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MQS MANUAL TASK: 01-3353.01-0010


You will become familiar with the threat posed to US armed forces by the growth and power of Soviet armed forces.




You will be able to explain the composition, organization and doctrine of the Soviet armed forces.


You will be given narrative information and illustrations for FM 100-2-1, 100-2-2, and 100-2-3.


It is your responsibility as an intelligence officer to know where and what the enemy is doing in accordance with FM 100-2-1, 100-2-2, and 100-2-3.


The material contained in this lesson was derived from the following publications:

  FM 1-402.
FM 100-2-1.
FM 100-2-2.
FM 100-2-3.
FM 101-5-1.
Supr 03497.


The Soviet Union has one of the largest and most modern armed forces in the world today with more than 4.8 million members. For the past 25 years, it has been growing in size and modernizing.

The threat posed to US armed forces around the world by growth and power of the Soviet Armed Forces are explained in detail, the composition, organization, and doctrine, with the capabilities and limitations of their weapons and equipment.


The Soviet Armed Forces have retained the Tsarist "classic" European model, conscription of all enlisted personnel are led by a cadre of professionals and have an extensive program of modernization and expansion. The Soviets have twice as many men under arms as the US does, backed up by a trained reserve force of equilavant size. Approximately 25,000,000 men are in the Soviet military reserves. This is 30 times the size of the US military reserves.

Soviet military forces are divided into five major components:

* Strategic rocket forces.

* Air defense troops.

* Air forces.

* Naval forces.

* Ground forces.

The Strategic Rocket Forces (SRF). The Soviet Union's main instrument for intercontinental thermonuclear war is the SRF. Their mission is to destroy enemy means of nuclear attack and key military, political, economic, and communication centers. The SRF intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) deployed in missile fields along the Trans-Siberian Railway, and medium-range ballistic missiles are located in the western and southern regions of the USSR. The Intermediate Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty will eliminate intermediate and medium range system, they will remain a threat to European targets until 1991.

The Air Defense Troops (Voyska PVO). These forces defend against enemy air attack and aerial reconnaissance by diverting or destroying enemy aircraft, missiles, or space objects while in the air. They have early warning and air defense, fighter-interceptors, surface-to-air missiles (SAM), and antiballistic missile (ABM) launchers around Moscow, with a civil defense capability. Moscow is the only city in the world with an ABM system.

The Air Forces. The Soviet air forces are the largest in the world and are divided into three components, each with a separate mission:

* Long-range aviation.

* Frontal aviation.

* Military transport aviation.


Long-Range Aviation (LRA). The LRA is comparable to the US Air Force (USAF) Strategic Air Command (SAC), minus SACs ICBM force. It has several hundred aircraft, including BEAR and BISON long-range bombers, BADGER, BLINDER, and BACKFIRE medium-range bombers and tankers (Figure 1-1). It has three air armies--two in the western USSR and one in the Far East along the border with China. Seventy-five percent of its aircraft are stationed in the European USSR; most of the remainder are on the Chinese border to bomb strategic targets--enemy missile sites, nuclear arsenals, naval bases, strategic bomber bases, and war industries.

Figure 1-1. Long-Range Strike and Support Aircraft.

Aviation of the Front (AOF). AOF is comparable to the USAF Tactical Air Comand (TAC). It provides air support to ground forces. Its forces are assigned to the military districts (MDs) of the USSB and groups of forces in Eastern Europe. The AOF is composed of fighters, bombers, fighterbombers, and regiments of assault helicopters, transport helicopters, and reconnaissance aircraft.

AOFs modernization include the entire counter-air and 75 percent of the ground attack force. Soviet ground attack fighters have laser range finders, terrain avoidance radar, and television or laser-guided bombs on newer generation aircraft to enhance versatility and combat capabilities. They can carry payloads of 4,000 pounds over 300 nautical miles, and, over shorter ranges, 10,000 pounds of bombs, rockets, and guided missiles.

Military Transport Aviation (VTA). VTA is the Soviet equivalent of the USAF Military Airlift Command (MAC). It provides airlift support to all branches of the Soviet armed forces. It contains more than 600 transport aircraft in three categories:

* Strategic airlift (IL-78 CANDID, AN-22 COCK, and AN-124 CONDOR).

* Operational-tactical transports (AN-12 CUB).

* Tactical transports which include both fixed-wing aircraft and about 3,000 transport helicopters like the Mi-6 HOOK and the Mi-8 HIP.

Figure 1-2. IL-76 (1) and AN-22 Cock (2)

Figure 1-3. AN-12 CUB.




Figure 1-4. Mi-6 HOOK.

Figure 1-5. Mi-8 HIP.

During the 1973 Middle East War, MOSCOW flew 930 sorties to supply Egypt 15,000,000 tons of supplies. Over a three-month period in 1977-78, the Soviet Union airlifted 600 armored vehicles, numerous tanks, and 400 artillery pieces to Ethiopia. The Soviet airline Aeroflot can augment military airlift with 1,300 aircraft; during the Angolian crisis, Aeroflot flew 14 missions and airlifted 25,000 Cubans to Angola. The VTA can airlift two airborne divisions (14,000 men) a range of 300 miles or one airborne division 1,000 miles.

The Navy. At the end of World War II, the Soviet Navy had a mission and capability which had remained unchanged since the time of Peter the Great--that of coastal defense. Soviet global aspirations and crises of the late 1950s and early 1960s, such as in Lebanon, the Dominican Republic, and the Cuban missile crisis, demonstrated the need for a broadly-based, general purpose navy. Since then, the Soviets have developed a modern navy capable of projecting military, political, and economic influence throughout the world. It operates from the ports in the Mediterranean Sea, Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian Oceans, and Caribbean waters from bases in Cuba. The Soviet Navy is composed of the Northern, Pacific, Baltic, and Black Sea Fleets, and the Caspian Sea Flotilla.

The Northern Fleet. Based at Murmansk and Pachenga, the Northern Fleet is the most powerful of the Soviet fleets, poses the greatest threat to the US and the Atlantic Ocean. Armed with surface combatants, submarines, aircraft and ballistic missiles which can strike and interdict North Atlantic sea lanes.

The Pacific Fleet. Including the Indian Ocean Squadron, the Pacific Fleet is slightly larger than the Northern Fleet. It is based in Vladivostok and Petropavlovsk on the Kamchatka Peninsula.

The Baltic and the Black Sea Fleets. These fleets support operations and seizure of critical water passages like the Danish Straits, the Bosphorous, and the Daradenelies.

The Caspian Sea Flotilla. A force of about 40 combatants and auxiliaries, this Flotilla supports ground operations and provides coastal patrolling. The Caspian Sea Flotilla may reinforce other naval units by traveling through the Volga waterway system.

The Soviet Navy has 276 principle combatants, 308 submarines, 311 auxiliaries, and 4 aircraft carriers, and keeps over two-thirds of its fleet in port at any one time.

The Soviet Navy also has a force of naval infantry, similar to the US Marine Corps. There is now a brigade of Soviet Naval Infantry (SNI) stationed with the Pacific Fleet. Further, the Northern, Baltic, and Black Sea Fleets has a brigade of SNI assigned to it. See lesson four for more details concerning the SNI.

Ground Forces. The largest of the Soviet military services. They are highly modernized, well equipped, and have great firepower and mobility. Manpower and material combined make the present Soviet ground forces the most powerful land Army in the world. The main combat power of the ground forces is in tank divisions (TDs) and motorized rifle divisions (MRDS). Airborne troops and special troops, and also part of the Soviet Ground Forces, which includes engineers, signal, chemical, radiotechnical, motor transport, railroad, and highway troops.

Following World War II, Stalin maintained massive ground forces to offset the threat of American nuclear power. As the Soviets developed their own strategic nuclear capability and forces, their emphasis shifted away from the ground forces. Under Krushchev, in the late 1950s and early 1960s, the size of the ground forces was reduced, while strategic rocket forces increased in size. During 1980s, the Soviets are concerned about the growing threat from China and the wars in the Middle East and Far East.

They are increasingly aware a war may be fought without the use of strategic nuclear weapons. For these reasons, the Brezhnev regime emphasized the importance of the ground forces. More than 30 divisions have been added since 1967, and the weapons and equipment of all types have been introduced. Officer and conscript training has been improved. New tactics, strategy, and doctrine have also been developed.


The Soviets believe any war could involve nuclear weapons, therefore, nuclear delivery means have been assigned at all levels from division up. The Soviets have the largest and most effective array of chemical weapons and equipment in the world and are capable of using chemical agents from battalion up. Reports from Afghanistan indicate they use chemical weapons in any conflicts of violent, sustained, and deep offensive actions. Mechanized and armored formations, supported by aviation and artillery, seize the initiative, penetrate defenses, and drive deeply and rapidly into enemy area.

World War II has taught the Soviets the necessity of having a fully operational strategic command structure. Thus, there is a unified system of command, capable of exerting centralized direction, but designed to permit decentralization of functions to lower levels. The Soviet national military command authority is composed of three major bodies: Council of Defense, the Main Military Council, and the General Staff.

Council of Defense. Planning and preparing the country for war, is the responsibility of the council of defense headed by the General Secretary of the Communist Party. The council is made up of Politiburo members, the Minister of Defense and is the highest military-economic planning agency; it deliberates interrelated issues concerning the nation's defenses, economic plans, and government branches; the mobilization of industry, transportation, and manpower for war, and the peacetime structure of the armed forces. In wartime, it would be the State Committee of Defense, a war cabinet with oversight of political, diplomatic, and economic matters concerned with military operations. (See Figure 1-6.)

Main Military Council. The Council of Defense for leadership and status of the Soviet Armed forces in peacetime. The Minister of Defense heads this council. The chairman of the Council of Defense is a member, as are the First Deputy Ministers of Defense. The ministers include the Chief of the General Staff and the Commander in Chief of the Warsaw Pact Forces. Other members might include the commanders of the five military services, the Chief of the Main Political Administration, the Chief of the Rear Services, and the Chief of Civil Defenses. In wartime, the Main Military Council would be transferred into Headquarters of the Supreme High Command (STAVKA), representing the top echelon of Soviet wartime military control. The General Secretary of the Communist Party, as Chairman of the State Committee of Defense, would become the Supreme Commander in Chief of the Soviet Armed Forces. The STAVKA would plan and direct strategic operations on a global scale within Theaters of Military Operations (TVD), the number of Fronts, their composition, missions, and conduct or operations would be established, it would also monitor the individual Front and fleet actions and supervise the coordination between them.

The General Staff. The major link in the centralization of the Soviet National Military Command Authority, is the General Staff. The General Staff is the executive agency for the Main Military Council in peacetime, and in wartime for the STAVKA. The Soviet General Staff is charged with the basic military planning in the Soviet Armed Forces, both in peace and war. The military services, military districts, and the Groups of Forces outside of the USSR report to Minister of Defense through the General Staff in peacetime.

Figure 1-6. The Soviet National Military Command Authority.

In wartime, field forces in a TVD (Fronts and fleets) would report to the Supreme Commander in Chief and the STAVKA through the General Staff. (See Figure 1-6).

Soviet Ground Forces Strength. Soviet ground forces contain 1,825,000 personnel, 2,000,000 trained Army reservists, and 191 ground force divisions with 134 MRDs, 50 TDs, and 7 Airborne divisions. In addition, there are 20 divisions of artillery, which are armed with conventional tubes and multiple rocket launchers (MRLs).


The Combined Arms Commands, in peacetime, are the MDs within the Soviet Union and Groups of Forces in Eastern Europe and are subordinate to the Ministry of Defense.

The Military District (MD). A territorial administration command of military areas, recruiting districts, military schools, garrisons and training areas of command. MDs are organized as a Front or other field command for wartime operations.

The 16 MDs. The Soviet Union is divided into 16 MDs. District boundaries coincide with administrative subdivisions comprising the district. An MD may include portions of two adjacent republics or even two or more entire republics. The names of the districts and the location of their headquarters are shown in Figure 1-7.

Groups of Forces. Outside the Soviet Union four major Army units with subordinate AOFs in Soviet bloc nations form the armed forces of the Warsaw Pact under command of a Soviet Marshal. These Soviet forces abroad are the Group of Soviet Forces/Germany (GSFG---11 TDs and 18 MRDs) in East Germany; the Northern Group of Forces (NGF--2 TDs) in Poland; the Central Group of Forces (CGF--2 TDs and 3 MRDs) in Czechoslovakia; and the Southern Group of Forces (SGF--2 TDs and 2 MRDs) in Hungary. The GSFG could constitute a Front organization in wartime, consisting of three to five armies with organic artillery, missile, air defense, engineer, signal, intelligence, reconnaissance, and rear service units; plus aviation, air assault, and special purpose forces. The other groups are smaller, but could be rapidly expanded to large, highly capable Front organizations. Those divisions outside the USSR and along the borders have the highest degree of readiness. (See Figure 1-7).

The Front. The largest field formation in wartime, the Front is an operational and administrative unit; its size and composition can vary widely depending on the mission and situation. Roughly equivalent to a US/NATO Army group, a Front has three to five armies with organic artillery, missile, air defense, engineer, signal, intelligence, reconnaissance, and rear service units, plus aviation, air assault, and special purpose forces. (See Figure 1-8).

Airborne Division. Assigned on a contingency basis to a Front with special purpose units, whose employment is carefully controlled by the Ministry of Defense. The first unit deployed in Afghanistan was an airborne division.

Artillery Division. Allocated to each Front to provide fire support, its brigades, regiments, and battalions are attached forward to armies or divisions. An artillery division has four artillery brigades, an MRL brigade, an anti-tank brigade, a motor transport battalion, and a target acquisition battalion. (See Figure 1-9.) Heavy artillery brigades have capable guns and heavy mortars and are assigned to the Front, but these are NOT subordinate to the artillery division.

SCUD and SCALEBOARD Surface-to-Surface Missile (SSM) Brigades. Used in a general fire support role for Front operations. These are the Front commander's most readily available chemical and nuclear weapon systems.

The SCALEBOARD and SS-23 SPIDER are being eliminated due to the INF Treaty. Shorter-range SCUDs are not affected by the treaty, and will remain in the forces structure.

SAM Brigades. An integrated Front air defense envelope, these units provide air defense support for the Front and Army rear areas.

Figure 1-7. Soviet Military Districts and Groups of Forces.



Figure 1-8. Front army Composition.


Engineer Units. These would include combat engineer units (general construction, assault crossing, and pontoon) and logistical support units (pipeline construction and topography).

Figure 1-9. Artillery Division, Front.

Radio-Electronic Combat (REC). Capable of radio and radar intercept, direction finding, and communications jamming. Their mission is to target or jam at least 60 percent of the enemy's key electronic emitters.

Signal Brigades. Provide the Front-to-Army communications via land line, radio, radio/relay, and courier.

The Aviation of the Front (AOF). The largest operational unit of tactical aviation provides reconnaissance, counter-air, support of ground troops, and helicopter lift for airmobile operations. In peacetime, AOFs are subordinate to military districts or groups of Soviet forces; in wartime, they are subordinate to Air Force Frontal Aviation Directorate. (See Figure 1-10).

Figure 1-10. Tactical Air Army, Front.

Combined Arms and Tank Armies. The organization of a Soviet Army is flexible, depending upon its mission. The Combined Arms Army (CAA) is an operational and administrative organization having more MRDs than TDs. There are typically two to four MRDs present, and one or two TDs. The numbers and types of combat service support units are tailored to the mission. But a fairly typical structure is shown in Figure 1-11.

CAA Mission in front's first echelon is to destroy enemy resistance on the forward edge of the battle area (FEBA) and create gaps large enough to permit the deployment of front exploitation forces--usually a tank force of the front second echelon--or to penetrate and exploit immediate successes themselves. The army is expected to advance far enough in the first few days to destroy the continuity of enemy tactical defenses, including the corps reserves. The CAA is motorized rifle heavy and thus would be the most likely force to attack well-prepared defensive positions, consisting of antitank defenses. The Soviets studied the 1973 Middle East War very carefully and concluded pure tank forces were very susceptible to modern antitank guided missile systems.

The Tank Army varies from the CAA only in the mix of MRDs and TDs. Specifically, a Tank Army has more tank divisions than motor-rifle divisions. The support forces are identical, both in size and type of units. Of course, just as in a CAA, support forces are tailored to the army's mission. (See Figure 1-12).

The Tank Army has two primary missions: in the offense, exploitation of a penetration; in the defense, counterattack. The tank army may be used as the first echelon (penetration) force under certain special conditions: when enemy anti-tank guided missile (ATGM) defenses are weak, when the enemy has had no time to prepare a defense, when a pursuit is being conducted, or when gaps in the enemy's defense have been created by massive conventional or nuclear fires. The Soviet Army has massive amounts of artillery, some of which is allocated to subordinate divisions, and some of which may be retained for use by the army, especially in the counter-fire role. Besides subordinate divisional artillery, the army has a brigade of guns and howitzers and a regiment of multiple rocket launchers. (See Figure 1-13). The army may allocate these assets to divisions, but will not allocate any of its SSMs. Doctrinally, nuclear release is never allowed lower than army in the Soviet system; further, a division commander does not have the assets to exploit the 300 km range of these weapons. The army commander also has extension river-crossing capabilities and sufficient motor transport to sustain him in both the offense and defense.

Figure 1-11. Combined Arms Army.

Figure 1-12. Tank Army

Figure 1-13. Army Artillery Brigade, Tank and combined Arms Army.

* All battalions are equipped with 24 weapons, 8 per battery.

** The 2S5, 152mm self-propelled gun has replaced the M-46, 130mm towed gun in most first-line units of the Soviet Ground Forces. However, some units within the Soviet Union and the Non-Soviet Warsaw Pact will probably continue to use the M-46 for several years to come.

Principal Items of Equipment

Gun self-propelled, 152mm, 255 or towed, 130mm, M-46.........................


Howitzer, towed, 152mm, D-20.................................................................


ACRV, M-1974, Mod 1/2/2A/3................................................................


ACRV, M-1979, BTR-60PA.....................................................................


ASV, BMP M-1975 Small Fred.................................................................


ASV, MTLB M-1975 Big Fred..................................................................


ACV, BTR-60PA w/R-145BM..................................................................


Tractor, Artillery, AT-S..............................................................................


Radar, Masterological, End Tray/Leg Drive.................................................



Motorized Rifle Division has four maneuver regiments: three motorized rifle regiments (MRRs), and one tank regiment. Combat support is provided by one artillery regiment, and one D4SAM regiment, an anti-tank battalion, a reconnaissance battalion, a helicopter squadron, engineer, signal, and chemical defense battalions, and an artillery command battery. The tank regiment of the MRD has a howitzer battalion, the MRL battalion is part of the artillery regiment, the reconnaissance battalion has six medium tanks, and the helicopter squadron is in the division organization for the first time. Combat service support is provided by motor transport, maintenance, and medical battalions as well as a mobile field bakery. (See Figure 1-14).


Figure 1-14. Motorized Rifle Division.

The Motorized Rifle Regiment (MRR). The MRR is the basic combined arms organization and most common maneuver element of the Soviet ground forces. Motorized rifle, armor, artillery, anti-aircraft artillery, anti-tank, engineer, signal, and combat service assets are organic to the MRR. The MRR is the smallest organization in which all of these elements are represented and resembles division organization, with three motorized rifle battalions (MRBs) and one tank battalion, a 122mm howitzer battalion, and three 120mm mortar batteries, one battery organic to each MRB. The MRR is equipped with the BMP or BTR series of troop-carrying vehicles. (See Figure 1-15 and 1-16.)

Figure 1-15. BMP-2.

Figure 1-16. BTR 60 PA/70/80.


Both BMP and BTR regiments are equipped with the AC4GS-17 automatic grenade launcher within MRBs. The BMP regiments have a battalion of 122mm self-propelled howitzers, the BTR regiments have 122mm towed howitzers (D-30) and anti-tank platoons within the MRBs, a feature not found in the BMP regiments. (See Figures 1-19 and 21.)

Tank battalions of both BMP- and BTR-equipped MRR are composed of 40 medium tanks; the T-64, T-72, or T-80. (See Figure 1-17 and 1-18.)

Figure 1-17. T-64.

Figure 1-18. Motorized Rifle Regiment (BMP), MRD and TD.




Figure 1-20. Tank Battalion. Motorized Rifle Regiment. MRD and TD.


The Tank Division has three medium tank regiments, an MRR, an artillery regiment, a SAM regiment, a reconnaissance battalion, a signal battalion, a chemical defense battalion, an engineer battalion, and service support elements. The subordinate elements of the TD and the MRD are identical or similar, but has more combat equipment and personnel than MRD. (See Figure 1-21.)

The Tank Regiment. Tank regiments of the TD consist of five combat and service support battalions: three tank battalions of 31 tanks each, one motorized rifle battalion, and one howitzer battalion. The howitzer battalion is an addition to the regimental structure, and is composed of 122mm self-propelled howitzers. The tank regiment is an upgrade in motorized rifle assets from company to battalion strength, equipped with the BMP. These battalions are identical to the BMP battalions found in the motorized rifle regiments with BMPs. Tank regiments of TDs resemble MRRs by having five combat and service support battalions, and tank-heavy in terms of combat power. (See Figure 1-22.)

The Airborne Division. Being fully motorized, increases its combat power, mobility and airdrop capability. The BMD amphibious airborne combat vehicle is in all three of its airborne (infantry) regiments. Combat support is provided by an artillery regiment, an assault gun (ASU-85) battalion, and an anti-aircraft battalion. (See Figure 1-23.)

The artillery regiment is a unique structure. It has only two subordinate battalions: one battalion of 18 D-30 122mm howitzers and one battalion of 12 D-30's and 6 GAZ-66 mounted multiple rocket launchers. The D-30 is the same weapon found in BTR regiments. The GAZ-66 MRL is unique to airborne/ air assault forces. It is a light system with 12 launcher tubes, firing the same rocket as the BM-21.

The Airborne Regiment has three airborne battalions and one mortar battery, one ATGM battery, and one anti-aircraft battery. (See Figure 1-24.)

Each regiment is equipped with approximately 100 BMDs in 4 different configurations. The basic BMD is the standard squad vehicle. The BMD M-1979/1 is used by weapon squads within companies, and the BMD M-1979/3 is used as a command vehicle at battalion and regimental headquarters. A fourth variant, the BMD M-1981/1, has been identified, although its role and deployment pattern have not yet been determined. (See Figure 1-25.)


Figure 1-21. Tank Division.

Figure 1-22. Tank Regiment.

Figure 1-23. Airborne Division.


Figure 1-24. Airborne Regiment.


Figure 1-25. BMD M1981/1.


Practice Exercise: Lesson 1
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