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Naval Infantry [Morskoy Pekhoty]
Land and Coastal Troops of the Navy

The naval infantry of Russia - "Black Berets" - is elite of the Armed Forces. Naval infantry includes the division of the Pacific Fleet, the detached brigades of the Northern and Baltic Fleets and of the Caspian Military Flotilla, and the detached regiment of the Black Sea Fleet. SPUTNIK is the name of the Arctic Ocean Northern Fleet Marine Main Naval Base.

Although similar in mission to the United States Marine Corps, which numbers approximately 240,000 active and reserve Marines, the Russian Naval Infantry is much smaller, numbering 12,000-men, the tenth largest Marine Corps in the world. There is one naval infantry regiment attached to each of the major Russian fleets. Russian military doctrine calls for the naval infantry to be used as shock troops spearheading an assault that would be followed up by ground forces.

The modest size of this force itself presents serious limitations. The naval infantry regiment possesses neither the combat power nor the support necessary to sustain itself in a major conflict. The strength of a naval infantry regiment approximates that of a U.S. Marine amphibious unit which has a reinforced infantry battalion as the ground component. The size of the total naval infantry force, is approximately less than a U.S. Marine infantry division. The Russian Naval Infantry has very little organic firepower or support, and if committed to combat it would require reinforcement within less than a week. Without reinforcement the naval infantry appears limited to conducting small-scale spoiling attacks, limited objective attacks, or World War II-type commando raids.

Naval Infantry - Roles and Missions

The naval infantry, unlike the Soviet airborne forces, did not enjoy separate status, The airborne forces were directly subordinate to and under the operational control of the Minister of Defense. When employed as in Czechoslovakia in 1968, the airborne forces demonstrated their capability to perform independent strategic missions. In contrast, the position of naval infantry within the Soviet Union's defense establishment indicated that they had neither been assigned nor enjoy a similar independent role.

The term "desant" in the Soviet lexicon embodies a very important strategic and tactical concept. A survey of Soviet military writings indicates that the word "desant" has two meanings -- one applying to a unit and one to an operation. A "desant" unit is a force specially trained to conduct landing operations on enemy-held territory to prosecute further military operations. A "desant" operation is the actual landing of such forces. The operation includes the preparation, transportation, landing, and subsequent action against the enemy.

The Soviets categorized amphibious landings depending on the scale of the landing. These categories are strategic, operational, tactical, and reconnaissance and sabotage landings. Secondary missions, such as coastal defense, may also be assigned. Strategic landings support theater forces in opening up a new area of military operations. This landing would call for the employment of a multi-division force, with appropriate naval and air support. The Soviets have never conducted a strategic landing.

Operational landings are made to assist ground or naval forces in a coastal region to surround and destroy enemy ground or naval units in that area. The Soviets called this a "maritime front." Landings of this scale might entail the landing of a naval infantry regiment as the first echelon. Other missions would include the seizure of major islands or a group of islands, naval bases, and other important coastal objectives. This is believed to be the primary role of the Soviet Naval Infantry today. Tactical landings are conducted to strike at the rear area or flank of any enemy force along a coastline, or for seizing islands, naval bases, coastal airfields, ports, and other objectives on an enemy-held coastline. The naval infantry force employed could be a battalion or larger, operating independently or with ground force units. Reconnaissance and Sabotage Landings are conducted for reconnaissance, for inflicting loss or damage in enemy rear area facilities located near a coast, and for diversionary operations.

In a peacetime setting naval infantry forces provides the Government with a valuable political-military instrument. A small detachment of naval infantry embarked aboard amphibious- shipping would allow the Government additional options in conducting international affairs. That same force deployed to a crisis area could apply political pressure simply by its presence, or it could apply military pressure by intervention or interposition. Much more than just the existence of the force is needed. Its capability to project its military power must be perceived and believed by other nations.

Exercise Cooperation from the Sea is conducted in support of the American III Marine Expeditionary Force engagement plan, and to foster a closer relationship between the Russian Naval Infantry and the United States Marine Corps. The III Marine Expeditionary Force Marines from Okinawa and Russian naval forces participated in "Cooperation From the Sea 1994," which took place in and around Vladivostok, Russia. United States Marines and Russian Naval Infantry conducted their first combined training exercise on US soil, in Hawaii, from August 27-31, 1995. The Russian Federation Navy (RFN) anti-submarine destroyer Admiral Panteleyev (DDG 548), RFN Vladimir Kolechitsky (AOR) and a Ropucha Class tanker landing ship (LST 11) steamed into Pearl Harbor on 27 August 1995.

With units of the Russian Federation Naval Infantry (RFNI) aboard, they came to train with U.S. Navy and Marine Corps forces. The exercise, "Cooperation From the Sea 1995," was a maritime disaster relief exercise. It included cross training and personnel exchanges, and culminated in a combined amphibious landing of US Marines and Russian Naval Infantry. The purpose of the exercise was to improve interoperability with Russian military forces in conducting disaster relief missions and to promote cooperation and understanding between US and Russian service members. The general operating area of the exercise was off Oahu's northeastern coast, near MCB Hawaii, Kaneohe Bay. The amphibious landing took place at Bellows Air Force Station on Waimanalo bay. This exercise marked the second time that u.s. and Russian forces have participated in this type of operation. The Russian military units remained in Hawaii after the exercise to participate in the 50th anniversary commemoration of VJ Day, Sept. 1-3, 1995.




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