Airborne Assault Troops [VDV] - Operations
A decision to use the airborne forces is made after careful consideration. Many valuable assets are used in an airborne operation. These assets would not be placedin jeopardy unless they believe that the mission has a reasonable chance of success. If other units are considered capable of fulfilling a given mission, they would be used instead of airhorne units.
The success of an airhorne operation depends upon air superiority, even if achieved only temporarily. Also essential is a favorable combat force ratio in the landing zones and objective area. The more powerful the enemy force in the projected operations area, the less likely military will be to conduct an airborne assault.
The airborne forces would be employed in support of an army or front operation. The commander whose operations are to be supported establishes the airborne units' objectives and time of deployment. Control is decentralized to insure that the airborne objectives support the overall mission of the army or front commander.
Airborne assaults in support of army or front open-tions can be conducted at distances of up to 500 km from the FEBA. Many factors can affect the decision of how far behind enemy lines an airborne force can be inserted: the size of the force the potential for rein-forcement of the force, the anticipated enemy resistance, the rate of advance of friendly forces designated for linkup, etc.
The size of an airborne force used tosupport an armyorfrontopcration could he up to a division in strength. A reinforced regiment would be the most common-sized force used to accomplish most operational missions.
An airborne operation requires extensive coordination between the control headquarters, and the airborne force, supporting aviation, and ground maneuver forces. Planning considerations for airborne operations include: the mission, troops and support available, terrain, the depth of the operation, flight routes, air superiority, drop zones, surprise, security. and the enemy situation.
Intelligence information for an airborne operation is obtained by aerial reconnaissance, clandestine agents, sympathizers, maps, SIGINT, long-range patrols, or air-dropped reconnaissance trams. Of major concern is the enemy armor, artillery, and air threat. Reconnaissance activities also may be performed outside the projected objective area, as a deception measure.
A typical drop zone (DZ) is 3 kilometers by 4 kilometers. A regiment normally is allocated one or two DZs. If two DZs are used, battalion integrity will be maintained. A division uses four to six DZs. Alternate zones are designated for emergency use. Follow-on forces normally are dropped into the zones used by the initial assault wave.
Drop zones are as close to objectives as possible. The Soviets prefer that DZs be within 30 kilometers of the final objective. If circumstancespermit, drop zones are on the objective itself, The first element is a security element and is responsible for eliminating enemy resistance in the DZ. The intent would be to complete the operation in one flight. However, if more than one flight is used, the first assault wave will contain forward command posts and crew-served air defense and antitank weapons, as well as maneuver units. The second wave will consist primarily of support elements.
Airborne unit marshaling areas are dispersed to prevent detection of an imminent operation and to reduce vulnerability to nuclear strikes. Conversely, marshaling areas must be close enough to departure airfields to make loading on aircraft easier. Normally, no more than a company can be expected in any one area. Airborne troops scheduled for an operation are strictly segregated from the surrounding population. Units receive their missions in the marshaling areas. Having received their missions, unit commanders organize their units for loading on aircraft.
Loading is accomplished so that lead aircraft over a drop zone carry reconnaissance and security troops to secure the DZ. The security force is armed to defend against enemy air and armor attack. Main assault forces are loaded so that platoons, companies, and battalions land with as much unit integrity as possible.
For security reasons, airdrops are planned to take place at night, whenever possible. Units normally move to departure areas after nightfall. Radio silence is observed in marshaling areasand while en route to and at departure airfields. Normally, more than one airfield will be used if more than one regiment is involved in an operation. Frontal aviation and front and army air defense weapons may provide air defense for both the marshaling and departure areas. In an emergency, close-in air defense could be provided by the airborne unit's weapons.
As a minimum, aviation, rockets and missiles, ground forces incursions, unconventional warfare, or naval fire support must gain local air superiority for the operation. Recognizing that local air superiority may be achieved for only a short period of time, VDV planners prefer to accomplish the airdrop in one flight.
Flight routes are chosen to minimize flight time to the drop zone. They also are planned to minimize the threat of aerial intercept and ground air defense. During the flight to the drop zone (DZ) or landing zone (LZ), aircraft fly in a formation that insures the proper jump sequence. Commanders and their chiefs of staff at battalion level and above are in separate aircraft to insure that a unit's entire command structure would not be lost if one plane were shot down.
The air movement phase of an airborne operation is the most vulnerable phase. This emphasizes the necessity for creating a threat-free flight corridor from the departure area to the DZ or LZ. All along the flight path, fire support assets are targeted against enemy air defenses. Fighters and fighter-bombers escort transport aircraft to protect them from enemy fighters and ground fires. Protection of the air movement phase will be carefully coordinated.
Passive defense measures taken during the air movement phase include conducting movement during hours of darkness, using morethan one flight route, maintaining radio silence, and flying at low altitudes. The Soviets also may use electronic warfare measures during air movement.
The VDV attempt to complete their airdrops before dawn. To simplify the airdrop, VDV probably employ only one type of aircraft for each DZ. Combat airdrops are normally conducted at an altitude of 150 to 300 meters. They emphasize the necessity to drop at low altitude to minimize the amount of time individuals are in the air. Low altitude drops also increase the likelihood that a unit's personnel and equipment will land close together. During some training exercises, VDV have conducted personnel drops as low as 100 meters, but there is no indication that such low altitudes are standard. The VDV also have used steerable parachutes in an effort to increase unit integrity during airdrops.
The first element to be dropped is a small reconnaissance and security force. The main assault force is dropped at least 15 minutes later. The BMDs and crew-served weapons precede their repective personnel during the airdrop.
The VDV has several methods for dropping cargo by parachute. Equipment weighing less than 30 kilograms (66 pounds) is dropped in padded containers, Equipment weighing up to 1.000 kilograms (2,200 pounds) is secured to standard cargo platforms. BMDs, motor vehicles, self-propelled guns, and other heavy items may be secured to special shockabosorbing platforms and dropped by a multi-parachute system. The Soviets also use nonshock-absorbing platforms with a retro-rocket system, used extensively to system. The retro-rocket system, used extensively to drop BMDs, is supposed to allow its cargo to descend five to six times faster than the multi parachute system. Two ground probes, mounted on diagonal corners of the cargo platform, electrically fire the retro-rocket system's explosive charge. The explosive charge detonates when the sensors touch the ground and close the electrical circuit.
The reconnaissance and security force's immediate mission is to secure the DZ before the main body lands. This force, which could be up to a company for each drop zone used in a regimental airdrop, takes up defensive positions around the DZ's perimeter. Of special concern are the main enemy avenues of approachinto the DZ. The force also establishes listening and observation posts beyond the DZ to provide early warning of an approaching enemy. Antitank and air defense weapons are integrated into the perimeter defense.
If the main body is air-dropped during daylight hours, personnel move directly to their predesignated attack positions, but if the drop zone is not on the objective, personnel assemble in battalion assembly areas. However, if the airdrop is conducted at night, personnel assemble before occupying predesignated attack positions. If tlie drop zone is not on the objective, personnel dropped during tlic hoursof darkness assemble as companies and move to battalion assembly areas.
A regimental-sized airborne operation uses three predesignated battalion assembly areas on or near the boundary of th DZ. Movement to the final objective most often is made in battalion march columns along parallel routes. Battalions may be assigned separate final objectivs. Companies and platoons are often assigned intermediate missions (raids) to be accomplished during their movement to the final objective.
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