During the 1970s, when the Cold War was at its height, the West became aware
of the existence of Soviet Spetsnaz troops, which were grouped into what
were known as "diversionary brigades." Today, although the Cold War is long
since ended, Spetsnaz units are still part of the Russian order-of-battle,
although their missions have changed.
Spetsnaz (Spetsialnoye nazranie = troops of special purpose) were raised as
the troops of the Glavnoe razvedyvatel'noe upravlenie (GRU) (= main
intelligence directorate [of the General Staff]) and in the 1980s numbered
some 30,000. These were deployed: one Spetsnaz company per Army; one
Spetsnaz regiment in each of the three "theaters of operations"; one
Spetsnaz brigade in each of the four Soviet Fleets; and an independent
Spetsnaz brigade in most military districts of the USSR. There were also
special Spetsnaz intelligence units, one to each Front and Fleet: total 20.
A Spetsnaz company was 135 strong, normally operating in 15 independent
teams, although they could also combine for specific missions. A Spetsnaz
brigade was 1,000-1,300 strong and consisted of a headquarters, three or
four parachute battalions, a communications company, and supporting troops.
It also included an anti-VIP company, composed of some 70-80 regular troops
(ie, not conscripts) whose mission was to seek out, identify and kill enemy
political and military leaders. A naval Spetsnaz brigade had a headquarters,
two to three battalions of combat swimmers, a parachute battalion,
supporting units, and an anti-VIP company. It also had a group of midget
submarines designed to deliver combat swimmers to distant targets.
The existence of Spetsnaz was a closely guarded secret within the Warsaw
Pact and individual troops were not allowed to admit membership, to the
extent that army Spetsnaz wore standard airborne uniforms and insignia,
while naval Spetsnaz wore naval infantry uniforms and insignia.
Spetsnaz in 1999
Some of the republics which broke away from the old Soviet Union took over
the Spetsnaz units within their borders or have converted parachute units to
the Spetsnaz role. Within the Russian Federation Spetsnaz units are less
well trained and equipped, at a lower strength, and at a lesser degree of
readiness than during the 1970s and 1980s. Despite that, they continue to
exist, although their numbers are not known for certain.
Naval Spetsnaz also continue to serve in the Northern, Baltic, Black Sea,
and Pacific fleets. Most of these are subordinate to the Fleet commanders,
but some are under the direct control of the Naval Commander-in-Chief in
Moscow. Again, their manning levels are not known and it may be that, like
other areas in the Russian armed forces, they are seriously under strength.
Russian naval special-designation forces, or spetsnaz, have been less visible in the wake of the USSR's dissolution. Recently, however, the Russian navy's commander in chief, Admiral Vladimir Kuroyedov, reaffirmed that naval special-operations units – which have a long, active history in the Soviet armed forces – remain assigned to the Russian Baltic, northern, Pacific and Black Sea fleets. Although the admiral provided few specifics on the size and capabilities of the units, he did indicate that they were elite, that they were equipped with special weapons (including small submarines), and that they were comparable to U.S. Navy SEALS or the Israeli Navy's 13th Flotilla. Stating that these units have no special name beyond their "combat swimmer" or "naval spetsnaz" designations, the admiral indicated that most of the units are directly subordinate to their respective fleet commander. Of particular note, Kuroyedov said that he retains naval spetsnaz subunits under his direct control as well, "for resolving fleet tasks and rendering assistance.
Although Spetsnaz units may be used for other purposes during peacetime,
their primary role is to carry out strategic missions during the final days
prior to war breaking out and in war itself. These wartime tasks would
include: deep reconnaissance of strategic targets; the destruction of
strategically important command-control-and-communications (C3) facilities;
the destruction of strategic weapons' delivery systems; demolition of
important bridges and and transportation routes; and the snatching or
assassination of important military and political leaders. Many of these
missions would be carried out before the enemy could react and some even
before war had actually broken out.
The Russian Federation now acknowledges the existence of Spetsnaz units and,
as a result special badges and berets are now worn, identifying such troops.
On operations the majority of Spetsnaz soldiers would carry a 5.45mm AKS-74
rifle and a 5.45mm PRI automatic pistol. All would also carry combat knives,
which are specially designed for Spetsnaz troops. One such design is the
NR-2, an ingenious device which in addition to the blade incorporates a
short 7.62mm caliber barrel in the handle and is fired by clipping the
scabbard and knife together to give some control. Quite when such a weapon
would be used instead of a knife or a pistol is open to question. Spetsnaz
troops are also trained in all types of foreign weapons.
Those joining Spetsnaz with no previous military experience must be given
the normal recruit's basic training in discipline, marching, fieldcraft,
weapons handling, and range work. Once the recruit moves on to proper
Spetsnaz training, however, the pressure intensifies:
* weapons handling, including the use of foreign weapons and marksmanship;
* physical fitness, with an emphasis on endurance and strength;
* tracking, patroling, camouflage, and surveillance techniques, including
survival in a wide variety of harsh environments;
* hand-to-hand combat, both unarmed and with knives (both hand-held and
throwing), and assassination of designated targets;
* sabotage and demolitions;
* language training and prisoner interrogation;
* infiltration by air, including parachuting for fixed-wing aircraft, and
exit from helicopters by ropes or parachute.
Naval Spetsnaz must, in addition, learn combat swimmer techniques, the use
of underwater weapons, canoeing, arrival and exit over beaches, exit and
entry to submerged submarines. (Note: this is not all Spetsnaz training,
this is only to give the reader a better understanding of what Spetsnaz
training is like)
Other Spetsnaz Troops
During the 1970s and 1980s special operations troops became increasingly the
vogue in various ministries of the (then) Soviet Union. Further, such was
the large and disorganized nature and wastefulness of the Soviet system that
similar bodies with similar missions were set up by different parts of the
same ministry, particularly within the Committee for State Security (KGB)
and the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MVD). These special troops went under
the generic title of Spetsgruppe and were paramilitary forces which received
special training and indoctrination for a variery of missions. Many of these
units served in a variety of roles in the war in Afghanistan but for most of
them a defining moment seems to have been reached during the 1991 coup, when
they were forced to take sides, or at least to refuse to take action. After
the coup had been defeated President Yeltsin transfered most of them to his
personal control but they have since been transfered yet again back to
various ministries. Many of the groups have been involved in the recent
conflicts in the Russian Federation, including Chech'nya.
Spetsgruppa "Al'fa" (= special group A) was set up by the KGB's Seventh
Directorate in 1974 and appears to have been inspired by the British SAS and
US 1SFOD-D (Delta) as a c ounter-terrorist and hostage-rescue group. Al'fa
is generally credited with being the unit that attacked the Presidential
palace in Kabul, Afghanistan, on December 28 1980 and murdered President
Hafizullah Amin and his family. Al'fa is now controlled by the FSB
(Federal'naia sluzhba bezopasnosti = Federal Security Service) in general
terms, equivalent to the USA's FBI. Current strength is estimated to be
about 300, with the main group in Moscow and three smaller groups elsewhere
in the federation.
Also raised by the KGB, but this time the First Chief Administration, was
Spetsgruppa Vympel whose mission was to fullfil the KGB's wartime role of
assassination and snatching. After the collapse of the Soviet Union it was
transferred to the MVD but is now with the FSB with a primary responsibility
for a hostage rescue.
The Ministry of Internal Affairs also has at least two groups of special
troops known as the Omon (= black berets), which were originally raised to
provide additional security and (if necessary) hostage rescue at the 1980
Moscow Olympics. Since then they have been used for counter-terrorist
activities and defeating armed criminals, and are currently involved in
campaigns against drug cultivation.
Symbolizing the disorganized nature of contemporary Russia is the GROM
Security Company, which is a quasi-private organization working under
exclusive contract to the Federal Government. GROM (thr Russian word for
"thunder" and with no relationship to the Polish group of the same name) is
manned by former troops of the various KGB special forces and provides
security for selected government personnel and buildings, as well as for
trains and aircrafts.
Speznaz UIN is a group of special assignment, which submits UIN (management on performance of punishment, UIN submits to the ministry of justice) with tasks: suppression of the mass disorders and revolts in prisons, colonies, rescue of the hostages seized and deducted in prisons and colonies, barricades situation in these establishments, search and detention run made. The employees of speznaz UIN carry berets of black colour with general-army cockade and Russian flag on the left party of beret.
information provided by John Keller