Airborne Assault Troops [VDV]

The Airborne Forces as a highly mobile Arm of the RF Armed Forces are designed to cover the enemy in the air and conduct combat operations in its rear. The Russian Airborne Forces are the means of the Supreme High Command of the RF Armed Forces and may form the basis for mobile forces. The Airborne Forces report directly to the Commander of the Airborne Forces and consist of the airborne divisions, brigades, units and facilities.

The mission of the Airborne Assault Troops [VDV] is to make possible a quick response to national emergencies. The airborne troops are considered an elite force because they are individually selected from volunteers based on physical fitness, intelligence, and loyalty. By traditional military standards, the airborne troops are not a powerful force. Each division is assigned about 6,000 lightly armed troops with lightly armored vehicles. Their value is that they have special training and have operational and strategic mobility provided by long-range aircraft. Their parachute assault capability means that they can be deployed anywhere within airlift range in a matter of hours without the need for an air base in friendly hands. However, resupply and support by heavy ground troop formations are necessary in a matter of days because the airborne troops lack the self-sustaining combat and logistical power of regular ground forces.

The airborne's political role of praetorian guards and imperial storm troopers evolved as they squashed rebellions in Hungary and Czechoslovakia, invaded and fought for ten years in Afghanistan and then returned home to counter the civil turmoil unleashed by Gorbachev's perestroika.

The troops retain the status of a reserve of the Supreme Commander-in-Chief. Generally, their mission is to protect the interests of Russia and lives of its citizens both within and outside the country. The airborne troops fulfill their objectives under combined strategic command both independently and as part of ground force formations. These missions include: covering flanks and gaps in ground offensives, fighting tactical enemy landing parties, landing its own parties behind enemy lines and on the flanks, and discharging any tasks calling for high mobility and speed of deployment, particularly in local conflicts.

The Airborne Troops are considered the most capable mobile assault forces in Russia. Various estimates put the personnel at about 48,000 troops as of 2009, deployed in four divisions and a brigade. The airborne troops numbered 35,000 men in 2010. In the course of the reform, the officer corps was trimmed by 40%, with 4,000 serving officers left, of whom 400 held sergeant posts due to a shortage of regular sergeants and to cuts in officers' posts.

According to Russia's military reform plans as of 2007, the Airborne Troops were to be fully manned with professional soldiers by 2011. "Priority tasks for the development of the Russian Airborne Troops include the improvement of their combat potential, upgrading of the current arsenal to advanced weaponry, and the introduction of automated battlefield command-and-control systems," defense minister Anatoly Serdyukov said at a meeting with senior Airborne Troops staff on 22 March 2007.

As of 2009, according to Russia's military reform plans, the Airborne Troops were to be fully manned with professional soldiers by 2011. As of August 2012 the number of professional servicemen in the Russian Airborne Forces was expected to reach 20,000 in the next five or seven years, more than double the current 9,500 troops, the airborne troops chief commander, Colonel General Vladimir Shamanov, said.

By 2010 there were 7,000 contract personnel with soldiers' and sergeants' duties, while the rest were conscripts. Later on, the number of contract servicemen will be doubled. It was planned to fill all junior commander and specialist posts with contract men - posts that are most demanding and require more education and training. The shortage of contract men is explained by the low pay: 12,000 to 18,000 rubles a month. Given bonuses and travel allowances, they can receive up to 18,000 or 25,000 rubles.

The airborne was seeing a rebirth in the institution of non-commissioned officers who made up the core of the old army. From 2012, a sergeant was drawing no less than 30,000 rubles, and with bonuses and travel money can earn more: 40,000 to 45,000 rubles. These wages were well over the average pay in the regions and will attract more and better-trained people. The standards sought are highly trained officers and sergeants and well-trained and hand picked soldiers - both contract and draftees able to act with daring and initiative.

Like the Russian Ground Forces in general, the Airborne Troops are also experiencing problems with outdated hardware and weaponry. For instance, the BMD-1, the main armored troop carrier, entered service more than 30 years ago, and the BMD-2 more than 20 years ago. Communications and battlefield intelligence systems also needed upgrading. Airborne troops were equipped with 7% new weapons by 2010. Even so, the troops carefully maintained existing equipment and it can fulfill its objectives. A partial refit program will increase the combat potential of the troops by 10%. The VDV was purchasing automatic control systems, landing and monitoring equipment, reconnaissance, observation, navigation and communications systems. The Polyot-M automatic control system runs a continuous chain of command from central headquarters to a battalion headquarters, dramatically shortening the command cycle.

Russia's Airborne Forces received the first batch of a new armored airborne combat vehicle on 21 June 2006. The BMD-4 airborne combat vehicle is amphibious, light and well armed. Like its predecessor, BMD-3, it has a hull made of special alloys and a turret, but features many modifications. In addition, it is equipped with a 100-mm gun. The start of deliveries of the BMD-4 marked a new era in the development of the Airborne Forces and significantly raised the combat strength of Russia's most mobile units. In 2010 Anti-aircraft units of the Russian Airborne Force received new Strela-10M3 man-portable air defense systems, due to replace obsolete ZU-23 anti-aircraft guns.

The troops are to be rearmed under a new state rearmament program. They will get BMD-4M landing fighting vehicles with twin 30mm and 100mm cannons and vehicles based on the existing Rakushka personnel armored carrier. We should also improve the aircraft defense and anti-tank capabilities of the troops. To address this, they planned to buy Sprut vehicles with a 125mm combined cannon and launcher.

The Russian Airborne Troops will be mainly equipped with domestically-designed armored vehicles, including Tigr-M, Russian Airborne Troops Commander Col. Gen. Vladimir Shamanov said 26 February 2013. “Our brigade-level air assault units will have an armored car component based on Tigr vehicles,” Shamanov said at a news conference. “The deliveries of Tigr-M will start soon, and the first recipients of these vehicles will be special forces units.” The SPM-2 GAZ-233036 Tigr (Tiger) is a high-mobility multipurpose military vehicle manufactured by MIC, a GAZ Group division, at the Arzamas machine-manufacturing plant. In addition, the Airborne Troops may order experimental Typhoon 6x6 armored personnel carriers, manufactured by Russia’s KamAZ, after the company modifies the vehicle’s design to match the demands of the Russian paratroopers, Shamanov said.

The rearmament of Russia’s paratroopers should be completed in the next three to five years, Col. Gen. Vladimir Shamanov, commander of the Airborne Forces, told journalists on 11 May 2013. Shamanov also said that Air Force command is considering options for arming reconnaissance and special operations troops and support units with light-armored vehicles. “The Tigr [high mobility multipurpose] vehicle family has proved quite good, but in order to make a final decision, it’s essential to carry out a full range of tests, including testing their capacity for being dropped from military transport planes,” said Shamanov. He also said that Russian paratrooper divisions would receive unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs or drones) within the next three to five years.

In August 2010 the largest airborne military exercises since the collapse of the Soviet Union kicked off in central Russia. The exercises were held in the Kostroma, Yaroslavl and Ivanovo regions until August 28, featured over 4,000 servicemen and 300 hardware items. The exercises included airborne assault landings, assault river-crossings and the use of automated command and control systems.

Military air transport maintained its combat readiness and at the same time has the equipment resources it needs. As of 2010 it could parachute down and support one regiment, and in the future, one division. New planes must be added. In particular, the state rearmament program provides for the purchase of 40 An-70 planes, the resumption of Ruslan aircraft production and an order for 20 such planes for Russia's Air Force. The VDV would also relocate the production facilities of one of the main workhorses, the Il-76 known as the Il-476, in its refurbished form, from Tashkent to Ulyanovsk.

Formations of the VDV began to receive modern armored vehicles and armament (BMD-4, armoured personnel carrier BTR-D «Rakushka», motor cars KamAZ). At the end of 2009 in each airborne division on the basis of separate anti-aircraft missile artillery battalions separate anti-aircraft missile regiments were formed. At the initial stage air defence systems of the Army entered the inventory. Later they will be replaced by landed systems. By 2012 divisions are planned to form the third airborne regiments. Two airborne formations (the 98th Guards Airborne Division and the 31st Guards saabr) are part of the Collective Rapid Reaction Forces of the Collective Security Treaty Ortganization (CSTO’s CRRF).

Boyevaya Mashina Desanta ("Combat Vehicle of the Airborne")

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