The conflict between Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov and the paratrooper veterans, which erupted after the Secretary of Defense in September 2010 allegedly killed the head of the Ryazan Airborne School, Colonel Andrei Krasov, continues to gain momentum. Last week there were reports in the media that President Dmitry Medvedev became interested in the conflict and he was “very concerned about the current situation.” And the Union of Russian Paratroopers submitted an application to the Moscow mayor's office to hold an “anti-Serdyukovskiy” rally of 10 thousand people on Poklonnaya Hill. But, according to experts, the rudeness of the minister is only a visible part of the conflict around the Airborne Forces. The struggle is no less for the preservation of the Airborne Forces as such. Who will emerge victorious from it and will the legendary "winged infantry" remain in the Russian Armed Forces?
The current attempt to reform the Airborne Forces is not the first. These troops have been unsuccessfully trying to reform for about 10 years. The closest thing to success was General Anatoly Kvashnin (at that time Chief of the General Staff), who in 2001 tried to include the Airborne Forces in the Ground Forces. It was even announced that the two divisions of the Airborne Forces were already subordinate to the command of the military districts in whose territory they were stationed. Then the commander of the Airborne Forces, General Georgy Shpak, took a last step - he addressed the president directly, and the reform was curtailed.
For example, during the fighting in Afghanistan, massive airborne landing was used only once, and then instead of paratroopers, parachutes dropped sandbags from airplanes. Dushmans opened heavy fire at the "landing", gunners spotted and destroyed their firing points ...
It should be noted that in almost all developed armies, troops similar to our Airborne troops are usually part of the Ground Forces, less often in the Air Force, and only in some former separated republics of the Soviet Union are an independent branch of the military.
In Russia, the Airborne Forces, among other things, also carry the status of a mobile reserve of the Supreme Commander of the Russian Federation, moreover, an aura of the most trained and capable troops was created around the airborne forces for years, which, by the way, they were. The "elitism" of the Airborne Forces was supported financially: the paratroopers always had advanced weapons and equipment, officers were paid a higher monetary allowance, and the best conscripts were sent to serve in the Airborne Forces.
Apparently, the civil defense minister Anatoly Serdyukov talk about the elite status of the Airborne Forces only partially concern. No matter how combat-ready the airborne forces, it is obvious that their maintenance requires much higher costs than the same motorized rifle units. Moreover, the effect of such extra costs is doubtful. According to many military analysts, with the modern development of air defense systems, it is practically impossible to carry out a mass landing of paratroopers, which is confirmed by the experience of recent military conflicts. So, for example, during the military operations in Afghanistan, mass airborne landing was used only once, and then sandbags were dropped instead of paratroopers from airplanes. Dushmans opened heavy fire on the "landing", gunners spotted and destroyed their firing points. As the participants in this operation recall, later on the earth they could not find a single whole bag. What can we say about the use of the Airborne Forces against an enemy possessing modern air defense systems and aviation. Airplanes with a landing just will not reach the landing site.
That is, the airborne unit in fact has long been turned into a regular infantry. Albeit well prepared. But at the same time, to ensure them, it is necessary to contain additional parts of transport aviation, to develop and purchase special weapons and equipment.
Therefore, at the very beginning of military reform in 2008, these elite troops did not intend to spare. Moreover, as part of the reform of the Airborne Forces, it was reported that a directive was signed, according to which by the 1 of December 2009 of the year every fourth or fifth officer of the combat units and formations, as well as the units of combat and rear support of the airborne forces, was to be reduced. By the same date, the 106 division of the Airborne Forces was to be disbanded - it was planned to reassign its regiments to other units, and completely reduce the rear units.
It would seem that reforming is no longer to be avoided, but the war with Georgia made adjustments to the reform of the Airborne Forces, which, according to many analysts, compared to other incompetent parts, were the only ones ready for combat operations.
At the same time, General Vladimir Shamanov, the current commander of the Airborne Forces, was gaining momentum. Then, as head of the Main Directorate of Combat Training and Service of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation, he unexpectedly headed the Russian military group in Abkhazia, where he led the operation of Russian paratroopers, although the post of chief of combat training does not involve participation in hostilities. Judging by the fact that the general was awarded the Order of St. George IV degree, the troops under his leadership acted very successfully.
On the wave of increased prestige, Vladimir Shamanov headed the Airborne Forces in May 2009. Using his influence, he managed to keep the divisions of the Airborne Forces virtually intact, and this against the background of the fact that in the Ground Forces all divisions were transformed into brigades. Moreover, on the day of the appointment of the new commander, Chief of the General Staff of the RF Armed Forces, General of the Army Nikolai Makarov said that the airborne forces would be further developed, the troops would be preserved. It was even planned that an airborne assault brigade would be deployed as part of the Moscow military district, and for the Leningrad military district an 3 airborne regiment based on the 76 airborne division would be created.
However, in the fall of 2009, the commander of the Airborne Forces found himself at the center of a criminal scandal. A telephone conversation was made public during which General Shamanov ordered his subordinate to send two groups of special forces of the 45 Special Forces Airborne Regiment to detain the investigator who conducted investigative activities at the Sporttek plant as part of the investigated criminal case of the attempted assassination of the chairman of the board of directors of the agricultural holding. Shchelkovsky. Then the commander of the Airborne Forces of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation, Lieutenant General Vladimir Shamanov was warned about incomplete official compliance for trying to use his official position for personal purposes.
The weakening of the position of the Commander of the Airborne Forces, according to experts, triggered a return to the reform of the Airborne Forces. The paratroopers received a kind of “black mark” in August 2010 of the year. 80-year anniversary of the Airborne Forces leadership of the country and the Ministry of Defense simply ignored.
According to the head of the Center for Military Forecasting of the Institute for Political and Military Analysis, Anatoly Gypsy, the fundamental reform of the Airborne Forces cannot be avoided, despite the protests of veterans. At the time, General Shamanov stepped on the sore spot to the Minister of Defense when he defended the Airborne Forces, taking advantage of the arrangement of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. According to the expert, this time everything goes smoothly. Although, in the opinion of our interlocutor, this reform will greatly weaken the army.
However, the reform has already begun. As a source at the General Staff told “Our Version”, immediately after the incident in Ryazan, a large group of auditors was sent to the Airborne Forces headquarters to conduct a financial audit. Moreover, its goal was not so much to identify any violations as to prepare the financial base for redeployment to Ryazan from Moscow of the General Staff of the Airborne Forces. In this case, the number of headquarters will be all 57 people.
Chairman of the Central Council of the Union of Paratroopers of Russia Pavel Popovskikh also believes that the process of reforming the Airborne Forces has already been launched. For example, the Ryazan Airborne School is no longer subject to the command of the Airborne Forces, it became the amphibious department of the Military Training Center of the Ground Forces (Combined Arms Academy). Also, the command of the Airborne Forces has been removed from the pre-draft training of young people and from being drafted into the Airborne Forces - this is now a function of the organizational-mobilization departments of military districts. According to Popovskikh, a directive has been prepared, according to which, in the near future, the Airborne Command becomes a subdivision of the Main Command of the Ground Forces, and airborne units and units are actually withdrawn from the reserve and directly subordinate to the Supreme Commander and the General Staff of the Armed Forces and transferred to the operational command of the North "," West "," South "," East ". For specialists, this means one thing - the most authoritative troops in Russia will soon cease to exist. It is completely obvious that no protest actions of veterans and scandals with the “foul language of the minister of defense” can prevent this.
However, although the Airborne Forces will most likely be eliminated, the Russian army will not remain without the “blue berets”. As we have said, airborne units can reassign the command of military districts. By the way, the Soviet army had a similar experience: paratroopers could be met not only directly in the Airborne Forces, but also in the Ground Forces. At the end of the 60-x - the beginning of the 70-ies in the military districts formed airborne assault brigades. These were quite powerful units: in addition to the amphibious units proper, they included two helicopter regiments, artillery and air defense units. But in contrast to the Airborne Forces, where the main means of landing were military transport aircraft, the assault landing brigades had to operate from helicopters. Interestingly, the airmobile units of the American army, which then very successfully operated in Vietnam, became the prototype of the Soviet assault units. In addition to the district airborne assault brigades, their paratroopers soon appeared in the “staff” of the combined-arms armies - each army had its own separate assault-landing battalion (ODBB). By the way, the land paratroopers wore the same uniform and insignia as their Airborne colleagues. And the Day of Airborne 2 August veterans of these units also consider their professional holiday. In 1990, the brigades were disbanded, and their remnants were transferred to the Airborne Forces, but now the process can go in the opposite direction.
The fact that the paratroopers still remain in the army is confirmed by their constant participation in all the last major exercises. Just last week, in the course of the tactical exercises of the Collective Rapid Reaction Forces of the CSTO “Interaction-2010” in the Chelyabinsk Region, a large-scale landing was made at the Chebarkul training ground. On the ground from the sides of the military transport aircraft landed more
350 paratroopers and 9 units of equipment. In October, 2010, an airborne troops exercise was held in the Pskov region. The equipment and personnel of the 51 th airborne regiment stationed in Tula were transferred to the region. True, the mass landing from the air did not work out: a strong wind intervened in the plans of the command, and for security reasons, the military decided to confine themselves to airborne equipment.
And the fact that the landing probably will be under the jurisdiction of the Ground Forces, indicates a very indicative situation with the purchase of equipment for the Airborne Forces. In 2010, representatives of the Ministry of Defense stated that they were refusing to purchase the BMD-4 vehicles and the Sprut self-propelled anti-tank gun. And about some kind of alternative to this technique we were not talking. It is clear that without airborne combat vehicles and self-propelled airborne artillery, they will no longer be able to perform such large-scale tasks that they faced before. However, as we have said, experts already call into question the possibility of their implementation.
In the US armed forces as such, a separate airborne kind of troops does not exist. All airmobile forces are part of the 18 airborne corps ground forces. The location of the headquarters of the corps - Fort Bragg (North Carolina). The number of corps is about 90 thousand people.
The main strike force of the corps is the 82-I Airborne Division and 101-I Air Assault Division. The number of 101-division is more than 17 thousand people. Its main armament is about 150 field artillery and mortar guns, 290 helicopters, 400 anti-tank missile systems.
Besides them, the corps includes a mechanized and light infantry divisions, a light armored cavalry regiment, a field artillery brigade, a reconnaissance and electronic warfare brigade, a communications brigade, two brigades of army aviation, engineering, rear, training and medical units.
For the transfer of only one amphibious assault battalion, 24 military transport aircraft "Hercules" is needed. According to American regulations, the release of personnel and equipment from aircraft does not exceed 10 minutes. The collection of the battalion at the landing site and bringing it into combat readiness takes 30 – 40 minutes.
In order to maintain high combat readiness in the corps, an interesting warning system is in effect: all military personnel of the corps, even on vacation, must have a special alert receiver with them. Thanks to such an alarm communication system, it takes no more than two hours to assemble personnel in parts.