The GRU did not have any special-purpose large units, units, or subunits that were directly under the jurisdiction of the GRU. They are all part of the military districts and the fleets, and in operational terms were subordinate to the relevant commanders. During the Soviet period, the basic operational spetsnaz unit was the brigada or brigade. Virtually every military district (MD) was assigned one spetsnaz brigade of 900 to 2,000 spetsnazovtsi. Each brigada includes a brigade headquarters, a signal battalion, support units and battalions (otriadi) of variable composition, ranging from fewer than 200 to over 200 soldiers.
In 2010 the GRU special forces (spetsnaz) comprise non-integrated brigades which form part of the frontline units under the District Intelligence Officer, and in wartime – the front. In addition, the military training program and oversight ensuring it is adhered to, as well as the development of new technology and arms, are all delivered by the Special Intelligence Section of the 14th Division of the Main Intelligence Department (GRU) at the General Staff of the Russian Federation.
In wartime, military districts are converted to fronts and army groups. Within each military district is an intelligence directorate - the Second Directorate of the Military District Staff. The chief of the Second Directorate of the Military District becomes the chief of the front for intelligence during hostilities. This chief controls all intelligence collection within his military district or front. Reporting directly to this chief of intelligence, spetsnaz battalion commanders pass important intelligence information gleaned from battlefield collection or prisoner interrogation as soon as it becomes available.
Each spetsbrigada includes a brigade headquarters, a signal battalion, and support units. During the Soviet period, in contrast with typical active army units, most of the spetsnaz brigades were maintained at full strength, and would generally be further augmented during a mobilization. However, due to severe budget constraints and economic limitations, Russian spetsnaz units are currently maintained at much lower strength levels.
Perhaps the most well known of the spetsnaz units is the 16th Special purpose brigade, headquartered in the Teplyi Stan. During the October 1993 coup, the 16th was placed on alert and readied for an assault against the parliament. Recently there have been allegations the that members of the 16th spetsbrigada were moonlighting as Russian mafia hitmen. The 16th has a separate otriad which serves as a guard force for the headquarters of the GRU (military intelligence) in Moscow.
Spetsnaz brigades are divided into battalions (called otriadi in Russian). Highly variable in their structure, an otriad may have between 180 and 410 or more spetsnazovtsi assigned. Each otriad consists of a headquarters company (called a rota in Russian) with medical and support sections, and three airborne companies. Each company is comprised of between nine and ten spetsgruppi or teams. Spetsgruppi may be further subdivided into sections (spetsotdeleni) each with ten to twelve men. Depending on the mission, sizes of units and types of equipment will vary. At peacetime strength, the typical spetsrota has 40 personnel equaling about 111 personnel in the otriad (battalion). During wartime, this number may increase two or three times.
A typical Russian spetsnaz reconnaissance unit (razvedyvatel'naia gruppa - RG) consists of five spetsgruppi with three to five persons each. The spetsnaz RG consists of a strike group, an elimination group, an explosives group, a hostage liberation group, and a diversionary group. The entire size of the unit amounts to 19 personnel, including the commander.
Within each brigade is an administrative otriad, responsible for training reservists to bring other battalions up to strength. Moreover, each brigade includes a separate battalion (otdel'nyi otriad), which provides direct support to an army (combined arms or tank) commander. Each battalion would field thirty to forty-five groups capable of operating as independent spetsnaz units in direct support of the army commander.
Although the brigada is the primary operational spetsnaz unit, independent spetsnaz companies also operate within the army. A spetsrota, usually consisting of between 140 men and officers, is made up of three reconnaissance platoons and one signals platoon. Typically the independent spetsrota has a more limited operational area, 150 to 200 miles behind enemy lines according to Schofield.
Separate spetsnaz battalions (otdel'nye otriadi spetsial'nogo naznacheniia) may also be formed in the event of hostilities with experienced commanders and new recruits. These may operate primarily as reconnaissance units or engage in the elimination of strategic weapons and communications sites much as U.S. green berets operated during Desert Storm, destroying Iraqi Scud missile launchers and communications facilities far behind enemy lines.
Reconnaissance battalions assigned to motorized rifle and tank divisions perform some of the same functions as spetsnaz units. Within this battalion is a sabotage company, fully capable of executing the same missions as a spetsnaz unit. However, unlike spetsnaz units, reconnaissance units are more heavily equipped and designed to operate for longer periods of time behind enemy lines.
Furthermore, reconnaissance battalions are comprised of soldiers with average abilities and training and seldom comprise airborne-qualified personnel .An exception to this was the reconnaissance battalion assigned to the 103rd Guards Airborne Division. Stationed in Vitebsk, the 103rd Guards VDV was subordinated to the KGB Border troops; as a result, its personnel wore green berets and green collar tabs with airborne insignia.
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