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Air Defense Districts

After the Great Patriotic War, the air defense fronts were reorganized as new operational-strategic formations--namely, air defense districts. The number of air defense districts was gradually reduced over time. The last one - the Moscow Air Defense District (by 2008 known as the Special Purpose Command) - was not structurally comprised of air defense large strategic formations (armies), while a formation consisting of corps and divisions can hardly be effective on a level higher than operational. Thus the Air Defense Forces lost the operational-strategic level.

The reorganization of the command and control structure for Soviet air assets, which began in the late 1970s occurred as part of the general reorganization of Soviet military forces and is a result of the new emphasis on TVDs as the basic level of military operations in a future war. The reorganization resulted in a streamlined organization due to the merger of strategic and tactical air and air defense assets in most land border areas of the USSR. The air defense (APVO) interceptor regiments in these areas were resubordinated from PVO Strany to the Soviet Air Forces. They became part of a new structure, the "Air Forces of the Military District," which also included most of the assets of the former tactical air armies.

Western experts disagreed over the system of air defense districts. Some argued that as many as ten air defense districts, separate from military districts, still existed. It seemed more likely, however, that when the National Air Defense Forces became the Air Defense Forces after 1980, all remaining air defense districts were integrated into the military districts. At that time, commanders of the Air Defense Forces became deputy commanders of the military districts. Only the Moscow Air Defense District continued to be mentioned in the press, possibly because it operated the ABM system that protected the capital city and the National Command Authority.

"Viktor Suvorov" reported that the Air Defense Force [ADF, ie, PVO] consisted of a Central Command Post, two ADF Districts, which would become ADF Fronts in wartime, eight independent ADF Armies and several independent ADF Corps. Up to regimental and brigade level ADF formations are drawn from a single arm of service--for example from SAM brigades, fighter regiments, independent radar battalions, etc. From division level upwards, each arm of service is represented in each formation and these are therefore called ADF Divisions, Corps, etc. The organisation of each division, corps or other higher formation was decided in accordance with the importance of the installation which it is protecting. However, there was one guiding principle: each commander is responsible for the defence of one key point only. This principle is uniformly applied at all levels.

A corps contained three or four SAM brigades, one with the ADF division, the others at the disposal of the corps commander, covering the approaches to the divisional position. In a corps there are five or six SAM regiments, two or three of which are used in the division's main sector, the remainder in the secondary sectors of the corps area. Lastly, the corps commander himself has a radar regiment, in addition to the radar forces of his subordinates.

An ADF Army commander, too, was responsible for the protection of a single key objective and has an ADF corps to cover it. In addition, an Army has two or three independent ADF divisions, each of which provides cover for its own key installation and also defends the main approaches to the key objective guarded by the Army. Independent SAM brigades are deployed in the secondary sectors of the Army's area. An Army commander also has two air regiments (one with aircraft for high-altitude operations, the other with long-range interceptors) and his own radar installations (including over-the-horizon radars).

An ADF District was similar in structure. The key objective is covered by an Army. Two or three independent ADF corps are deployed in the sectors under greatest threat while the less endangered areas are covered by ADF divisions, each of which, of course, has a key objective of its own. The District Commander also has two interceptor air regiments under his command and radar detection facilities, including very large aircraft equipped with powerful radars.

As of the mid-1990s seven of the military districts had at least one aviation air defense regiment each; two districts, Moscow and the Far Eastern, had specially designated air defense districts. The borders of the Moscow Air Defense District were the same as those of the Moscow Military District. The Far Eastern Air Defense District combined the territory of the Far Eastern Military District and the Transbaikal Military District. Presumably, the boundaries of the other military districts were the same for air defense as for other defense designations.

When PVO was merged into the Air Force in 1998, a substantial part of PVO troops was transferred under the control of military district force commanders. Following the merging of the Air Defense Forces and the Air Force, large operational formations of the new branch of service with air defense troops were transferred under the operational command of military district force commanders. Paradoxically enough, battle-worthy, combat-ready air defense structures on alert duty (corps and divisions), prepared already in peacetime to repulse a possible air aggression, ended up subordinated to yet-to-be deployed fronts that did not exist in peacetime.

The hierarchy of military air space formations saw a confusion of levels. Duplicating structures were created that had at best merely quantitative (and therefore unessential) differences. For example, it was difficult to find a substantial qualitative distinction between an Air Force corps and an Air Force division. Both are comprised of brigades and regiments (unlike the army corps of the Ground Forces, which consist of divisions). Yet in addition to brigade and regimental corps the Air Force structure also had an air defense corps, comprised of air defense divisions. There is no qualitative difference between the brigades and regiments of branches of service or between antiaircraft missile regiments and groups of battalions.



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