Recent changes in personnel levels, coupled with equipment modernisation and operational experience, has made Russia’s elite airborne force (the VDV) an even more formidable force. As Russia shifts its gaze from perceived threats along its southern borders to those along its western ones, together with a fundamental shift to a military doctrine that once more sees NATO as the primary threat, the temptation to use the VDV as a military solution to political problems will likely only grow.
This handbook from Open Briefing provides an in-depth look at the ongoing transformation of Russia’s airborne forces, together with a strategic order of battle that details personnel and equipment levels for each of Russia’s four airborne divisions, four independent air assault brigades, Spetsnaz regiment, headquarters units and training division. As such, it represents the most detailed open source intelligence on Russia’s airborne forces available today.
When uniformed irregular forces wearing no insignia moved to control key locations in Crimea in March 2014, few believed the Kremlin’s claim that they were local volunteer self-defence forces. It soon became clear that the men preparing the way for Russia’s annexation of Crimea were from elite Russian military units, including paratroopers and special forces from Russian Airborne Troops. With its origins in the 1930s, Russia’s airborne force is currently the largest and most highly-mechanised in the world. Their presence in Crimea and eastern Ukraine only confirms their status as an elite force within the Russian military.