Russian Army Units
The ground forces were organized into four [previously eight, then six] military districts, one independent army, and two groups of forces. Although the districts are ground forces commands, they may include forces from the other services, in which case they also serve as regional commands. In February 1996, four of Russia's eight independent airborne brigades were placed under ground forces command, with one each going to the North Caucasus, Siberian, Transbaikal, and Far Eastern districts. At the same time, two of five airborne divisions, stationed at Pskov and Novorossiysk, were assigned for special joint operations to the Northern and Siberian districts, respectively. These shifts, which outside observers interpreted as the end of plans to form a mobile force for rapid insertion in trouble areas, reflected a shortage of the airlift capacity needed to support independent operations by such troops, as well as a possible fear of coup activity in independent elite military units.
As of 1996 the ground forces included sixty-nine divisions: seventeen armored, forty-seven motorized infantry, and five airborne. Many of these divisions were "cadre" units, equipped with all the heavy armament of a full-strength motor-rifle or tank division, while having only skeleton personnel strength. The officers and men of a cadre division focused primarily on maintaining the equipment in working condition. During wartime mobilization, such a division should be beefed up to full manpower strength; however, in peacetime a cadre division is unfit for any combat. In late 1996 Defense Minister Igor Rodionov order the disbanding of two of Russia's remaining five airborne divisions.
As of 1996 the Ground Forces of the Russian Federation were estimated to number approximately 670,000 officers and enlisted personnel. Of that number, about 170,000 were contract volunteer enlistees and warrant officers, and about 210,000 were conscripts. Presumably, the remaining 290,000 were commissioned officers, suggesting that some 43 percent of ground forces personnel were officers. These figures strongly suggest that most of the notional "divisions" of the Russian Army consisted of a base, equipment, and officers, but no more than a handful of soldiers to actually operate equipment.
A very large number of the sixty-nine divisions that were nominally part of the Russian Army as of 1996 were deployed in the Siberian, Transbaikal and Far Eastern Military Districts. With the growing entente between China and Russia, and the agreements between these and other Central Asia countries on conventional force reductions in the region, it may be assumed that most of these units were at cadre status by the mid-1990s.
By 1997 the total strength of the ground forces was at an all time low of 400,000 men and officers. Presumably much of the reduction was the result of officers retiring from military service. Under the new defense policy document signed by President Yeltsin on 1 August 1998, the number of divisions in the regular armed forces was to be reduced to ten. These were to be full-strength, high-readiness Ground Forces divisions, one of which will be specifically trained in peacekeeping operations. The divisions, deployed in various parts of the country, would engage exclusively in combat training. This initiative presumably was intended to bring the notional order of battle of the ground forces into closer alignment with the actually existing state of affairs.
The army group, army, or corps commander has chiefs of branches subordinate to him. They normally report to him through the chief of staff. The commander of missile troops and artillery (CMTA) at the operational level is a commander (rather than chief). There is also a commander of air defense. There are chiefs of engineer, chemical, and signal troops and a chief of the personnel directorate. Each of these individuals has his own staff.
Combat elements of the Ground Forces were organized into combined arms and tank armies. A combined arms army included three motorized rifle divisions and a tank division. A tank army had three tank divisions and one motorized rifle division. In the late 1980s, the Ground Forces began to field corps that were more than twice the size of a single division.
At every level from brigade upward, chiefs of branches augment the primary staff, conforming to the needs of the level of command. These officers bring specialized knowledge and skills to the control of various elements of the combined arms. Although the chiefs perform as an element of the commanderís staff in advising him on the use of forces in their branch of troops or services, in many cases they are also commanders. They are responsible for artillery, engineer, or air defense units readiness and performance. Like the primary staff, the chiefs continuously interact with the corresponding chiefs of branches at both higher and lower levels of command.
Although directly subordinate to the commander of their own force, chiefs of branches also receive and issue directives and instructions through a chain of special subordination within their branch. For example, because of the complex coordination required to integrate army group and army fire support planning in an offensive, the army CMTA can be specially subordinate to the army group CMTA. This special subordination serves as a high-speed channel for guidance, control, and coordination concerning the allocation and use of missile and artillery assets, while preserving the authority and responsibility of the army group and army commanders.
The title Guard is the honor bestowed on units for heroism demonstrated in battles. The Guard was born on 18 September 1941 when divisions ## 100, 127, 153 were renamed into the First, the Second and the Third Guard Divisions respectively. In many cases the unit simultaneously received a name usually related to place of the heaviest battles for which it was honored, like Kantemirovskaya Guard Division [4th Guards Tank Division], Tamanskaya [2nd Guards Motorized Rifle Division] and others.
During the Soviet era a motorized rifle division had 12,000 soldiers organized into three motorized rifle regiments, a tank regiment, an artillery regiment, an air defense regiment, surface-to-surface missile and antitank battalions, and supporting chemical, engineer, signal, reconnaissance, and rear services companies. A typical tank division had 10,000 soldiers organized into three tank regiments and one motorized rifle regiment. In 1989 the Ground Forces also included eight brigades of air assault, or air-mobile, units that conducted helicopter landing operations.
Compared to Russian forces, US Army divisions have more infantry troops and larger logistic support, but fewer armored vehicles and artillery tubes. Russian forces are intended primarily for local regional operations and thus have fewer mobility assets and projection capabilities than possessed by the United States. The US military posture thus can deploy and operate at long distances, but the Russian military posture cannot do so to nearly such a degree.
In the early 1980s, out of a total of 194 active tank, motorized rifle and airborne divisions in the Soviet force, 65 were located in the western USSR, 30 in Eastern Europe and an additional 20 in the Transcaucasus and North Caucasus Military Districts (MDs). All these divisions would were available for offensive operations against NATO. In addition to these forces, 17 low-strength divisions, centrally located in the USSR, constituted the Strategic Reserves. For operation in the Southern Theater the Soviets had in place six divisions in the Turkestan MD and four engaged in combat operations in Afghanistan. These forces could be reinforced by the 20 divisions from the Caucasus MDs if they were not engaged against NATO. Soviet forces for operations in the Far East were composed of 52 tank and motorized rifle divisions. The six Warsaw Pact Allies of the Soviet Union had a total of 55 active divisions, which, collectively with Soviet divisions, amounted to 249 combat divisions.
Many of these divisions, most notably those in the interior of the USSR, were at low stages of readiness. The Soviets also maintained 17 mobilization bases, predominantly in the western USSR, that could form additional combat divisions. These bases usually contained the combat equipment needed to form new divisions and would require augmentation in manpower and a substantial amount of training before they could be committed to combat operations.
In 1989 the Soviet Union had 150 motorized rifle and 52 tank divisions in three states of readiness. The Ground Forces had sixty-five divisions, kept at between 50 and 75 percent of their projected wartime strengths, in the westernmost military districts of the Soviet Union; fifty-two divisions at less than half their wartime levels in the Siberian, Transbaykal, Central Asian, and Far East military districts along the border with China; and twenty-six low-readiness divisions in the Transcaucasus, North Caucasus, and Turkestan military districts.
After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russian Tank and Motorized-Rifle Divisions were reduced to near-cadre state. A "cadre" division is equipped with all the heavy armaments of a full-strength motor-rifle or tank division, while having only skeleton personnel strength. The officers and men of a cadre division focus primarily on maintaining the equipment in working condition. During wartime mobilization such a division would be beefed up to full manpower strength; however, in peacetime a cadre division is unfit for any combat.
As of 1995, of 81 land forces divisions, 51 were not combat ready. Of 26 brigades, 14 were not in a state of operational readiness. Airborne troops and two peacekeeping divisions had the highest level of readiness. By 1996 the ground forces included sixty-nine divisions: seventeen armored, forty-seven motorized infantry, and five airborne.
Under the new defense policy document signed by President Yeltsin on 1 August 1998, the number of divisions in the regular armed forces was to be reduced to ten. These were to be full-strength, high-readiness Ground Forces divisions, one of which will be specifically trained in peacekeeping operations. The divisions, deployed in various parts of the country, would engage exclusively in combat training.