24 helicopter gunships. This was quickly followed by
airborne infantry carried in Mi-6 helicopters, each able to
carry 75 soldiers who hunted out the insurgents, killing,
capturing or driving them away. Within a short time, sieges
had been raised, and the mujahidin pushed back several
In "Wings of the Motorized Rifleman" Krasnaya Zvezda
29 April 1980, Lt. Col. Romanov describes a helicopterborne
assault of battalion size (400 to 500 troops). An LZ
security force, probably a reinforced platoon, is dis-
patched. The LZ preparation includes helicopter rocket fire
and a 'mad moment' by infantrymen with their organic weapons
fired from inside the helicopter just prior to landing.
Close on the heels of the security force, the main assault
force arrives. While the enemy is tied down with the main
assault force, an enveloping force assaults into the enemy
rear. This enveloping force blocks the advance of the
enemy's reserve and supports the main attack. When rein-
forcements are requested, mountain guns and mortars are
delivered and mines are layed to protect a flank. The
purpose of the article seems to be three-fold: to stress
the utility of the helicopter, to highlight proper technique
for conducting airmobile operations and finally to highlight
the value of helicopterborne assaults particularly in
mountainous terrain. The scenario is vintage Afghanistan.
Helicopterhorne assault landings (desanty) have for
some years been an attractive option for Soviet Army
commanders who wished to destroy important targets or to
capture vital ground or installations in the enemy rear. The
war in Afghanistan has made it possible to put doctrine to
practice and refine the helicopter as a weapon which will
permit the seizure of key road junctions, control key
terrain, prevent committment of reserves, disrupt movement
to contact, isolate command and control and break logistic
routes to mention a few.
Air Assault Brigades
U.S. Department of Defense sources have finally
confirmed the existence of a new type of unit in the Soviet
order of battle: the air assault brigade.
The first two air assault brigades were identified in
the early mid-1970s at Mogocha in the Trans-Baikal Military
District and Magdagachi in the Far East Military District.
Since then a number of these brigades have been organized
and no less than five are believed to be currently deployed
in Afghanistan. One may be stationed at Neureppin, East
The air assault brigade differs from previous Soviet
units. It stresses the helicopter as its primary means of
mobility. It is not the same as a U.S. Army airmobile unit,
because the air assault brigade's helicopters are not
organic to the unit. Rather, they are retained by the air
force. It is believed that all air assault brigade
personnel are jump-trained and wear the traditional blue
beret and striped vest of the Airborne Forces. The brigade
consists of three rifle battalions and supporting units. Its
strength, exclusive of helicopters, is believed to be 1,800
to 2,500, although some estimates are as high as 3,000. An
air assault brigade can be lifted by two helicopter regi-
ments, and a third regiment with Mi-24 HIND attack helicop-
ters would provide fire support and clear landing zones for
the lift ships.
For a number of years some U.S. intelligence sources
doubted the existence of these brigades believing them to be
misidentifications of either Raydoviki (ranger) or airborne
units. Only recently has it appeared that they do exist.20
Mine and Smoke Laying
Mi-8 HIP helicopters have been seen equipped with
minelaying chutes for several years. Even Aeroflot-marked
Mi-8s were equipped with them during the 1979 invasion of
Afghanistan. Each HIP, with its single mine laying chute,
can lay one mine a second, yielding a spacing of one surface
mine per two to three meters of front. A 'foot' at the
bottom of the minelaying chute helps to ensure that the
mines fall properly. The mines are apparently released by a
mechanical timer. The HIP flies at two to four knots, less
than six meters above the ground. Standard TM-60 anti-tank
mines can be carried, and a HIP can reasonably carry a load
of 400 of these mines. Thus, a two-helicopter flight could
plant an 800 meter, two-row anti-tank strip minefield with a
density of one mine per meter of frontage in under five
minutes. This is obviously valuable in protecting the
flanks of Soviet penetrations and helping to consolidate
temporary defensive positions.21
Articles on the war in Afghanistan mention mines as
frequently as any other aspect of the war and it is certain
that the Soviets depend heavily on all types of mines.
Helicopters are regarded as a very efficient means of
laying smoke screens and would clearly be used to do this on
the future battlefield if priorities for their employment
allowed. They would lay smoke with bombs or by means of a
pyrotechnic generator on board or by BDSh smoke pots dropped
at low altitude.
Twenty four BDSh-15 pots can be carried in a HIP and
put out by hand from chutes 50 - 60 meters above the ground
level at 150 - 210 km/h. It takes only two minutes to put
out 24 pots, producing a five-kilometer screen for five or
fifteen minutes depending on the pot used (BDSh-5 or -15).22
The helicopter air war in Afghanistan has not been
without difficulties. HIND units have been criticized in
the Soviet press for flying into concentrations of anti-
aircraft weapons, failing to take evasive action when fired
on, and attacking positions that the enemy has vacated. This
is obviously a continual problem in HIND units, as shown in
articles such as "Suddenly, Swiftly" in Aviatsiya i
Kozmonautica 9-1980 and "Firing Against Abandoned Trenches"
in Krasnaya Zvezda 16 April 1982. In the latter the erring
aircrew 'volunteered' to be attached to motorized rifle
units to understand the importance of working closely with
the ground troops.
Problems have also appeared with the helicopters
themselves. The loss of Soviet helicopters to SA-7s in 1980
led to a change in tactics at the end of 1980 or early 1981.
The HINDs then started using nap-of-the-earth flight
patterns for which their crews were improperly trained.
There have been reports of HIND rotors striking the tail
during nap-of-the-earth flight. Wear on airframes and
systems has greatly increased, yielding an increased rate of
operational attrition. The workhorse of Frontal Aviation's
tactical helicopter units, the Mi-8 HIP, provides its own
suppression with 57 mm rocket pods, and is used as an attack
helicopter--especially the HIP-E version. Yet a former
Afghan Air Force HIP pilot, now with the guerrillas, reports
that the HIP's dangerously exposed fuel system was unpopular
with its crews. The high density altitude performance,
crucial in Afghanistan, left much to be desired. Trim
control was especially inadequate in these conditions. The
1,500 hour rotor life, he reports, is a problem, as is the
lack of an engine quick-change capability.
The faults that limited the effectiveness of helicopter
employment were not restricted to the aircraft and their
aircrews. "Fire Support from the Air", for example,
criticizes army commanders who failed to use effectively the
aviation assets that the new, more flexible, control system
had put within their authority. The ground forces have also
let down the helicopter units in ground defense of airbases.
The 355th Independent Helicopter Regiment lost about 12
helicopters during the night of 27/28 December 1982 when
defecting Kabul regime troops let guerrillas inside the
perimeter at Jalalabad airfield.23
Attacks on airbases are a common rebel tactic. On the
night of July 13/14, 1984, Resistance forces shelled Bagram
for three hours with Chinese 107 mm unguided rockets and a
variety of mortars. These weapons are not heavy enough to
cause permanent damage but this particular attack closed
that base to fixed wing operations until late July 14th.24
Lt. Mohammed Nassim Shadidi who defected from the
Afghan Air Force early in 1984, flew HIND Bs and has
described some of the characteristic problems of the air
Shadidi was selected from among the trainees in the
Afghan army's recruit program to become an officer cadet and
attend flight school. He was trained at the Afghan air
academy located at Kabul and then spent 10 months at an air
base at Mazar-I-Sharif learning to fly the Mi-8. After a
tour of duty in the Mi-8, he was sent to the Kabul inter-
national airport at Kwajarawash and trained on the Mi-24
The Afghan air force has 40 of the HIND Bs at
Kwajarawash, of which only 30 were operational at the time
of Shadidi's defection. The remaining 10 were being
cannibalized for spare parts, he said.
Despite heavy political indoctrination of Afghan
pilots, it was apparent to Shadidi that the Soviets did not
fully trust them to conduct operations against the mujahidin
Shadidi believes that in some cases, such as the fairly
frequent raids into Pakistani border areas where Afghan
rebel forces often regroup, the aircraft may be flown
entirely by Soviet flight crews operating from Soviet bases
Shadidi said that Soviet-flown HIND D/E helicopter
gunships were usually given the close-support missions,
while the Afghan air force's HIND A/B helicopters were used
for convoy escort and other work which did not always lead
to conflicts with the mujahidin.
Shadidi said the HIND A/B had a number of faults, one
of which was the main rotor's inability to tolerate hits by
machine gun fire. Pilots were routinely warned to stay away
from ground fire if possible.
The main problem with the HIND, he said, was that it
was underpowered for some of the conditions under which it
had to operate and for some of the missions it was called on
to perform. Engines in his helicopter were two Isotov
TV3-117R turboshafts. These provide a small margin of power
for making evasive maneuvers and this limits the amount of
control input a HIND pilot can make. The HIND also has a
weak tail boom, he said.
The HIND A/B, unlike the HIND C/D versions flown by the
Soviets, does not have bullet-resistant glass in the
cockpit. The fight crew has a manually operated steel
shield located on either side of the cockpit, which normally
is stowed, but can be raised to afford protection from small
arms fire from either side.
The shields, however, tend to impede both the pilot's
and gunner's vision and some flight crews did not like to
use the shields for this reason. Some losses were blamed on
flight crews being hit with small arms fire while the
cockpit shields were down.
The gunner in the HIND A/B has a set of controls which
he can use to fly the helicopter during a gunnery run and
his sight provides speed, range and angular data on the
HIND A/B airframes had an operational life of 2,000
hours, Shadidi said, and required a major overhaul every 200
hours. All major overhauls were done at Termez although
lesser maintenance work was done at operating bases in
During the HIND A/B overhaul, the rotor head was
Shadidi's HIND had been equipped with three radio
transmitters used for single functions. A set designated
the R842 was used for communications with the base at
Kwajarawash. An R860 unit was used for communication with
other aircraft in the formation and a unit designated the
SP07 was used for internal communication among crew members
in the same helicopter, and also for communication with
troops after they were landed.
The HIND has a gas-operated engine exhaust coolant
system that can be used for a maximum of about 3 minutes and
is designed to counter incoming, heat-seeking ground-
Shadidi said that up to the time of his defection, the
Afghan Air Force alone had lost 164 aircraft, both fixed-
wing and helicopters. This includes aircraft lost to the
mujahidin and those flown away by defectors. The government
officially acknowledges the death of 230 air crew members.
The Soviets have increased the rate of Afghan pilot
training and what Shadidi termed "large numbers" of univer-
sity graduates were being indoctrinated and selected for
flying aptitude examination. These examinations were given
in the Soviet Union.
Shadidi said that the Afghan Air Force has been told it
would receive additional HIND helicopters. The Afghan Air
Force also was anticipating receipt of some Antonov An-30
Initial use of the SA-7 by the mujahidin took the
Soviets by surprise when eight Mi-8s were shot down early in
1983 during one operation. The action occurred near Khost,
south of Kabul, and at least some of the Soviet helicopters
were hit by the SA-7s.
Shadidi, who was a HIND B pilot at the time, said the
incident was the first time the Soviets had encountered the
massed use of SA-7s. He said that even though Afghan and
Soviet pilots were housed in different compounds, he was
aware of near panic on the Soviets' part and said that they
took the missile threat seriously.
Afghan-operated Mi-24s, Mi-8s and Mi-4s were subse-
quently equipped with decoy flare dispensers.
None of the helicopters assigned to the Afghan Air
Force initially had the capability of dispensing decoy
flares to protect against SA-7 attacks, Shadidi said, but
after the heavy losses at Khost, all Mi-24s, Mi-8s and Mi-4s
were fitted with flare dispensers over a three-month period.
Shadidi said his HIND carried 120 flares in a tail-mounted
dispenser that could eject them to either side. A missile
warning system also was installed, with a warning light in
John Gunston, a British journalist, who visited rebel
units described SA-7 employment in an article for Aviation
Week and Space Technology.
"One missile was launched at an Antonov
AN-12, but failed to hold its lock on the air-
craft's infrared emissions and missed the target.
The second had an apparent short circuit within
the launch tube. When the operator attempted to
fire it, smoke came from both ends of the launcher
and the operator quickly threw the missile down
the side of the mountain, fearing a premature
The only successful launch of a SA-7 that I
saw occurred on July 14 north of Bagram, when the
missile was fired at and hit a Mil Mi-6. The
helicopter crew made an attempt at a forced
landing, but crashed. The Mujahidin later
reported that there were 57 killed in the crash,
mostly Soviet infantrymen."
The Soviet air war in Afghanistan has been expensive,
but the Soviets are learning. The absence of a credible
rebel air defense capability has shaped Soviet tactics
accordingly but the long term value of lessons learned in
this war will be very high. The best training will always
be actual combat and Soviet Air Forces are getting plenty of
The Mi-8 HIP and the Mi-24 HIND dominate the helicopter
air war in Afghanistan. Other types are present including
the massive new Mi-26 which will carry 40,000 pounds and is
as large as a C-l30, but the HIND and HIP are the true
workhorses of this conflict. The Mi-8 in the HIP-E variant
carries twenty-four combat troops and is capable of mounting
six 57 mm rocket pods of thirty-two rockets each, four
anti-tank missiles and a chin mounted 12.7 mm gun. The
ability of the HIP to carry so many troops and provide this
level of fire power make it an exceptionally capable
helicopterborne assault platform. The HIND can carry eight
to ten troops and an impressive assortment of ordnance. The
HIND has been the principle close air support platform in
the Afghanistan conflict and may be the finest attack
helicopter in the world today.
Click here to view image
* with 1x750 kg auxiliary tank
All in all, the structural design and overall configur-
ation of the Mi-24 is broadly similar to that of the Mi-8.
The "signature" of the now-deceased designer Mil is so
clearly recognizable in the Mi-24 that many details of the
Mi-8 can be assumed to be the same in the Mi-24.
At the rear of the central fuselage section are the
wings, which have several degrees of anhedral and contribute
a significant proportion of the total lift at cruise speeds.
Each wing has two hardpoints for external stores, and an
end-plate at the tip for missile launcher rails or tubes.
The wing consists of a torsion box with the leading and
trailing edge structures attached.
The layout of the powerplant is similar to that of the
Mi-8, with two turboshafts mounted side-by-side above the
freight compartment, together with the oil cooler. The two
TV3-117 engines each develop 1,650kW of power, although
pressure losses caused by the rounded air-intake plugs
usually seen on the HIND E are likely to cause a power loss
of up to 10 percent. Also to be taken into account is the
typical Soviet flat-rating of the engines to between 12 and
15 percent below maximum sea level power, which ensures
uniform power output over a wide temperature and altitude
range. If one engine fails, the other is automatically run
up to full power. A turbine auxiliary power unit mounted
behind the main gearbox makes the Mi-24 independent of
ground equipment for systems check-out and engine starting.
The fuel supply is divided about equally between
under-floor tanks and a main feeder tank located behind the
freight compartment. In addition to these, an auxiliary
tank can be hard-mounted in the freight compartment; this
could be a standard tank, like the one in the Mi-26 exhi-
bited at the 1984 Paris air show. This tank is likely to
hold between 900 and 1,000 liters of fuel, representing an
additional fuel weight of 740-820 kg.
The configuration of the rotor system is familar
enough, with a five-bladed main rotor and a three-bladed
tail rotor. The rotor head is of conventional design with
flap and drag hinges, drag dampers and automatic droop
stops. The design of the main blades is similar to that of
the Mi-8's, with a tubular main spar and pockets of aluminum
In view of its primary role of close air support, the
HIND is powerfully armed with a variety of weapons. The gun
armament consists of four-barrel led 12.7 mm Gatling gun
mounted in a turret in the fuselage nose. The gun can be
trained over wide aiming arcs, likely to extend from +15o to
-60o in elevation, and from -70o or -80o to +70o or +80o in
azimuth. Its rate of fire, by analogy with single-barrelled
Soviet weapons of the same caliber, is unlikely to exceed
4,200 rounds/minute. Stowage space for about 2,000 rounds
of ammunition is provided beneath the pilot's cockpit. The
maximum effective range of the gun is probably between 1,200
and 1,300 m. It is worth nothing that the gun can fire not
only armor-piercing but also high-explosive incendiary
shells, the belts normally containing 20 percent tracer
The standard weapon fit of the HIND includes Type UB-32
rocket launcher pods, each containing 32 unguided 57 mm
rockets. The rockets can be armed with high-explosive,
high-explosive incendiary or hollow-charge warheads capable
of piercing up to 230 mm of armour. The maximum effective
range of the unguided rockets is unlikely to exceed 1,200 m
(the flat part of the rocket trajectory).
The Russians appreciate rockets and have equipped a
number of different helicopter types with the S-5 57 mm
rocket, usually in pods containing 16 or 32 each. HIP E/F,
for example, can carry 192 of these rockets in six pods.
The rocket itself has a diameter of 55 mm and carries HE,
HEAT, chaff or fragmentation warheads. The HIND has from
time to time also been equipped with the S-8 80 mm rocket.
The armor penetration capability of these rockets,
which are armed with modern hollow-charge warheads, is
likely to be in the range of 350 to 400 mm.
A novel mission for helicopters, but one necessary for
the HIND's primary role of close air support, is bombing.
Inboard pylons can carry bombs of up to 500 kg, outboard
pylons carry up to 250 kg. Total bomb load is 1,500 kg.
The anti-tank missiles carried by the HIND D are
different from those of the HIND E. The D version is armed
with four AT-2 SWATTER missiles, while the HIND E carries
four AT-6 SPIRALs; both missiles have radio command-to-line-
of-sight guidance. No photos of the latter missile have yet
been published, and any deductions concerning the missile
must therefore be based on the dimensions of the launch
tube. The missile's very high fineness ratio points quite
clearly to a supersonic speed. This means that, for a given
missile range, the length of time the HIND is exposed to
enemy defensive fire is significantly reduced. It can be
assumed that the AT-6 has a speed of 450 m/s, three times
the AT-2s speed of 150 m/s. According to Jane's All the
World's Aircraft, the range of the AT-6 is between 7 km and
10 km. A more realistic estimate of the SPIRAL's effective
range is about 5 km, this figure representing the end of the
powered flight phase, although even after 10 km the
missile's speed will only have fallen to about 150 m/s.
These performance figures take into account only the
missile. The overall system performance will depend,
naturally, on the quality of the sighting and missile-
guidance equipment. The armor piercing capability of the
AT-6's hollow-charge warhead may be assumed to have in-
creased to 750 mm compared to the AT-2s 500 mm.
Click here to view image
The electronics and choice of sensors are of prime
significance in the performance of an attack helicopter. The
most important are the sighting and target-tracking devices
mounted in a pod under the right-hand side of the fuselage
chin (looking in the direction of flight). There are good
grounds for believing that these sensors include an optical
sight switchable between two magnifications, a laser
rangefinder, the missile-tracking system and a passive
night-vision or thermal-imaging device. It is, of course,
impossible to deduce with certainty, merely from the
external shape of the pod which systems are in fact
The smaller, left-hand pod contains the missile-
guidance transmitter and antenna. The pod on the HIND E is
distinctly larger than that on the HIND D, indicating that
the antenna on the HIND E is much bigger. This possibly
conceals the real secret of the AT-6 weapon system, which
may have certain similarities with current development work,
underway on a command guidance system using millimetric
wavelengths for the TOW missile.
Like the Mi-26 heavy-lift helicopter shown at the Paris
air show, HIND navigation equipment includes the RSBN-6
short-range navigation system and is coupled with a Doppler
radar and its associated map display, thereby ensuring
sufficient accuracy for the distances likely to be flown by
these helicopters. In addition, the helicopter is equipped
with an SAU automatic flight-control system which permits
the aircraft to be controlled directly from ground stations
via signal input to the autopilot. The pilot is provided
with a head-up display, which possibly has facilities for
presenting data supplied by the Doppler radar, critical for
low-level flight. One final point worth noting on the
avionics suite is the fact that the HIND is fitted with a
SIRENA threat warning system.
As the reported performance records indicate, the HIND
is particularly impressive in the higher-speed ranges. The
following records have been set:
-334.5 km/h over a 100 km circular course,
-331 km/h over a 500 km circular course,
-332.6 km/h over a 1,000 km circular course,
-368.4 km/h over a 15-25 km straight-line course,
-2 minutes 33.5 seconds to climb to 3,000 m altitude
and 7 minutes 43 seconds to climb to 6,000 m altitude.
The maximum speed of almost 370 km/h is especially
noteworthy as is the high sustained speed of 332.6 km/h over
a 1,000 km course.
The Mi-24 HIND must be regarded as an extremely potent
Click here to view image
It may be years before the true character of the war is
widely known. Unclassified sources from the popular press
tend to be impassioned and superficial. The more detailed
classified sources, though objective and more precise,
remain largely in the lands of intelligence agencies who are
reluctant to share information. Still, it is possible to
draw lessons and identify Soviet trends which will be useful
in the event of a future conflict.
The following items were selected as significant for
the military planner vis a vis the air war in Afghanistan.
Testing of Soviet weaponry
The Soviets are learning new tactics and
Soviet dependence on chemical warfare
The emergence of the helicopter and integration
of air power with ground forces.
After the casualty figures on both sides have been
tabulated and the doctrinal justifications repeated for a
seemingly infinite number of times, Afghanistan remains as a
superb test-bed for an entirely new array of Soviet weapons.
Soviet weapons there include the T-72 main battle tank, the
BMP armored fighting vehicle and its variants, the BMD
airborne fighting vehicle, and the small-unit weapons such
as the AGS-17 "Plamya" (flame) automatic grenade launcher
and the AK/AKS-74 5.45 mm assault rifle. Lesser-known
weapons include the PFM-1 antipersonnel minelet, an air-
dropped incendiary weapon, cluster bomb units, and the
various types of chemical weapons discussed earlier.
Soviet troops have introduced a number of new ordnance
innovations, and have modified equipment to suit local
conditions. They have, for example, mounted the AGS-17
grenade launcher on the BMP armored fighting vehicle - the
marriage of two highly successful weapon systems. The
employment of assault helicopters to drop antipersonnel
mines and chemical bombs is also an innovation peculiar to
Decoy flares for helicopters and fixed wing aircraft
made their first appearance in Afghanistan and are evidence
of Soviet adaptability in the face of unanticipated condi-
tions. The Su-25 is receiving the best of all possible
operational evaluations - actual combat - and the develop-
ment of Forward Arming and Refueling Points for helicopters
will serve the Soviets well in future conflicts. Chemical
agents are receiving a combat laboratory evaluation which
would be impossible in peacetime. The war in Afghanistan
has at least indirectly reinforced the need for greater
strategic airlift capability for Soviet forces. This need
is being addressed in the development of a Soviet heavy
transport in the C-5 class timed for operational service in
the late 1980s. The objective is to carry outsize loads
such as the T-80 Tank and helicopters.1
The hardware which will benefit from improvements as a
result of the war spans the entire spectrum of Soviet
equipment. To realize the value of this testing, one need
only recall the difficulties experienced by the United
States in Vietnam with such weapons as the M-16, and F-111.
The development of totally new technologies and weapons is
also an important benefit of any conflict, and Afghanistan
is no exception. Consider how long it may have taken the
United States to develop and field sophisticated Electronic
Counter Measures for aircraft had we not been exposed to the
air defenses of North Vietnam. The Soviet Union will
assuredly be a more capable force because of the war in
Tactics and Initiative
The common perception of the Soviet Armed Forces is one
of rigidity, inflexibility and rote execution of cookbook
solutions. The evidence of Afghanistan does not affirm this
Several months after the initial invasion of
Afghanistan, Moscow's military planners recognized that
their forces would have to adopt to the type of war being
fought in that unforgivng theater. As early as March 1980,
it was apparent that armored forces were generally useless
against an enemy whose presence on the battlefield was
sudden and fleeting. At first, Soviet ground forces were
slow to react to the developing tactical situation and air
power was used with little effect. Bitter experience soon
established that tanks without infantry became sitting duck
for rocket propelled grenades as the big vehicles inched up
twisting mountain roads. On the ground, precious military
intelligence, the lifeblood of a guerrilla war, was being
squandered by 'prudent' young officers in the field who
would automatically refer anything unusual -- a chance to
ambush the rebels or catch them in the open -- up the line
for formal approval. The troops understood what was
happening. In letters to home (often taken unmailed from
Soviet corpses by Resistance fighters) they complained about
clinging to textbook tactics which kept them clustered
around armored vehicles like targets when the shooting
began. It wasn't long before the message began to sink in.
Pressure for change took the shape of critical reports in
military journals from soldiers who wrote that the rebels
should be fought on their own terms -- with small squads,
snipers, flame throwers and helicopterborne troops. In
October 1980, Col. Gen. O Kulishev in an article under his
own name declared that small, fast moving units led by
sergeants and warrant officers who are trained for indepen-
dence in decision making was the key to success. After this
article by a General Officer, others voiced similar
opinions. They wrote forcefully about the need for decen-
tralizing command and control, the need for physical fitness
among conscripts, and most of all for more and better
training. In the Spring of 1980 when the Soviets realized
they were in Afghanistan to stay, they committed to a
thorough lesson learning and technotactical reformation. A
major conference of senior officers in the Summer of 1980
addressed most of the problems mentioned above. In order to
optimize their lesson learning effort in Afghanistan, the
Soviets have established a sophisticated system that
identified these lessons, studied and tested them, reached
conclusions and recommendations and implemented them in
Afghanistan and elsewhere. Gen. Arm Yazov is in charge of
In Spring 1981, the General chaired an extremely
significant conference on the qualities and decision-making
authority and flexibility of the junior commander. The
conference included both theoretical papers and active
demonstrations on training and firing ranges.
Addressing the conference on the role of the junior
leader in battle, Gen. Yazov explained:
"In the accomplishment of all these tasks, an
important role belongs to you, the commander of
small subunits. You stand closest to the soldiers
and direct their daily service and training.
Remember, much depends on you in the further
raising of combat readiness of subunits and
units. . ."2
Since spring 1981, the influence of these solutions has
been felt in Afghanistan. The combat laboratory is at work
and at least one rebel leader has testified to the results.
His camp, high in inaccessible hill country, was suddenly
attacked by black uniformed commandos who swept in from the
darkness to inflict severe casualties. Helicopterborne
forces which penetrate deep into Resistance territory to
surround rebel positions indicate an unprecedented degree of
responsibility for the leaders on the spot. The combined
arms battalion has become the base maneuver element in this
war and tanks are now employed in conjunction with infantry
The Soviets now use helicopter-inserted detachments to
recreate the old Indian Army tactic of 'cresting the
heights' that overlook the route of a road convoy, snaking
along a mountain valley. Because the Lee Enfield-armed
Afghans can often hit at 800 meters or longer range while
the Kalashnikov-armed motorized riflemen are ineffective
beyond 300 meters, the Soviets have increased the number of
trained snipers, armed with 7.62 mm SVD rifles and formed
special sniper squads in motorized rifle companies.3
The Soviets make use of ZSU-23-4 self-propelled
anti-aircraft guns in the ground direct fire role in
Afghanistan. A journalist reported that a platoon of four
ZSU-23-4s supported an attack on a village in Ghazni
province in September 1981.
The lessons of 1980 also reveal the importance of the
helicopter for this type of war. They led to the commitment
of air assault brigades and units of Raydoviki (equivalent
to U.S. Rangers) and Vysotniki (equivalent to U.S. Special
Forces or British Special Air Service) to Afghanistan. It
may have also led to the use of allied forces. East German
advisors were brought in to rebuild the Kabul regime's
internal security apparatus. At least a hundred Cubans were
sent to Afghanistan, and the Afghan rebels have repeatedly
claimed to have encountered them in battle. Vietnamese and
South Yemenite advisors have also been reported to have been
to Afghanistan to give the Soviets the benefit of their
perceptions in guerrilla and counter-guerrilla warfare.
More than 400,000 Russian troops have been rotated in
and out of Afghanistan, among them thousands of junior
officers and NCOs whose combat experience is now being
shared with those bound for the fighting there. The value
to the Kremlin of tactical lessons learned and most signifi-
cantly -- the process of decentralizing and developing
individual initiative -- are priceless benefits for an Army
which has long been regarded as rigid, myopic and tactically
The use of offensive chemical warfare by the Soviets in
Afghanistan has shown how important that tactic is to Soviet
warfighting even in conventional modes of operation. It is
impossible to document any changes or perceptions in Soviet
chemical warfare tactics from the open Russian language
literature, for the only Soviet references to the use of
chemical weapons have been to accuse the West of anti-Soviet
slander in being insensitive enough to bring up the issue
and to accuse the Afghan guerrillas of using chemical
weapons against the Soviet Army, exhibiting a captured
American-made tear gas grenade to show the threat they
faced. Yet from the evidence available, it appears beyond
reasonable doubt that the Soviets and the Kabul regime have
made extensive use of chemical weapons in the war in
Afghanistan, and in ways that give insight into how the
Soviets would use chemical weapons in any future conflict.
Chemical weapons are a superb tool for economy-of-force
operations. The Soviets never intended to occupy the
hinterland of Afghanistan. Through use of chemical weapons,
they supplement their cordon-and-sweep operations,
destroying agriculture and forcing the inhabitants to flee.
Refugees in Pakistan or in the cities of Afghanistan can be
watched. They cannot support the guerrillas. In effect,
the Soviet operations are similar to the resettlement
efforts that took place in Malaya and Vietnam. The means by
which this resettlement is carried out, however, is vastly
different. In his campaign in the Shenandoah Valley in 1864,
General Phillip Sheridan realized what was required to
prevent the 'breadbasket of the Confederacy' from supplying
Lee's army. He gave orders that "a crow flying over the
Shenandoah Valley will have to carry its own rations".
Thereafter, nothing grew in the Shenandoah and Lee received
no supplies. This comparison shows what the Soviets are
aiming for in parts of Afghanistan. Chemical weapons are an
excellent way to achieve this.
The Soviets have also exported both the weapons and
their emphasis on the use of them to their Kabul regime
allies, who used Afghan flown and marked I1-28s to initiate
chemical warfare during the summer of 1979, before the
The Soviets and their allies use chemical weapons on a
widespread basis but selectively. The use of a wide variety
of chemical agents has given them a capability to respond to
a specific tactical situation with the weapon that is most
effective. For example, infiltration has been halted in the
'tip' of the Wakhan Corridor (the 'panhandle' of
Afghanistan, where Afghanistan, the USSR, China and Pakistan
meet) by making extensive use of persistent nerve agents. It
requires little imagination to realize that the Soviets
would use similar agents to interdict enemy movement in a
The Soviets have also used truck-delivered chemical
weapons which are pumped into tunnel systems. This delivery
method was used at least once during operations in Logar
Province in September 1982, with deadly effect. Such
tactics could be employed by the Soviets in fighting in
built-up areas anywhere. The State Department reports that
a Cuban has claimed that he was trained by the Soviets in
this delivery technique, indicating that it is not limited
However, the main Soviet chemical weapon delivery
system continues to be aircraft, both helicopters and fixed
wing. Tailored for specific tactical purposes, both support
Soviet troops attacking guerrillas or civilians. The filter
of the standard Soviet ShM gas mask has been modified to
protect from mycotoxins, including the 'yellow rain' that is
one of the foremost Soviet lethal, non-persistent agents in
use in Afghanistan. The State Department has such a gas
mask with traces of mycotoxins still in it, indicating
operation in close coordination with chemical attacks.4 In
an ambush in 1982 a combat group of the National Front for
Islamic Revolution found Soviet casualties in their gas
masks and protective suits, implying close coordination
between chemical weapons and the ground forces. This has
been confirmed by other Afghan sources.5
The evidence from Afghanistan is that chemical warfare
is a vital and integral part of Soviet tactical and
operational thinking. Their intent is to use it in situa-
tions termed appropriate for 'weapons of mass destruction'.
The inclusion of chemical weapons in this category may be
seen as more indicative of Soviet propaganda than tactical
thinking. In Afghanistan most of the non-persistent
chemicals are used basically as an adjunct to conventional
firepower. Persistent chemical weapons are used to block
terrain. All this confirms pre-war theories on Soviet
chemical warfare capabilities and tactics. The lesson of
Soviet chemical warfare tactics in Afghanistan is that one
should not expect to fight the Soviets or their surrogates
without finding chemical weapons.
The Marine Corps tends to view Soviet use of chemical
agents as the exception in our training and war gaming. The
evidence of Afghanistan makes it clear that chemical
weaponry will be used from the very outset of hostilities.
This insight into Soviet conventional war fighting doctrine
The Helicopter and Air Power
The prime lesson for the United States on the air to
air activity over North Vietnam is the revival of
maneuvering air combat. The changes which followed were
thorough and included both aircraft and armament, spawning
the development of the F-15, F-16 and F-18. No less an
evolutionary process is now occurring in Soviet Air Forces
as the result of the air war in Afghanistan.
The maintenance conditions of existing attack aircraft
do not fit the requirements of the present-day battlefield.
"Since in today's battle, the situation changes rapidly,
flight time from base to target is an important factor. The
shorter this time, the more effective the strike."6
Contemporary attack planes require elaborate base facilities
and thus cannot accompany the advancing troops. Within a
short time, the period of flight to the battlefield grows
alarmingly, which is actually the period that the data
pilots have on the position of the ground forces and their
requirements are not up-to-date. Lack of up-to-date data
impose the need for visual identification of the target
The conditions of the modern battlefield make the
previous attack planes too vulnerable while the supersonic
fighter-bombers could not make use of their bombload or
speed. A single sophisticated fighter-bomber that is shot
down costs far more than the tanks it destroys in it's
operational lifetime. High losses and relatively small
results of attack aircraft made it clear that some thorough
changes are inevitable.
The helicopter has caused a reshaping of Soviet
doctrine in the employment of air power which is reaching
The Soviet helicopter force now serves as the primary
air asset of armies in accomplishing airmobile, air support,
and anti-armor missions. It is also assuming greater
importance in performing battlefield reconnaissance and
airborne command and control.
Air power in general has become a more integral part of
Soviet fire attacks, being interwoven with artillery in all
phases of the fire support plan. Helicopters have steadily
increased their contribution to this type of air support.
Soviet helicopters, particularly the HINDs, have become a
major source of firepower. The Soviets recognize the great
advantage of rotary-wing aircraft in being able to move
forward at the same pace as ground columns, thereby
affording Soviet divisions an uninterrupted source of air
cover. Fixed-wing aircraft are still available to be called
in for additional ground support near the forward edge of
the battle area (FEBA) and for strikes farther in the enemy
rear. Because of their speed and range, helicopters they
will remain a vital element in air support of ground
The integration of the helicopter into combined arms
doctrine is a direct result of the Afghanistan war. In
addition to the advantages of the helicopter mentioned
above, the Soviets see the helicopter as the only air
support which is capable of routinely operating in adverse
weather and during hours of darkness. Brig. Gen. Ellis D.
Parker, a U.S. Army staff officer for Plans and Operations,
in an article in Aviation Week and Space Technology, said
Soviet HIND and HIP helicopters offer a growing anti-armor
and battlefield mobility which is challenging U.S. tech-
nology and expertise. Parker indicated that recent Soviet
military doctrine is incorporating helicopters as anti-tank
weapons, basing the ratio between tank and helicopter losses
as 19:1 in the helicopter's favor.7
Although not a factor in the Afghanistan war, the role
of the helicopter as an air-to-air weapons platform is
receiving as much effort in the Soviet Union as the develop-
ment of anti-armor potential. Maj. Gen. Belov, a Soviet
military author, wrote "How to Fight Helicopters" in Soviet
Military Review, September 1979 in which he states "Just as
tanks have always been the most effective weapon against
tanks, helicopters are the most efficacious means of
fighting helicopters. Use of helicopters by both warring
sides will inevitably lead to clashes between them. Like
tank battles of past wars, a future war between well
equipped armies is bound to involve helicopter battles."
The growing Soviet helicopter fleet make helicopter
air-to-air combat as inevitable as the dogfights above the
trenches of World War I. The degree of importance which the
Soviets attach to this facet of combat can be seen in the
newly developed Mi-28 helicopter. It is remarkably similar
in appearance to the AH-64 Apache and incorporates many
features which have previously been the exclusive province
of air superiority fighters.
Click here to view image
The combat helicopter represents an evolutionary step
in warfare as great as the appearance of the tank and
machine gun on the battlefields of World War I. The Marine
Corps is ill-equipped to deal with this new dimension in
terms of equipment or training. The best anti-helicopter
platform is another helicopter. The AH-1J/T is the Marine
Corp's only attack helicopter and like all U.S. helicopters
suffers from the lack of a viable weapon with which to
engage airborne helicopters. The gun system has no method
to provide aerial aiming solutions and tests with the AIM-9L
Sidewinder, though encouraging, may prove impractical for
fleetwide adoption. Efforts to adopt a variant of the
Stinger surface-to-air missile for use by helicopters is
underway. This development may provide a suitable anti-
helicopter air-to-air capability and is most encouraging.
Fixed wing aircraft, currently suffer from a weaponry
deficiency in engaging helicopters. The gun is the most
viable weapon, but aiming systems, including the F/A-18s Gun
Director, are not optimized for the unique demands of
fighter versus helicopter air combat. Air-to-air missiles
are unfortunately prone to confusing the low flying target
helicopter and the background over which it flies. The
destruction of an aware helicopter opponent is not an easy
task for the fixed wing pilot. It's also a task for which
very little training is conducted. The nature of fixed wing
versus helicopter and helicopter versus helicopter air
combat requires that the training be conducted at very low
altitudes where there is little margin for error. Safety
considerations prevent the conduct of realistic training in
this arena more than any other reason.
The detection of low flying helicopters is also
extraordinarily difficult for both aircraft and ground based
systems. The helicopter is difficult to see unless
highlighted by shadows while using nap-of-the-earth flight.
The F-4 and the F/A-18 afford some measure of capability in
detecting low flying helicopters with airborne radar, but
Marine Corps ground based Hawk and Tactical Air Operations
Center (TAOC) radars are virtually blind to this threat.
Ground-based defense against enemy helicopters in the
Marine Corps consists of small arms and the Redeye/Stinger
man portable missile systems. The appearance of decoy
flares on Soviet helicopters make the lethality of the
Redeye/Stinger questionable, however. In any case, with
only one battery of missiles per Marine Aircraft Wing, one
must question whether there are sufficient numbers to
provide adequate protection even if lethality is high.
Experience in Afghanistan suggests that the HIND, at least,
is nearly impervious to small arms fire up to 12.7 mm.
Development of the LAV air defense variant offers hope in
The location and interdiction of enemy helicopter
assets with deep air strikes will, of necessity, have to
become a priority task in achieving air superiority in
The U.S. Army has recognized many of the problems
associated with combatting the helicopter threat and is
incorporating measures to address some of the problems
mentioned above in it's Advanced Rotorcraft Technology
Integration (ARTI) program.10 If the Marine Corps is to be
effective in the presence of a helicopter equipped enemy,
the following measures should be taken as soon as possible:
1. Develop and implement an intensive fixed wing
versus helicopter air combat maneuvering training program.
2. Develop and implement an intensive helicopter
versus helicopter air combat and evasive maneuvering
3. Develop and field a new generation of air-to-air
weapons for fixed wing aircraft and helicopters which are
lethal against helicopters.
4. Develop or procure a reliable helicopter detection
and identification system.
5. Develop or procure, in quantity, a mobile inte-
grated (missile and gun) air defense weapons system to
augment or replace the current Redeye/Stinger defenses.
6. Develop a Cobra follow-on which is equally capable
of air-to-air and air-to-ground combat.
7. Make location and interdiction of enemy helicopter
assets an equal priority with the destruction of his fixed
The air war in Afghanistan has provided us with a good
look at Soviet war fighting methods and capabilities. This
conflict illustrates several lessons which the Marine Corps
1. The Soviets are learning and improving steadily.
2. Chemical weapons will be used from the outset.
3. The helicopter is a formidable weapon in Soviet
Editorially, it is ironic that the Soviet Union, which
for decades specialized in helping guerrillas against an
established government now finds itself embroiled in an
insurgency not unlike those they have fostered the world
over. They are using reprisals, terror and hideous
atrocities to depopulate large areas, thus depriving the
mujahidin of cover and support - to paraphrase Mao, draining
the lake in which rebels can swim. There has been to date,
only feeble international outery, compared with denunci-
ations of milder U.S. actions in Vietnam. Despite the lack
of a credible rebel air defense capability, the war has
provided invaluable insights for improving the Red Army. For
the Soviets, this is the right war at the right time.
Notes to Foreword
1 "Afghanistan: A War Without End," Time, 10
January 1983, p. 29.
Notes to Chapter One
1 Edward B. Espenshade Jr., Ed., Goode's World Atlas
(Chicago: Rand McNally, 1964), p. 9.
2 John B. Ritch III; Hidden War: The First Struggle
for Afghanistan, Staff Report for the Committee on Foreign
Relations, United State Senate, 27 March 1984, p. 1.
3 Lord Saint Brides, "Afghanistan: The Empire Plays
to Win," Orbis, Volume 24, Number 3, Fall 1980, p. 536.
4 Jonathan Kwitny, "Afghanistan: Crossroads of
Conflict," The Atlantic, May 1980, pp. 24-31.
6 "Kabul Removes Political Slogans to Appease
Moslems," The New York Times, 28 January 1979, p. 10.
7 Edgar O'Ballance, "Soviet Tactics in Afghanistan,"
Military Review, August 1980, pp. 45-52.
8 Kenneth Bacon, "Proving Ground," The Wall Street
Journal, 24 April 1981.
9 Franz Friestetta, "The Battle in Afghanistan: A
View from Europe," Strategic Review, Winter 1981.
10 Theodore Winkler, "The Soviet Invasion of
Afghanistan," National Defense Review, April 1980.
11 Jiri Valenta, "The Soviet Invasion of
Afghanistan," Crossroads, Spring 1980, p. 62.
12 Hugh Lucas, "Fuel Attacks Trigger Offensive,"
Janes Defense Weekly, 5 May 1984.
13 "Soviet Air Force in Afghanistan," Janes Defense
Weekly, 7 July 1984.
14 John Hutcheson, "Scorched Earth Policy," Military
Review, April 1982, p. 33.
15 "Afghanistan: Soviet Bomber Attacks,"
Congressional Record - Senate, 26 April 1984, p. 5 4875.
16 John Ritch, op. cit., p. 17.
17 Joseph Collins, "The Soviet-Afghan War: The First
Four Years," Parameters, Vol. XIV, No. 2, p. 51.
18 John Ritch, op. cit.
22 John Hutcheson, op. cit.
23 "The Horrors and Rewards of the Soviet Occupation
of Afghanistan," Washington Post, 13 Februay 1983.
24 Joseph Collins, op. cit.
25 David Isby, "Afghanistan 1982, The War Continues,"
International Defense Review, November 1982.
26 Joseph Collins, op. cit.
28 John Ritch, op. cit.
29 Joseph Collins, op. cit.
Notes to Chapter Two
1 David C. Isby, "Soviet Tactics in the War in
Afghanistan," Janes Defense Review, Vol. 4, No. 7, 1983,
3 Joseph Collins, "The Soviet-Afghan War: The First
Four Years," Parameters, Vol. XIV, No. 2, p. 49.
4 "Su-24s, Tu-16s Support Soviet Ground Forces,"
Aviation Week and Space Technology, 29 October 1984, p. 40.
5 "Soviet Air Force in Afghanistan," Janes Defense
Weekly, 7 July 1984, p. 1105.
8 "Industry Observer," Aviation Week and Space
Technology, 5 March 1984, p. 11.
9 "Su-24s, Tu-16s Support Soviet Ground Forces,"
Aviation Week and Space Technology, 29 October 1984, p. 40.
12 Defense Intelligence Agency, "Air Ground
Coordination," Soviet Front Fire Support, September 1982,
14 David C. Isby, "Afghanistan 1982, " International
Defense Review, November 1982, p. 1562.
16 Bill Sweetman, "Frogfoot," Interavia, August 1983.
17 Yossef Bodansky, "Most Feared Aircraft in
Afghanistan is Frogfoot," Janes Defense Weekly, 19 May 1984,
18 Bill Sweetman, op. cit.
19 "Su-24s, Tu-16s Support Soviet Ground Forces,"
Aviation Week and Space Technology, 29 October 1984, p. 40.
21 "Su-24s, Tu-16s Support Soviet Ground Forces,"
Aviation Week and Space Technology, 29 October 1984, p. 40.
23 "Soviet Intelligence," Janes Defense Review,
Vol. 4, No. 9, 1983 p. 809.
24 Yossef Bodansky, "Soviets Use Afghanistan to Test
Liquid Fire," Janes Defense Weekly, 26 May 1984.
25 Yossef Bodansky, "Soviets Testing Chemical Agents
in Afghanistan,", Janes Defense Weekly, 7 April 1984.
26 Yossef Bodansky, op. cit.
27 Yossef Bodansky, op. cit.
28 V. D. Sokolovski, Soviet Military Strategy
(translated by Harriet Post Scott), 1978, pp 68-69.
Notes to Chapter Three
1 Polkovnik B. Federov, "New Ground Suport Aircraft,"
Znamenosets, December 1978.
2 G. Turbiville, "The Attack Helicopter's Growing
Role in Russian Combat Doctrine," Army, December 1977,
3 Col. Gen. Sharikov, "Combat Wings for the
Motherland," Izvestiya, 19 August 1978, pp. 1-2.
4 "Soviet Air Force in Afghanistan," Janes Defense
Weekly, 7 July 1984, p. 105.
6 "Helicopter Command Post," Janes Defense Review,
Vol. 3, No. 6, 1982, p. 559; "Soviet Intelligence," Janes
Defense Weekly, 21 July 1984, p. 64.
7 David Isby, "Soviet Tactics in the War in
Afghanistan," Janes Defense Review, Vol. 4, No. 7, 1983,
11 Erhard Semadeni, "Mountain Warfare in the European
Alps," a report for the Federal Institute of Technology,
Zurich Switzerland, 1981.
12 "AGS-17 on Helicopters," Janes Defense Review,
Vol. 3, No. 6, 1982, p. 559.
13 "Su-24s, Tu-16s Support Soviet Ground Forces,"
Aviation Week and Space Technology, 29 October 1984, p. 43.
14 L. N. Donnelly, "The Soviet Helicopter on the
Battlefield," International Defense Review, May 1984,
15 David Isby, op. cit.
16 Yossef Bodansky, "Most Feared Aircraft in
Afghanistan is Frogfoot," Janes Defense Weekly, 19 May 1984,
17 James Hansen, "Afghanistan: The Soviet
Experience," National Defense, January 1982, p. 24.
18 Erhard Semodeni, op. cit., p. 79.
19 Edger O'Ballance, "Soviet Tactics in Afghanistan,"
Military Review, August 1983, p. 49.
20 "Air Assault Brigades," Janes Defense Review,
Vol. 3, No. 1, 1982, p. 6.
21 "Helicopter Minelaying," Janes Defense Review,
Vol. 3, No. 2, 1982, p. 7.
22 C. N. Donnelly, op. cit., p. 560.
23 David Isby, op. cit.
24 "Su-24s, Tu-16s Support Soviet Ground Forces,"
Aviation Week and Space Technology, 29 October 1984, p. 42.
26 Nikolaai Cherikov, "The Soviet Mi-24 HIND Attack
Helicopter," International Defense Review, September 1981;
Col. E. J. Everett Heath, "The Development of Helicopter Air
to Ground Weapons," International Defense Review, March
Notes to Chapter Four
1 "Soviets Stress Heavy-Lift Transport," Aviation
Week and Space Technology, 6 June 1983, p. 46.
2 Gen. Col. Yazov, " Activity in Battle,"
Znamenosets, No. 6, June 1981.
3 David Isby, "Soviet Tactics in the War in
Afghanistan," Janes Defense Review, Vol. 4, No. 7, 1983,
6 Polkovnik Federor, "New Ground Support Aircraft,"
Znamenosets, December 1978.
7 "Soviets Stress Helicopters in Anti Armor Role,"
Aviation Week and Space Technology, 16 January 1984, p. 92.
8 Nikolai Cherikov, "The Soviet Mi-28 Combat
Helicopter," International Defense Review, October 1984.
10 "Military Seeking Upgraded Capabilities," Aviation
Week and Space Technology, 16 January 1984, p. 84.
"Afghanistan." The New Columbia Encyclopedia. 1975
"Afghanistan: "Soviet Bomber Attacks." Congressional
Record - Senate, 26 April 1984, p. 5 4875.
"AGS-18 on Helicopters." Janes Defense Review, Vol. 3,
No. 6, 1982, p. 559.
"Air Assault Brigades." Janes Defense Review, Vol. 3,
No. 1, 1982, p. 6.
Bacon, Kenneth. "Proving Ground." The Wall Street Journal,
24 April 1981.
Beck, William T., et. al. "Afghanistan: What Impact on
Soviet Tactics?" Military Review, 62, No. 3 (1982).
Bodansky, Yossef. "Most Feared Aircraft in Afghanistan is
FR0GFOOT." Janes Defense Weekly, 19 May 1984, p. 768.
----------------. "Soviets Testing Chemical Agents in
Afghanistan." Janes Defense Weekly, 7 April 1984.
----------------. "Soviets Use Afghanistan to Test Liquid
Fire." Janes Defense Weekly, 26, May 1984.
Brides, Saint. "Afghanistan: The Empire Plays to Win."
Orbis, Volume 24, Number 3, Fall 1980, p. 356.
Collins, Joseph. "The Soviet-Afghan War: The First Four
Years." Parameters, Vol. XIV, No. 2, p. 51.
Cherikov, Nikolai. "The Soviet Mi-24 HIND Attack
Helicopter." International Defense Review, September
-----------------. "The Soviet Mi-28 Combat Helicopter."
International Defense Review, October 1984.
Defense Intelligence Agency. "Air Ground Coordination."
Soviet Front Fire Support, September 1982, p. 63.
Donnelly, L.N. "The Soviets Helicopter on the Battlefield."
International Defense Review, May 1984, p. 561.
Espenshade, Edward B. Jr., Ed., Goode's World Atlas, Rand
McNally, 1964, p. 9.
Federov, Polkonik. "New Ground Support Aircraft."
Friestetta, Frantz. "The Battle in Afghanistan: A View
From Europe." Strategic Review, Winter 1981.
Hansen, James. "Afghanistan: The Soviet Experience."
National Defense, January 1982, p. 24.
Heath, Everett. "The Development of Helicopter Air to
Ground Weapons." International Defense Review, March
"Helicopter Command Post." Jones Defense Review, Vol. 3,
No. 6, 1982, p. 559.
"Helicopter Minelaying." Janes Defense Review, Vol. 3,
No. 2, 1982, p. 7.
Hutcheson, John. "Scorched Earth Policy," Military Review,
April 1982, p. 33.
"Industry Observer." Aviation Week and Space Technology,
5 March 1984, p. 11.
Isby, David. "Afghanistan 1982, The War Continues."
International Defense Review, November 1982.
-----------. "Soviet Tactics in the War in Afghanistan."
Janes Defense Review, Vol. 4, No. 7, 1983, p. 681.
"Kabul Removes Political Slogans to Appease Moslems." The
New York Times, 28 January 1979, p. 10.
Kwitny, Jonathan. "Afghanistan: Croesroads of Conflict."
The Atlantic, May 1980, pp. 24-31.
Lucas, Hugh. "Fuel Attacks Trigger Offensive." Janes
Defense Weekly, 5 May 1984.
"Military Seeking Upgraded Capabilities." Aviation Week and
Space Technology, 16 January 1984, p. 84.
O'Ballance, Edgar. "Soviet Tactics in Afghanistan."
Military Review, August 1980, pp. 45-52.
Ritch, John B. III. Hidden War: The First Struggle for
Afghanistan, Staff Report for the Committee on Foreign
Relations, United States Senate, 27 March 1984, p. 1.
Semadeni, Erhard. "Mountain Warfare in the European Alps,"
a report for the Federal Institute of Technology,
Zurich Switzerland, 1981.
Skorikov, Gen. "Combat Wings for the Motherland."
Izvestiya, 19 August 1978, pp. 1-2.
Sokolovski, V. D. Soviet Military Strategy
(translated by Harriet Post Scott), 1978, pp. 68-69
"Soviet Air Force in Afghanistan." Janes Defense Weekly,
7 July 1984.
"Soviet Intelligence." Janes Defense Review, Vol. 4, No. 9,
1983, p. 809.
"Soviet Intelligence." Janes Defense Weekly, 21 July 1984,
"Soviets Stress Heavy-Lift Transport." Aviation Week and
Space Technology, 6 June 1983, p. 46.
"Soviets Stress Helicopters in Anti-Armor Role." Aviation
Week and Space Technology, 16 February 1984, p. 92.
"Su-24s, Tu-16s Support Soviet Ground Forces." Aviation
Week and Space Technology, 29 October 1984, p. 40.
Sweetman, Bill. "FR0GFOOT." Interavia, August 1983.
Turbiville, G. "The Attack Helicopters Growing Role in
Russian Combat Doctrine." Army, December 1977, p. 32.
Valenta, Jiri. "The Soviet Invasion of Afghanistan."
Crossroads, Spring 1980, p. 62.
Winkler, Theodore. "The Soviet Invasion of Afghanistan."
National Defense Review, April 1980.
Yazov, Arm. "Activity in Battle." Znamenosets, No. 6,
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