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LESSON FOUR

SOVIET SPECIAL OPERATIONS AND FORCES

MQS Manual Tasks: 01-3353.01-0010

OVERVIEW

TASK DESCRIPTION:

You will become familiar with Soviet special operations with emphasis on Airborne, Air Assault. Airmobile, Air Forces military transport aviation (TAA), and naval infantry forces.

LEARNING OBJECTIVE:

 

ACTIONS:

To know the Soviets objective and operations of their Airborne Assault force.

CONDITIONS:

You will be given narrative information and illustrations from FM 1-402, FM 100-2-1, 100-2-2, and 100-2-3.

STANDARDS:

You must know Soviet doctrine and determine what type Airborne operation are being used in accordance with FM 100-2-1, 100-2-2, and 100-2-3.

REFERENCES:

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

INTRODUCTION

The airborne assault is an integral part of Soviet combined arms doctrine. Projecting combat troops by air to service objectives forward of advancing ground forces directly supports the Soviet concepts of surprise, mobility, deep penetration and rapid exploitation. This includes landings of troops by parachute drop, fixed-wing aircraft, and helicopter.

AIRBORNE ASSAULT OPERATIONS

Airborne assault operations are associated with deep objectives. Helicopter assault operations are limited in depth by the transport radius.

Categories of Airborne Assault. There are four categories of airborne assault: strategic, operational, tactical, and special purpose.

* Strategic airborne operations. Airborne divisions are under Ministry of defense control; strategic objectives include seizure of air bases, seaports, or used to project Soviet power and presence outside of the Eurasian land mass.

* Operational airborne operations. Regiment-size airborne units organic to air assault brigades. (See Figure 1-8, and Figure 4-5) The air assault troops are controlled by an operational (Front or Army) commander. All troops in an "air assault" unit are parachute qualified. Air support for transportation is from strategic resources. Their objectives are key terrain, bridgeheads, river-crossings and so on to a depth of 300 kilometers.

* Tactical operations are heliborne motor rifle troops, from second echelon units. A battalion in size, limited to 50 kilometers to seize mountain passes, choke points, river-crossings, or inserted as a blocking force during a pursuit. Armed personnel carriers (APCs) and heavy artillery cannot be moved with them, they must be relieved quickly (about 1 day) or face destruction.

* Special or unconventional warfare (UW) airborne operations are established by the Soviet high command and controlled by Front and Army commanders. They are parachute assault or helicopter assault forces, company size or smaller, organized as reconnaissance or raid groups. Parachute assault forces target tactical or operational reconnaissance, intelligence collection, destruction of nuclear weapons, and disruption of command, control, and logistic functions, and rear area harassment, sabotage, and deception.

Airborne Operations. The Soviets have the largest airborne force in the world with seven airborne divisions and smaller airborne units for reconnaissance and raid missions. Soviet airborne divisions are mechanized infantry forces capable of seizing defended objectives and attacking well-armed enemy forces deep in the enemy rear. Combat equipment of an airborne division is air-droppable, and is transportable. The BMD is the greatest improvement in airborne division fighting vehicle for combat and is the primary squad fighting vehicles of an airborne division.

The BMD is an air-droppable, amphibious assault vehicle with armament similar to the BMP found in motorized rifle units. (See Figure 4-1). The ASU-57 assault gun and the SD-44 anti-tank field gun are found in some airborne units for specialized operations.

Figure 4-1. BMD.

The Airborne Division. On the ground, it can function exactly as a motorized rifle unit. The speed and shock power which the division now possess is vastly greater than any light-infantry force.

Air-Delivery Capabilities. Airlift service for Soviet airborne units and air assault brigades is provided by the VTA, a fleet of 600 medium- and long-range cargo transport planes. This fleet includes 400 AN-12 (CUBs) (similar to the US C-130), 130 IL-76 (CANDIDs) (similar to the US C-141), and 50 AN-22 (COCKs) (similar to the US C5A). (See Figure 4-2, 4-3, and 4-4.)

Figure 4-2. AN-12 CUB.

The medium range AB4N-12 is the workhorse of the VTA. This four-engine turboprop aircraft can airlift 90 troops or drop 60 paratroopers from two exits. It can carry 20 metric tons of cargo (two BMDs). Ninety AN-12s transport a BMD-equipped airborne regiment and can operate from unimproved runways, with a maximum payload, its range is 1,400 kilometers.

Figure 4-3. IL-/6 CANDID.

The AN-12 aircraft is supplemented by the IL-76 long-range, four engine jet transports. The IL-76 can carry 140 paratroopers who can jump from four exits. The IL-76 cargo capacity is 40 metric tons of combat equipment assigned to airborne forces. Each IL-76 can carry three BMDs. Fifty IL-76s are needed to transport a BMD-equipped airborne regiment. The IL-76 can operate from unimproved runways. Its range with maximum payload is 5,300 kilometers.

Figure 4-4. AN-22 COCK.

The AN-22 is a long-range, turboprop heavy transport aircraft used mainly for air landings, as opposed to airdrops. The AN-22 can carry 175 troops or 80 metric tons of cargo with a range of 4,200 kilometers. Each AN-22 can carry four BMDs. This aircraft transports large items such as self-propelled artillery, medium tanks, SAM launchers, or engineer equipment. It is well suited for strategic operations. The AN-22 is being replaced by the AN-124 CONDOR.

The AN-124 CONDOR is the largest transport aircraft in the world, similar to the US C-5 GALAXY. It can carry 300 troops or 150 tons of cargo. Twenty-five of these will move a BMD equipped regiment.

Most VIA aircraft are based in the western USSR. Some AN-12 units are based along the southern and far eastern borders of the USSR. The concentration of aircraft in the western USSR places the main VTA assets near the airborne divisions they would support, quickly concentrating its aircraft to support an operation anywhere along USSR borders. VTA capabilities are increased by the Soviet civil aviation, aeroflot, with 1,100 medium- and long-range passenger transports, 200 AN-12s and IL-76s, and several thousand short-range transports and helicopters for the airlanding of troops.

Conduct of Airborne Assault Operations. Soviet doctrine and practice of airborne assault operations employ surprise as an advantage. Security of the operation prevents detection and minimizes enemy reaction time, night airborne assaults achieve surprise. Landings will be in areas where enemy defenses have been neutralized. There must be air cover for the enroute formation, and given fire support provided by air strikes, missile and artillery. An airborne assault operation requires coordination between the control headquarters, the airborne assault forces, supporting aviation, and the operation of ground maneuver forces. Reconnaissance of airborne operations by aviation, clandestine agents, long-range patrols, and airdropped reconnaissance teams is required for selections of primary and alternate drop zones, the terrain and condition of the road networks, and locations of natural and man-made obstacles that would interfere with airdrop of men and equipment. Flight routes are planned to minimize the threat of aerial intercept and ground air defenses during their time of most vulnerability. Fighter aircraft are assigned to protect in-flight transports and neutralize ground air defense.

A drop zone is 3 by 4 kilometers. A division will use four to six of these, a regiment one or two. Alternate drop zones are for emergency and follow-up use. In a drop zone, the first wave eliminates enemy resistance and protects follow-up drops and air landings, includes forward command posts and air defense weapons, engineers, and anti-tank artillery reinforcements.

On the ground, forces will organize at assembly points. If the force is excessively dispersed troops organize into small units. Reconnaissance missions are dispatched immediately to conduct patrolling to seize an objective, its mission is to defend the objective until the arrival of Soviet forces advancing from the front line. Using a 360-degrees perimeter defense, established in-depth with all units forward puts maximum power forward, with a small mobile reserve. For a regiment, this reserve would be a company, battalion defense is a platoon-size element in reserve.

Defensive positions are a series of strongpoints. A company assigned a strongpoint within a battalion establishes a defense in depth or a defense with all platoons forward. Enemy tanks are priority targets, engaging armor at maximum range, yet avoid having a BMD engage a tank one-on-one.

Figure 4-5.

Linkup with advancing ground forces in the final phase of an airborne operation. The airborne unit sends its reconnaissance element to meet advancing ground force units, to provide information on the best approaches into the area, the security situation, the objective, and the enemy situation. Once linkup has been completed, operational control of the airborne unit returns to the Front or TVD.

Helicopter Assault Operations. The Soviets parachute units have the capability for conducting helicopter assault operations, helicopter assault tactics, and techniques. Helicopter regiments subordinate to the AOF allocates aircraft for heliborne operations. Planning and control of a heliborne operation will be at a lower level than an airborne assault because of the lower subordination of the MRB. At a lower command level, the same planning, coordination, and reconnaissance required for airborne assault operations depends on the variety and size of arms and service involved at Front, Army, or division level.

Conduct of Heliborne Operations stress the importance of securing river-crossing and bridgeheads, seizure of terrain such as mountain passes, beach exits, desert oases, and crossroads. The pursuit of enemy withdrawal, blocking attempts to break out of encirclement, reinforcing a meeting engagement. Rear area raids, sabotage, or deception operations, and laying and clearing mines in enemy rear area as far as 50 kilometers in front of the Soviet FEBA in mounting operations, primary and alternate pickup and landing zones (LZs) are designated. Assault troops and lift helicopters converge on pickup zones 20 kilometers behind the FEBA and fly as low as 50 to 100 meters to mask their approach.

Artillery and tactical air liaison personal accompany the assault force. Within range capabilities, artillery preparatory fires suppress enemy ground air defenses and protect the LZ. Escort fighter aircraft or armed helicopters provide fire support during the ground attack. Within the assault force mortars, ATGMs, and direct-fire weapons attached to companies are deployed for all-around protection.

The primary LZ will be on or near the objective. If the LZ is distanced form the objective, an advance element will reconnoiter routes and clear obstacles and assault the objective keeping a platoon-size force in reserve. In the defense phase, the heliborne force will, like the airborne assault operation, form platoon and company strongpoints, emphasizing anti-tank security and mining of approaches to the defense periphery. An MRB in heliborne operations is not self-sustaining, but capable of fighting independently up to 24 hours, but linkup in 2 to 3 hours is considered desirable.

NAVAL INFANTRY FORCES

The Soviet Naval infantry is reorganizing from a regiment to a brigade structure. While exact details of the reorganization are not available, it is believed that, at a minimum, there will be four Naval Infantry Battalions in each Brigade, compared to three in the old regiments. For reference, the old structure of a Naval Infantry Regiment is provided at Figure 4-7. The Soviet Naval Infantry Division of the Pacific Fleet is structional similar to a Motorized Rifle Division, with three Naval Infantry Regiments, a tank regiment, and an artillery regiment. The Soviet Naval Infantry is deployed as described in Figure 4-6.

Figure 4-6. Naval Infantry Deployment.

The Soviet Naval Infantry is a brigade structure with four naval infantry battalions in each brigade. The Soviet Naval Infantry Division of the Pacific Fleet is structured similarity to a motorized rifle division, with three naval infantry regiments, a tank regiment, and an artillery regiment. The Soviet Naval Infantry is described in Figure 4-7.

Figure 4-7. The Soviet Naval Infantry.

The mission of the Soviet Naval Infantry is amphibious assault, landings made up to trained teams for amphibious landing, or combat operations. Amphibious landing categories depends upon the scale and mission of the landing: strategic, operational, tactical, and reconnaissance and sabotage landings.

Strategic landings. Amphibious landings in support of opening up a new front of military operations. An example of this type landing would be the Allied landing in Normandy on 6 June 1944.

Operational landings. Assist ground or naval forces in a coastal region to surround and destroy enemy units in that area. A "maritime" front, the landing of a naval infantry brigade as the first echelon.

Tactical landings. To strike at the rear area or flank of an enemy force along a coastline, or to seize islands, naval bases, coastal airfields, ports, and other objectives on an enemy-held coastline. The naval infantry force employed could operate independently or with ground force units.

Reconnaissance and Sabotage landings. For reconnaissance, inflicting loss or damage in enemy rear area facilities located near coast, and creating a diversion.

Training. The Soviet Naval Infantry is a small, elite force and has strict requirements for selection. The conscript is taught basic military skills, vehicle driving, swimming, communications, electronics, maintenance, medicine, cooking, and parachutes or frogman training. Continuous training is divided between tactical, weapons, amphibious landing, and physical training.

Tactical Training. The Soviets require the naval infantryman to be decisive, demonstrate initiative, confidently negotiate water barriers, and employ surprise in tactical exercises. Realism is introduced through live firing, mockups, moving targets, and use of "aggressor" forces, studying the enemy and its organization, equipment, weapons, and tactics, including defense against air attack, assault landing tactics, and shore battles. Rapid and decisive actions in an amphibious assault require developing and maintaining momentum of the attack. The Soviet Naval Infantry is employed with airborne and ground force units to provide escort, transport, and fire support. Soviet naval and frontal aviation provide fire support against beach defenses, and ground forces provide linkup operations and/or a follow-up force. Coordination of training is necessary in an operation of this complexity. The Navy and the airborne, heliborne, air, and ground forces have participate jointly in these landings. For example, in Exercise "YUG" 1971, an amphibious assault landing took place together with an airborne landing which blocked enemy reinforcements from reaching the beachhead. When the beachhead was secured, ground forces were landed that subsequently linked up with the airborne force.

The amphibious landing with a ground force will detail a reconnaissance party of a motorized rifle company with engineers to reconnoiter the landing area.

The information from this reconnaissance party is sent to the amphibious and supporting air forces. The enemy defenses are then fired upon by aircraft, navy gunfire, and ground force artillery. From this point, there are five phases in a Soviet amphibious assault landing:

* Preparation of equipment and amphibious units.

* Embarkation of personnel and loading of equipment on ships and transports.

* Movement by sea to the objective area.

* The battle for the beachhead by the amphibious units.

* Landing of ground forces and withdrawal of the Naval Infantry.


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