Rapid Reaction Forces (SBR - Sily Bystrogo Reagirovaniya )

In March 2013 at the enlarged meeting of the board Russian Defense Ministery, Defense Minister General Sergei Shoigu ordered to provide the use of airborne forces as a rapid reaction force “in case of expediting tasks to curb crises.” VDV commander, Hero of the Russian Airborne Troops Commander Colonel General Vladimir Shamanov said that Airborne troops, if necessary, may be directed to carry out combat missions as a rapid reaction force beyond the Russian Federation, particularly in South Ossetia, Abkhazia and CSTO countries.

The concept of a Rapid Reaction Force (SBR) was presented to the Russian military-political leadership in early 2013, and received its overall approval. The core of the SBR will consist of the Airborne Troops (VDV). Based on the summary collegium of the Ministry of Defense at the end of February 2013 on the tasks for the Armed Forces for 2013, military establishment head Sergey Shoygu placed special attention on the role of the VDV in providing for the effective defense of the country.

“Toward the goal of increasing operational effectiveness during the fulfillment of crisis control tasks, we envision the use of the airborne troops as Rapid Reaction Forces,” said Sergey Shoygu. Meanwhile, the Minister had already set the task this year for “staffing all airborne assault and landing assault battalions of the VDV with contract servicemen.” The first priority will be to staff “two detachments in each special forces brigade” with professionals.

Such a juxtaposition of the VDV and spetsnaz [special forces] tasks is no coincidence. A representative of the Ministry of Defense pointed out under the conditions of anonymity that the tasks and methods of combat operations of the VDV and the SSO were similar in many respects. They are distinguished by mobility, high combat skills, surprise, and the ability to flexibly react to situational changes and changes in the operational tactics of a probable enemy. Moreover, this does not just concern the “traditional” probable enemy, but it also relates to active extremist and religious groups, including partisan warfare conducted by illegal armed formations (NVF) in Russia.

Russia's Airborne Forces (VDV) should expand the scope of their mission and be prepared to operate as a rapid reaction force, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said on 27 February 2013. “The Airborne Forces are to be used as rapid reaction forces in responding to crises,” Shoigu told an meeting of senior officers at the Defense Ministry, but did not elaborate.

At the beginning of April 2013 joint tasks of the VDV, an SSO formation, and the naval infantry were exercised during surprise graded maneuvers conducted by order of the country’s President, Vladimir Putin. It is noteworthy that these formations practiced tasks in coordination with Russian Navy large landing ships. It is no secret in the Ministry of Defense that these maneuvers were linked to issues relating to providing security for the forthcoming Winter Olympics in Sochi. And soon the Rapid Reaction Forces were concentrated near Kazan, where the World [Summer] Universiade games would be held.

Hero of Russia, Airborne Troops Commander Colonel-General Vladimir Shamanov told RIA Novosti Correspondent Igor Andreyev on 24 April 2013 "The Special Operations Forces are an adequately specific organism and we are coordinating with them. My firm conviction is that the VDV, the Special Operations Forces, the operationally subordinate Spetsnaz brigades, and naval infantry formations and units on the maritime axes must be merged within the new structure – let’s call it, let’s say, rapid reaction troops – under joint command under the leadership of the General Staff. Then, besides the four static operational-strategic commands, a fifth, mobile operational-strategic command will appear in the country, which has 550,000 kilometers of land border, which is washed from three sides by seas and oceans, which will permit it to react in an integrated manner to threats and challenges both within the country and also beyond its borders."

The Russian military was to assign an additional three air assault brigades to the Airborne Forces (VDV) in order to boost its rapid reaction capability in future conflicts, VDV commander Col. Gen. Vladimir Shamanov said 31 July 2013. “The Airborne Troops will become the core of Russia’s rapid reaction forces, and in order to ensure that…the paratroopers are capable of performing this task, I proposed to the Russian military leadership to reassign three air assault brigades from the Eastern and Southern military districts to the VDV,” Shamanov said.

In July 2013, Colonel General Shamanov, Russian Airborne Forces Commander, announced that the Airborne Troops would become the core of Russia’s rapid reaction forces. As reported in a November 2013 interview with Shamanov, the Russian Armed Forces were experimenting with the establishment of the Rapid Reaction Forces (RRF). Although the many details were yet to be determined, Russian commentary indicated that the Russian RRF would likely be a 70,000-80,000 member force, primarily built around the Russian Airborne Forces (VDV), with air-land-sea capability, and suited to peace support operations, in addition to responding to threats.

The land component of the RRF is based upon three motorized rifle brigades (MRBs) and select SPETSNAZ and special operations forces. Relative to their strategic importance, the MRBs are located in or near internal hot spots, such as the volatile North Caucuses region, and external hotspots, such as Georgia and Armenia, where direct action or peacekeeping assets could be required on short order.

The sea component of the RRF will likely consist of the approximately 9000-strong Naval Infantry and be based around each of the four fleets and one flotilla. The Naval Infantry makes a good fit in the RRF due to close historical ties with the VDV, and that fact that naval infantrymen routinely train at the VDV training center in Ryazan. Moreover, Major General Alexander Kolpachenko, then Commander of the Coastal Defense Forces, was a VDV officer. As for other naval assets, there had been some mention of including large amphibious landing craft.

In order to quickly deploy and support forces, Russian media report that the RRF will have an air capability for direct air support (helicopter, light reconnaissance, and tactical strike). It will also have limited assets for long-distance transport and jump operations.

The core of the RRF is built around the VDV, with approximately 35,000 paratroopers. The Russian VDV is significantly different than its Western counterparts: structurally the VDV is a mechanized force, and is divided between parachute and air assault units. In terms of function, the Russian VDV fulfills many of the same roles as those in the West, but also fills another niche, not typically associated with Western airborne forces, i.e., that of a reliable enforcer for politically sensitive operations.

In early March 2014 Russian forces sealed off the Crimean peninsula from Ukraine. Removing all identifying markers from equipment and uniforms does not necessarily reduce the combat effectiveness of a strategic land-power, but it certainly adds to the fog of war. Everyone understood that this is Russian equipment and these are Russian soldiers. Such weapons and uniforms among the locals have never been seen and they couldn’t possibly possess.

The core components of the proposed RRF (VDV, Naval Infantry, SPETSNAZ) were thought to be operating in the Crimea in 2014, raising the possibility that they have already been activated and the Crimea may have been their first campaign. The “polite riflemen” or "Little Green Men" may be Russian airborne troops. The question is how many of them were on the peninsula. The military themselves talked about 1000 men, Kiev asserted that there were several times more.

At the end of February 2014, servicemen serving in the Chechnya, the 31st Separate Guards Air Assault Brigade from Ulyanovsk, the 22nd Separate Spetsnaz Brigade of the Main Intelligence Directorate (GRU) of the RF General Staff, and stationed in the village of Krasnaya Polyana not far from Sochi, were transferred into Crimea. Moreover Airborne troops from Pskov were landed in Crimea. On 3 March they blockaded the position of the 10th Saksk Naval Aviation Brigade of Ukraine’s Navy. One more Pskov brigade was positioned near the Russian-Ukrainian border around Kharkovsk oblast. Naval infantryman from Novorossiysk and Airborne Troops from Tol’yatti were also inserted into the Crimea.

The Russian Defense Ministry planned crash courses to train large numbers of snipers -- and train them fast. Beginning on 01 December 2011, training courses for snipers selected from the most promising conscripts began in four of Russia's six military districts. The courses last just three months, which experts consider far too little. Graduates of the three month training course won't be snipers, just rank-and-file soldiers capable of shooting at a distance of 400-500 meters. A real sniper can hit a target at 1.5 kilometers. To be able to do that, the Alpha division trains its snipers for three years, and the presidential security force for two years. Sharpshooters could be deployed in the event of mass demonstrations (when a few judicious sniper shots could send protesters fleeing into the arms of riot police), riots, or an Arab Spring type uprising.

The RRF under single operational command was planned to include all airborne (4 divisions and brigade), 3 motorized brigades (peacemaking and 2 mountain), Marine Infantry (3 brigades, 2 regiments, 4 B-on) and formed forces of special operations (mtr), including the 7 SF brigades, as well as the FSB, plus units of federal services for protection, execution of punishments and control over drug trafficking (FSO, FSIN and FDCS). The basis of the RRF were to compose the airborne troops, and on the basis of their management was planned to form the headquarters of RRF [5, 7, 8]. Such a force grouping would have the capacity of the joint strategic Command.

This relates to 2013, and it is based on numerous interviews of the then commander of the airborne shamanov, who insistently promoted the idea of creating large interspecies RRF on the basis of airborne and under the command of airborne troops. The latest posts on RRF date back to May 2015, and they are also based on the interview with Shamanov (there RRF were named "rapid reaction Troops").

There were no more posts on this topic. Whether the higher military leadership then abandoned the idea of creating these forces (troops), whether they were created, but have a secret status, and their existence is not officially recognized.

One version says that these RRF, united under the leadership of such an ambitious and decisive commander of the Airborne Forces as V. Shamanov (or similar) 4 highly mobile and best-prepared army-level groups and numbers (Airborne Forces, SV, marines, SSO) , could be successfully used to carry out a coup. Maybe this is why V. Shamanov in 2016 (at the age of 59!) was dismissed from the Armed Forces and “elected” to the State Duma, where he took the post of chairman of the defense committee.

And for the second version they say the seizure of the Crimea and the occupation of a part of the Donbass by interspecific groupings of forces — were the actions of the RRF.

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