Ground Forces

The Ground Forces of the Russian Federation are primarily responsible for the protection of the state border, the reflection of aggressors on dry land, the retention of occupied territory, and the crushing defeat of groupings of enemy troops. Furthermore, they must be capable of protecting the national interests of Russia within the framework of its international obligations. They also focus on reaching their final goals within the framework of nuclear war and in war centered on the application of weapons of mass destruction.

Ground Force capabilities allow for large-scale offensive operations to overthrow the enemy, occupy its key terrains and deliver strikes in depth, and, finally, confirm the rout in cooperation with other components of the national Armed Forces. In peacetime, the Russian Ground Force units are stationed across the country and divided into Military Districts (MD), each responsible for a strategic approach and comprised of territorial commands. Each MD has its headquarters located in the region's key city.

The Russian Ground Force maintains its combat abilities through training, international peacekeeping, and joint international missions for the purpose of being ready to react on short notice in case of a threat of warfare and defend the nation.

Category A units are the most combat ready, with manning above 75 percent. These include most of the airborne forces and the separate motorized rifle brigades. Category B units, comprising higher level readiness tank and motor rifle division formations and one airborne division, are above 50 percent strength. Category C units, which represent the majority of forces, are less than 50 percent strength and would normally require months of mobilization time.

For comparison, in the US Army the Commander's Unit Status Report [CUSR] indicates the degree to which a unit or organization has achieved prescribed levels of fill for personnel and equipment, the operational readiness status of on-hand equipment, and the training proficiency status of the unit or organization. The P-Level in the CUSR is determined by comparing that portion of the unit's required strength that is considered as "available" In accordance with CUSR personnel availability criteria with the strength requirements established for the unit in its formal requirements and authorization document (MTOE or TDA). Personnel level 1 is an Available strength of 100-90 percent, P2 is 89-80 percent, P3 is 79-70 percent, and P4 is 69 percent or less.

High Command of Ground Forces was developed for the first time in March 1946. The Red Army comprised close to 9,822,000 personnel by the time World War II ended. Toward the end of 1948, following a massive demobilization process, the army numbered approximately 2,444,000. Daily management of such a large and complex force was difficult, and the system of control for all land troops continuously underwent change throughout the latter half of the century.

The High Command was disbanded in March 1950 and then reformed in March 1955. It was disbanded yet again in March 1964 and reformed in November 1967. The High Command was finally integrated into the Main Administration of Ground Forces in November-December 1997.

The Glavkomat is responsible for the building, development, preparation, and application of the military. It is assigned the task of overseeing the training of troops, which is influenced by the policies set forth by the General Staff, as well as the integration and overall improvement of operational and combat training for all of Russia's combat forces. In addition, it deals with the composition, structure, and tasks of the Ground Forces; and the developemnt of military theory, methodology, and practice.

Russia's Ground Forces are broken up into a series of theater commands called military districts, of which there are 6. They include the Moscow Military District, the Leningrad Military District, the Volga-Urals Military District, the Siberian Military District, and the Far-Eastern Military District. Afterwards, the organizational structure descends into armies, army corps, motorized rifle divisions, tank divisions, artillery and machine-gun artillery divisions, fortified districts, and brigades. The lower levels of organization also include military parts and military establishments, enterprises and organizations.

The general composition of Russia's ground forces is broken up into the following branches of service: Motorized Rifle troops; Tank troops; Rocket Forces and Artillery; Troop PVO - Air Defense; and Army Aviation; and Special troops, which consist of troops that concentrate on connections and parts, reconnaissance, electronic warfare, engineering, radiation, chemical and biological protection, technical support, automobile protection, protection of the rear, military parts, and logistical establishment.

  • Motorized Rifle troops are the most numerous branch of service that constitutes the basis of the ground forces and the nucleus of their battle formations. They are equipped with powerful armament designed for the destruction of ground-based targets, including tanks, artillery, mortars, and reconnaissance units, and aerial targets, including missile complexes, anti-tank guided missiles, and antiaircraft missiles systems and installations.
  • Tank troops represent the main impact force of the Russian Ground Forces. They are a powerful armored weapon capable of dealing a powerful blow to the enemy and are intended to be the solution to the most critical problems that arrise in most forms of warfare.
  • Rocket Forces and Artillery constitute the greatest level of firepower within the Ground Force's entire arsenal. They are the primary operational means by which to combat and defeat large concentrations of enemy forces.
  • Troop PVO - Air Defense are responsible for the destruction of an enemy's airpower. It consists of zenith missiles and artillery, radio-technical units, and multiple subdivisions.
  • Army Aviation supports the actions and campaigns of general military formations by providing air support, conducting tactical aerial reconnaissance, the disembarkation of airborne troops and the fire support of their actions, electronic warfare, and the disperal of minefield barriers.
  • Special Troops are tasked with the successful fulfillment of unique and extraordinary tasks, which include engineering, radiation, and chemcial and bioloical protection. They are also in charge of several services, including logistical support, armament, and protection of the rear.

The Military Doctrine of the Russian Federation, approved in 2000 by President Putin, reiterated the strategic and political importance of peacekeeping missions. Moscow has joined efforts to curtail military conflicts in different regions, such as the Near East, the Persian Gulf, Africa, the Balkan Peninsula, and most importantly in the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS).

Since the fall of the Soviet Union Russian troops have participated in peacekeeping operations in Tajikistan, Moldava, South Ossetia, and Abkhazia. Between 1992-2003 Russia sustained a substantial force in Croatia, and supplied another contingent of troops in Kosovo between 1999-2003. In 2006 a detachment of engineers was sent to Lebanon to assist in rebuilding efforts. By the end of the year a modest group of troops had also took part in missions throughout Africa, including Sierra Leone and Liberia. Russian troops have taken on the functions and activities of peacemaking and rebuilding during these operations.

The most radical military reforms in Russia's post-Soviet history were announced by Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov in October 2008. The military would part with its accustomed categories, inherited from the former USSR: armies, divisions, and regiments. Now the entire "district-army-division-regiment" hierarchy is to be replaced with a new hierarchy: "district-operations command center-brigade." Ruslan Pukhov, director of the Center for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies, says: "The proposed brigade-based model is certainly more progressive - it's used by all the world's leading militaries. A structure based on divisions and regiments is hopelessly outdated."

As for establishing Rapid Response Forces, no fundamentally new troops will be established. Instead, each military district will have a brigade of paratroopers (six brigades in total). The Ground Forces already had two paratrooper brigades and a separate paratrooper attack regiment, not commanded by the Airborne Troops. This system may be used to form four additional brigades. The Airborne Troops had 34,000 personnel, including four divisions, one brigade, special task regiments, communications regiments, a training center, and a separate helicopter squadron. With military transport plane pilots and the actual paratroops reporting to different commanders (the practice in the Russian Armed Forces), it is difficult to talk of a rapid response to anything.

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