Type Airborne Forces
Color Sky Blue
|Branch Russian Armed Forces|
Founder Moscow Military District
|Country Soviet Union
Allegiance Supreme Commander-in-Chief
Role Light Infantry Airborne Infantry Airmobile infantry Peacekeeping
Founded 2 August 1930, Soviet Union
Motto "Никто, кроме нас!" ("Nobody, but us!")
Engagements World War II, Soviet–Afghan War, War in Donbass
Notable commanders Georgy Shpak, Vasiliy Margelov, Anatoly Lebed
Similar Russian Armed Forces, Russian Navy, Russian Air Force, Soviet Army, Soviet Armed Forces
The Russian Airborne Troops or VDV (from "Vozdushno-desantnye voyska Rossii", Russian: Воздушно-десантные войска России, ВДВ; Air-landing Forces) is a military branch of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation. They are an elite force, on par with the Strategic Rocket Forces. First formed before World War II, the force undertook two significant airborne operations and a number of smaller jumps during the war and for many years after 1945 was the largest airborne force in the world. The force was split after the dissolution of the Soviet Union, losing divisions to Belarus and Ukraine, and has been reduced in size.
- Russian airborne troops nobody but us
- Interwar and World War II
- Air assault units of the Ground Forces
- Commanders of the Soviet Airborne Forces and Russian Airborne Troops
- After the Fall of the Soviet Union
- Armament and equipment
- Armoured vehicles
Russian airborne forces have traditionally worn a blue beret and blue-striped telnyashka and are called "desant" (Russian: Десант) from the French "Descente".
Russian airborne troops nobody but us
Interwar and World War II
The first airborne forces parachute jump is dated to 2 August 1930, taking place in the Moscow Military District. Airborne landing detachments were established after the initial 1930 experimental jump, but creation of larger units had to wait until 1932–33. On 11 December 1932, a Revolutionary Military Council order established an airborne brigade from the existing detachment in the Leningrad Military District. To implement the order, a directive of the Commissariat of Military and Naval Affairs transformed the Leningrad Military District’s 3rd Motorised Airborne Landing Detachment into the 3rd Airborne Brigade (Special Purpose) commanded by M.V. Boytsov. Two further airborne brigades (the 13th and 47th) and three airborne regiments (the 1st, 2nd, and 5th, all in the Far East) were created in 1936. In March and April 1941, five Airborne Corps (divisions) were established on the basis of the existing 201st, 204th, 211th, 212th, and 214th Airborne Brigades. The number of Airborne Corps rose from five to ten in late 1941, but then all the airborne corps were converted into "Guards" Rifle Divisions in the northern hemisphere summer of 1942.
The Soviet airborne forces were mostly used as 'foot' infantry during the war. Only a few small airborne drops were carried out in the first desperate days of Operation Barbarossa, in the vicinity of Kiev, Odessa, and the Kerch peninsula. The two significant airborne operations of the war were the Vyazma operation of February–March 1942, involving 4th Airborne Corps, and the Dnepr/Kiev operation of September 1943, involving a temporary corps formation consisting of 1st, 3rd, and 5th Airborne Brigades. Glantz writes: "After the extensive airborne activity during the winter campaign of 1941–42, [the] airborne forces underwent another major reorganization the following summer. Responding to events in southern Russia, where German troops had opened a major offensive that would culminate in the Stalingrad battles, the ten airborne corps, as part of the Stavka strategic reserves, deployed southward. Furthermore, the Stavka converted all ten airborne corps into guards rifle divisions to bolster Soviet forces in the south. Nine of these divisions participated in the battles around Stalingrad, and one took part in the defense of the northern Caucasus region."
The Stavka still foresaw the necessity of conducting actual airborne operations later during the war. To have [such a force] the Stavka created eight new airborne corps (1st, 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th, and 10th) in the fall of 1942. Beginning in December 1942, these corps became ten guards airborne divisions (numbered 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th (formed from 9th Airborne Corps (2nd formation)), 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th, two formed from the 1st Airborne Corps and the three existing separate maneuver airborne brigades). The new guards airborne divisions trained in airborne techniques, and all personnel jumped three to ten times during training, though many were from jump towers.
After the defeat of German forces at Kursk, the bulk of the airborne divisions joined in the pursuit of German forces to the Dnepr River. Even as ten guards airborne divisions fought at the front, new airborne brigades formed in the rear areas. In April and May 1943, twenty brigades formed and trained for future airborne operations. Most of these brigades had become six new guards airborne divisions (11th through 16th) by September 1943. The Stavka however, earmarked three of these airborne brigades for use in an airborne operation to cross the Dnepr River, which was unsuccessful.
David Glantz wrote in 1984:
In August , the Stavka formed the 37th, 38th, and 39th Guards Airborne Corps. By October, the newly formed corps had combined into a separate airborne army under Maj. Gen. I. I. Zatevakhin. However, because of the growing need for well-trained ground units, the new army did not endure long as an airborne unit. In December, separate airborne army the Stavka reorganized the separate airborne army into the 9th Guards Army of Col. Gen. V. V. Glagolev, and all divisions were renumbered as guards rifle divisions. As testimony to the elite nature of airborne-trained units, the Stavka held the 9th Guards Army out of defensive actions, using it only for exploitation during offensives.
From 1944 the airborne divisions were reconstituted as Guards Rifle Divisions.
Lieutenant General Pavel Mironov (19 January 1944 – May 1946)
During the invasion of Manchuria and South Sakhalin Operation, airborne units were used to seize airfields and city centers in advance of the land forces, and to ferry fuel to those units that had outrun their supply lines.
HQ 9th Guards Army was redesignated Headquarters Airborne Forces in June 1946 after the war ended. The units of the Army were removed from the order of battle of the Air Forces of USSR and assigned directly to the Ministry of Armed Forces of USSR.
In 1946 the force consisted of five corps (the 8th and 15th had been added) and ten divisions:
In the summer of 1948, five more Guards Airborne Divisions were created. The 7th (Lithuania, 8th Airborne Corps), the 11th (activated 1 October 1948 in Ryazan, Moscow Oblast, from the 347th Guards Air Landing Regiment, 38th Airborne Corps), the 13th Guards (at Galenki, Primorskiy Kray, with the 37th Airborne Corps), the 21st Guards (Estonia, Valga, with the 15th Airborne Corps), and the 31st Guards (Carpathians, 39th Airborne Corps). At the end of 1955 and the beginning of 1956 the 11th Guards, 21st, 100th and 114th Guards Airborne Divisions were disbanded as well as all the airborne corps headquarters. The number of divisions, thus, decreased to 11. In April 1955 the transport aircraft were separated from the VDV and the Air Force Military Transport Aviation was created. In 1959 the 31st and 107th Guards Airborne Divisions were disbanded, but in October 1960 the 44th Training Airborne Division was formed. In 1964 the Airborne Forces were directly subordinated to the Ministry of Defence.
The creation of the post-war Soviet Airborne Forces owe much to the efforts of one man, Army General Vasily Margelov, so much so that the abbreviation of VDV in the Airborne Forces is sometimes waggishly interpreted as "Войска дяди Васи", "Uncle Vasya's Troops".
Airborne units of two divisions (7th and 31st Guards) were used during Soviet operations in Hungary during 1956, and the 7th Guards division was used again during the 1968 Operation Danube invasion of Czechoslovakia. The first experimental air assault brigade – the 1st Airborne [Airmobile/Air Assault] Brigade – was apparently activated in 1967/1968 from parts of the 51st Guards Parachute Landing Regiment (PDP) (Tula), after the Soviets had been impressed by the American experiences in Vietnam. In 1973 the 13th and 99th Airborne Divisions were reorganised as air assault brigades, and thus the number of divisions dropped to eight. There were also independent regiments and battalions. However, even by the 1980s only two divisions were capable of being deployed for combat operations in the first wave against NATO using Air Force Military Transport Aviation and Aeroflot aircraft.
Airborne Troops Commander-in-Chief Vasily Margelov had continued to wear the Telnyashka blue-and-white striped shirt commemorating an earlier moment in his career, from his wartime Naval Infantry service in the Baltic Fleet. In 1979, the telnyashka became an official part of the uniform.
In accordance with a directive of the General Staff, from August 3, 1979, to December 1, 1979, the 105th Guards Vienna Airborne Division was disbanded. From the division remained in the city of Fergana the 345th Independent Guards Airborne Regiment (much stronger than the usual regimental size) with the separate 115th military-transport aviation squadron. The rest of the personnel of the division were reassigned to fill out other incomplete airborne units and formations and to the newly formed air assault brigades. Based on the division's 351st Guards Parachute Regiment, the 56th Guards Separate Air Assault Brigade was formed in Azadbash, (Chirchiq district) Tashkent Oblast, Uzbek SSR. Meanwhile, the 111th Guards Parachute Regiment became the 35th Separate Guards Air Assault Brigade.
However, there was also a mistaken Western belief, either intentional Soviet deception or stemming from confusion in the West, that an Airborne Division, reported as the 6th, was being maintained at Belogorsk in the Far East in the 1980s. This maskirovka division was then 'disbanded' later in the 1980s, causing comment within Western professional journals that another division was likely to be reformed so that the Far East had an airborne presence. The division was not listed in V.I. Feskov et al.'s The Soviet Army during the period of the Cold War, (2004) and the division at Belogorsk, the 98th Guards Airborne Svirskaya Red Banner Order of Kutuzov Division moved to Bolgrad in the Ukraine in late 1969.
The 103rd Guards Airborne Division, 345th Independent Guards Airborne Regiment and the 56th Air Assault Brigade fought in the Soviet–Afghan War.
In 1989, the Airborne Forces consisted of:
Air assault units of the Ground Forces
From the late 1970s to the 1980s, 13 separate air assault brigades were activated. These brigades provided airmobile capability for military districts and groups of forces. In 1989, these brigades transferred to control of the VDV. During the same period, 19 separate air assault battalions were activated. These battalions originally provided airmobile capability to armies and other formations but were mostly disbanded in 1989.
In 1979, the 58th Air Assault Brigade was activated as a mobilization unit in Kremenchug. It was co-located with the 23rd Air Assault Brigade from 1986 and disbanded in 1989. The 128th Air Assault Brigade existed between 1986 and 1989 as a mobilization unit in Stavropol. The 130th Air Assault Brigade existed between 1986 and 1989 as a mobilization unit in Abakan.
Commanders of the Soviet Airborne Forces and Russian Airborne Troops
After the Fall of the Soviet Union
With the demise of the Soviet Union, the number of VDV divisions has shrunk from seven to four, as well as four brigades and the brigade-sized training center. In October 2013, Shamanov announced that a new air assault brigade would be formed in Voronezh in 2016 with the number of the 345th Separate Guards Airborne Regiment. It was announced in July 2015 that plans called for the 31st Airborne Brigade to be expanded into the 104th Guards Airborne Division, and for an additional airborne regiment to be attached to each division.
On July 30, 2015, the Airborne Troops Commander-in-Chief announced that there were plans to reform the 104th Guards Airborne Division from the 31st Guards Airborne Brigade in Ulyanovsk.
The 11th Air Assault Brigade in the Central Military District (former Siberian Military District) and the 56th Air Assault Brigade in the Southern Military District (former North Caucasus Military District) were partially infantry formations reporting directly to the military districts they are stationed in. The VDV's training institute is the Ryazan Institute for the Airborne Troops named for General of the Army V.F. Margelov. In addition, in the mid-late 1990s, the former 345th Independent Guards Airborne Regiment was stationed in Gudauta, Abkhazia AR, Georgia. It later became the 10th Independent Peacekeeping Airborne Regiment. The unit was further designated the 50th Military Base.
In the early 1990s, General Pavel Grachev, the first Russian Defence Minister, planned for the VDV to form the core of the planned Mobile Forces. This was announced in Krasnaya Zvezda ('Red Star,') the Ministry of Defence's daily newspaper, in July 1992. However, the Mobile Forces plan never eventuated. The number of formations available for the force was far less than anticipated, since much of the Airborne Forces had been 'nationalised' by the republics their units had been previously based in, and other arms of service, such as the GRU and Military Transport Aviation, who were to provide the airlift component, were adamantly opposed to ceding control of their forces.
From 1996 the VDV dispatched the 1st Separate Airborne Brigade to Bosnia and Herzegovina as part of IFOR's Multi-National Division North. The brigade, unusually, used Ground Forces equipment such as BTR-80s.
After an experimental period, the 104th Parachute Regiment of 76th Airborne Division became the first Russian ground forces regiment that was fully composed of professional soldiers (and not of "srochniki" – the conscripted soldiers aged eighteen). It was announced that the 98th Airborne Division is also earmarked for contract manning, and by September 2006, it was confirmed that 95% of the units of the 98th Division had shifted to contract manning.
The VDV divisions are equipped with armoured fighting vehicles, artillery and anti-aircraft guns, trucks and jeeps. Thus VDV units possess superior mobility and firepower with these vehicles. Each division has both regiments equipped with them and their derivatives. (Each division used to have three regiments, but the 106th was the last, and lost its third regiment in 2006.) With the reduction in forces after 1991, the 61st Air Army, Russia's military air transport force, has enough operational heavy transport aircraft to move one airborne division, manned at peacetime standards, in two-and-a-half lifts. The single independent brigade, the 31st at Ulyanovsk, however, is not equipped with its own armor or artillery and may be equivalent to Western airborne troops, in that it functions as light infantry and must walk when reaching their destination. The 31st was the former 104th Guards Airborne Division.
VDV troops participated in the rapid deployment of Russian forces stationed in Bosnian city Ugljevik, in and around Pristina airport during the Kosovo War. They also were deployed in Chechnya as an active bridgehead for other forces to follow.
Russian airborne troops had their own holiday during the Soviet era, which continues to be celebrated on 2 August. Their most emblematic mark of distinction is a blue beret. VDV soldiers are often called "blue berets". Each year, current and former paratroopers, often in an inebriated state, celebrate by meeting up and wandering city streets and parks. The day is notorious for two common sights: paratroopers frolicking in fountains and picking fights with hapless passers-by.
Notable former Airborne Forces officers include Aleksandr Lebed, who was involved in responses to disorder in the Caucasus republics in the last years of the Soviet Union, and Pavel Grachev who went on to become the first Minister of Defence of the Russian Federation. PRIDE heavyweight mixed martial arts fighter Sergei Kharitonov, went to the Airborne Troops academy in Ryazan', and remains on active duty with the Russian Airborne Troops.
Since 2008, women have been allowed to serve in the VDV, as officers, after finishing studies in the academy.
On 26 May 2009 Lieutenant-General Vladimir Anatolevich Shamanov became the new commander of the VDV, replacing Lieutenant-General Valeriy Yevtukhovich who was being discharged to the reserve. Shamanov is decorated as a "Hero of Russia" for his combat role in the campaigns in Chechnya. His previous posts are the chief of the combat training directorate and commander of the 58th Army. His most recent post was chief of the main combat training directorate. General Shamanov and the acting commander of the 106th Airborne Division were severely injured in a car crash on 30 October 2010. The general's driver was killed.
On 28 January 2010, the Russian Defense Ministry announced that the VDV's air components had been placed under the VVS.
Under the 2008 reform programme, the four existing two-regiment divisions should have been transformed into 7–8 air-assault brigades. However once General Shamanov became commander-in-chief of the Airborne Troops, it was decided to keep the original structure. The divisions have been beefed up and there are now four independent airborne/air-assault brigades, one for each military district. The 332nd School for Praporshchiks of the VDV (Russian: 332 Школа прапорщиков ВДВ) in Moscow was disbanded in December 2009 (also under the 2008 reform programme, all praporshchik (WO) posts in the Russian Armed Forces have been formally abolished).
In October 2013 it was reported that the three airborne brigades under military district control (seemingly the 11th and 83rd (Ulan-Ude and Ussuriysk) in the Eastern Military District and the 56th at Kamyshin in the Southern Military District) would be returned to VDV command. The process was completed as of July 2015.
Elements of the 76th Guards Air Assault Division's 104th Guards Air Assault Regiment appear to be participating in the War in Donbass. These units appear to have been used as spearhead forces during the August 2014 Russian counteroffensive. During the August 2014 counteroffensive, battalion tactical groups of the 7th Guards Airborne Division's 247th Guards Air Assault Regiment, the 98th Guards Airborne Division's 331st Guards Airborne Regiment, the 106th Guards Airborne Division's 137th Guards Airborne Regiment, and the 31st Guards Air Assault Brigade were sent into Ukraine. Reconnaissance teams from the 45th Detached Reconnaissance Brigade and the 106th's 173rd Guards Separate Reconnaissance Company were previously deployed to Ukraine alongside Ground Forces units.
In February 2016, it was reported that an airborne battalion would be deployed to Dzhankoy, Crimea in 2017-18 on a permanent basis and be upgraded to a regiment in 2020.
In August 2016, Russian paratroopers placed 1st place in the Airborne Platoon competition during the International Army games in Russia. In the process the Russian paratroopers defeated teams from China, Iran, Belarus, and Kazakhstan.
On 4 October 2016, Colonel General Andrey Serdyukov was appointed new commander of the Russian Airborne Troops, replacing Shamanov, who became chief of the Duma Committee on Defense.
During 2016, in the Airborne Troops were formed three reconnaissance battalions and six tank companies, two companies of electronic warfare and unmanned aerial vehicles. Delivered 188 new and upgraded armored vehicles. Airborne Troops equipment level with modern weapons is 47%.
Armament and equipment
Personal firearms and crew served weapons include:
VDV are equipped with Barmica and Ratnik infantry combat suits. Andromeda-D and Barnaul-T automated control systems, four wheelers and a specially-created uniform for hot climates are also being introduced into service. Portable version of Garmony air defence radar is supplied to the VDV. Airborne Troops have received new technology military binoculars.
Unlike the rest of the mechanized units, which use variety of APCs and IFVs such as the BMP series, BTR series and MT-LB, the VDV uses exclusively BMD family vehicles. There are over 1,800 armored fighting vehicles, mostly BMD-1 (since 1969) and BMD-2 (since 1985). There were also over 100 BMD-3 (1990) that were partially upgraded to BMD-4 level. All of them are amphibious, moving at around 10 km/h in water. BMD-4 is also capable of full, continuous fire while in the deep water, unlike any other vehicle with such heavy weaponry (100 mm gun and 30 mm auto cannon). However, some units (such as those who served on peacekeeping duties in the Balkans) are known to have used BTR armored personnel carriers rather than BMD's.
There is also a turret-less variant of the BMD-1, the BTR-D, which is used as troop carrier and severs as the basis for specialised versions such as anti-tank, command and signals. The BTR-D will partially be replaced by the new multi-purpose APC BTR-MD "Rakushka" that will also come in several different versions. Approximately 280 vehicles in all BTR-D configurations are in service. As part of the 2011 state defence order (GOZ), 10 BMD-4M and 10 "Rakushka's" have been ordered, but according to the VDV's CinC General Colonel Shamanov, Kurganmashzavod did not give a guarantee it would produce them. The Russian Defense Ministry adopted the BMD-4M in early December 2012. They are planning to receive 10 BMD-4M vehicles and 10 BTR-MD vehicles for final testing by mid-2013, with commissioning by the end of 2013. The Russian Airborne plans to acquire 1,000 BMD-4Ms through 2020. The first production batch of the new armored vehicles BMD-4M and BTR-MDM "Shell" in the amount of 24 units (12 each) transferred to the Russian Airborne Troops in 2015. VDV equipped first regiment with BMD-4Ms and BTR-MDMs in 2016.
Russian Airborne brigade-level units will soon receive SPM-2 GAZ-233036 Tigr armored cars. They may also order experimental Kamaz Typhoon armored infantry transports, following modifications to meet the demands of the airborne. VDV currently receives Berkyt protected snowmobiles for personnel transportation and fire support in arctic conditions.
On 1 August 2013, it was reported that the Russian Airborne Forces will develop a hybrid combat vehicle that combines features of an airborne infantry fighting vehicle and a helicopter. To meet the demands of future armed conflicts, a combat module that combines a light combat vehicle and an attack helicopter is being considered, with a crew of three-four people. The vehicle will be developed for the VDV by 2030.
The airborne self-propelled artillery guns ASU-57 and ASU-85 have been withdrawn. They had light armour and limited anti-tank capability, but provided invaluable fire support for paratroopers behind enemy lines (the caliber of the gun is the number next to ASU designation in mm).
Also withdrawn were the multiple rocket launch systems RPU-14 (8U38) of 140 mm and the BM-21V "Grad-V" (9P125) of 122 mm on GAZ-66, as well as the 85 mm gun SD-44.
Today the VDV operates the following systems:
The VDV is equipped with numerous types of airborne capable trucks and jeeps, for example the Ural-4320, the GAZ-66V and the GAZ-2975 "Tigr" for transporting cargo, specialist crews and equipment (e.g. mortars, ammunitions), but not infantry (all fighting paratroopers are transported in armoured vehicles). Currently the GAZ-66 is being replaced by the KAMAZ-43501.