Preface: The point behind this document is not to be an all-inclusive view into the Russian Military and its doctrines, but to briefly explain the purpose behind various units. It can be strange to see Motor-Rifle troops deploying in a VDV DShG role. There are two major branches that we will be dealing with, the Regular Forces and the MVD, which is the Ministry of Internal Affairs. We will start with the Regular Forces. - Motor Rifle Troops are the Mechanized/Motorized Infantry. Operating alongside Armour units, they support and are supported by the tankers. Various terms such as "Mahra" and "Motostrelok" are alternative names for these units. Their equipment tends to be rather heavy, and they're not expected to operate seperate from their APC or IFV for any significant length of time. In Afghanistan, it was found that when the Motor Rifle troops had to disembark their vehicles and attack up slopes, the Mujahideen would be able to easily escape. This led to the increased use of VDV and Mountain Infantry units. It would seem that the Motostrelokii commonly deploy with a large number of heavy weapons, including NSV, AGS-17, and 82mm mortars. The Motor-Rifles operate in a assault role, primarily. - VDV, the Vozdushno-Desantnye Voyska, are Russia's Airborne troops. They are an elite unit, tasked with parachute and air-assault / air-mobile operations. Besides being parachute qualified, they also form the core of DShG (Formerly DShB) or Desantno-Shturmovaya Gruppa (Formerly Desantno - Shturmovaya Brigada), the Air-Assault troops who would deploy via Mi-24, Mi-8, Ka-60, etc. There are several anecdotes attributed to the VDV, and these are well respected troops. A distinguishing feature is the light blue-striped Telnyashka undershirt and the Blue Beret. One anecdote is as follows: Two Militsiya (Policemen) are walking their patrol route when they see a drunken "Desantnik" on leave. One turns to the other and says: "You go first, try to arrest him, and then I'll avenge you." - Naval Infantry are the Marines of the Russian Federation (And former Soviet Union). They are probably the best regular troops available to the Russians, highly trained, motivated, and well equipped, needless to say, an elite on par with the VDV. They're typically used as "shock troops," used to bash their way ashore and fight through enemy defensive lines. They wear the black beret, but their distinguishing feature is a Red Circle with a Gold Anchor inside it. Naval Infantry (Morskaya Pexhota / MORPEH) are also parachute qualified and are often seen deploying in an air-assault role as well, though to my knowledge they do not form a part of the DShG. Roman Stepanov has this to say about the Naval Infantry: "Our Naval Infantry is one of the most respected crowds in the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation. I would have to say even in Soviet times. Morskaya Pexhota were always respected a lot. "Black Death" is what the Chechens called our Black Berets during Dudaev's regime. When the Caspian Regiment was taking his palace in 1995, most of the Chechens chose death instead of fighting our legendary Naval Infantry. There is evidence, some of which is recorded on video, showing Chechens jumping off the buildings. They chose death instead of face to face combat with the Black Berets. The anchor emblem is the most important thing in their lives. Black Beret and the Anchor!" - Spetsnaz come in a variety of flavours. The original (and "only") Spetsnaz unit are those formed by the GRU, used much as the SAS would be. They conduct assassinations, raids deep behind enemy lines, sabotage, reconnaissance, and similar tasks. These are the GRU SpN. Naval SpN operate in a similiar fashion. During Soviet times, most SpN could be identified (those operating alongside Airborne units) by the lack of a "Guards" patch, which was worn by nearly all VDV Regiments as they had earned the honorific during the Great Patriotic War (WWII). However, Naval Spetsnaz wore the uniform and insignia of the Naval Infantry and thusly could not be identified in such an easy manner. The Naval Spetsnaz have retained their secrecy, and little is known of them. From personal discussions with a GRU SpN man who would prefer not to be named at the moment, the Naval Spetsnaz are "frightening motherfuckers, very skilled." It should be noted that Spetsnaz is an abbreviated term which means "Special Purpose." Spetsnaz, and the abbreviation SpN, are often used to denote units which are not used in the above described roles, and has become a sort of "one size fits all" term for any Russian Special Forces unit. The Spetsnaz units released by RHS at the time of writing (GRU & Naval) operate with the Military, not the MVD. -- During the fall of the Soviet Union and the effective collapse of Russia over the course of the 1990s, the MVD became especially confusing, to the point that even OMON officers had no idea what their actual tasking was beyond the mission they had been assigned. Several conflicting opinions on what each unit is tasked to do exist, and it is my current goal to briefly explain the purposes behind each. In all honesty, OMON and OMSN are practically interchangeable in terms of the missions they conduct. The MVD is tasked with counter-terrorism, combating narcotics traffic, and internal security. In addition to the special operations teams it has control over, the MVD also has a "Second Military," complete with Armour, Artillery, and Aviation. The same goes for the Border Guard force, who don't have to be covered in-depth here. The MVD were assigned to operate inside Chechnya alongside Regular Forces, and because of some friendly fire incidents and a high level of corruption (for the time) the Regular Forces considered them to be second-rate troops, barely capable of even basic tasks. This however did not extend to OMON or OMSN. OMON, or Otryad Militsii Osobogo Naznacheniye, means "Special Purpose Police Detatchment." These troops have a variety of tasks, and have operated in Chechnya. In addition to working with civilians and the police force, they can be used to secure the rear echelons of Regular Force units, and in Chechnya, are often seen manning checkpoints. Typically there is an OMON unit per major city and province in the Russian Federation. OMON are sometimes referred to as "Black Berets," although it would seem that they've stopped doing that as of late. OMSN, or Otryad Militsii Spetsialnogo Naznacheniye, meaning "Special Operations Police Team." They are more highly professional than OMON, consisting of higher-ranking police officers, and OMSN detatchments have seen service in Chechnya. They are also assigned counterterrorist duties and have recieved advanced training and equipment. OMSN are derived from SOBR (SOBR - Spetsialniye Otryadii Bystrogo Ryeagiprovaniya. [Special Rapid Reaction Unit]), which was reformed in 2002 as OMSN. An operation for OMON or OMSN/SOBR troops may be, for example, to raid an arms deal site and arrest or kill all involved and recover the black market weaponry, raid a drug cache or manufacturing site, or conduct high risk arrest warrants, for example trying to arrest a higher-ranking member of the Russian Mafia. By comparison, Vityaz units - often the word is capitalized, although it is not an acronym - belong to the Military Police. They are a special operations unit, sometimes subordinated to work with the MVD. Vityaz means "Knight." Examples of operations that they would conduct would be securing rear areas, engaging enemy special forces units (For example, a located SAS unit), and assisting in the reduction of any stragglers. Example operations would include, to use OFP CWC examples, hunting down David Armstrong during the American retreat from Everon, or for example, conducting a night attack on Cancon during the "Lost Squad" MP Cooperative mission with the aim of killing or capturing the enemy troops there. -- Marks of elite formations, besides the obvious insignias, are things such as the Telnyashka striped undershirt. It was originally a Naval item of wear, consisting of dark blue horizontal stripes on a white background, where the blue represented the ocean's water and the white the foam of the white-cap waves, unless you were part of a Northern Fleet in which case the white was the ice. When the Navy re-trained some personnel to form Naval Infantry detatchments, they fought in their Telnyashkas (Russian Plural: Telnyashkii) underneath their Army uniforms, if they didn't fight in their Naval uniforms. When the VDV were being formed up in WWII, in order to give the troops courage and confidence in their abilities, it was ordered that they would wear the Telnyashka as well. The VDV eventually managed to distinguish themselves sufficiently that the Naval Infantry and Navy stopped resenting this, which was also helped when they switched to a Light Blue and White pattern, insteady of the Navy Blue. For the VDV, the blue and white is the blue of the sky and the white of the clouds. Several variations of Telnyashkii exist, including black-striped and even a red-striped version. These seem to have faded from use. -- In closing it's sufficient to say that the Russians, the MVD especially can be very confusing. This document however should have given you a better understanding of the purposes of various units and a measure of their history and prestige. Credits to Mr. Roman Stepanov and .COMmunist as well as others who wish to remain unnamed for the time being. Regards, - AK -- EDIT: 01-12-06 / 02-12-06. FSB Special Operations Units. As you may have noticed, recently another RHS release was made, this time involving FSS / FSB SOC units. In transliterated Russian: Centr Spetsial'nogo Naznacheniya Federal'noy Sluzhbiy Bezopasnosti. (Federal Security Service Special Operations Command.) As mentioned in the readme, the two major (well, best known) units under FSS/FSB SOC authority are "ALFA" and "VYMPEL." "Alfa" is the premier counter-terrorist unit in the Russian Federation. Originally designated "Group A" and authorized by Yuri Andropov on 28 July of 1974, it was later referred to as "Alfa" by many following the dissolution of the Soviet Union. This unit has taken part in the vast majority of hostage rescue operations since its formation. However, Provincal (Oblast) and even city authorities have the final say on which team is used; when local OMON or less often, OMSN units are deployed, we find that they do not perform as well as the FSS Alfa, sometimes tragically resulting in the deaths of hostages or friendly units. Alfa consists entirely of Commissioned Officers (Lieutenant and above) from the KGB, and later FSB/FSS. The unit contains underwater demolition specialists, snipers, negotiators, psychologists, and the like. During Soviet times, Alfa deployed regional subunits, which later became the leading counterterrorist elements in those nations at the breakup of the Soviet Union. - Vympel can be translated to mean many things. I find the most appropriate translation is "Banner," although "Pennant" also works nicely. Sometimes this is also translated as "Flag." To clarify what the strangely translated section of the FSS SOC readme says, the primary duties of VYMPEL and the history thereof is as follows: Primary tasks are to conduct reconnaissance and subversive operations, engage in counterinsurgency and counterterrorist warfare domestically and abroad, protect important personnel and train in their evacuation (IE: Protecting Ambassadors, etc), capturing strategically vital objectives during wartime (Example: Nuclear Power facilities), assisting in the protection of strategically important facilities in the Soviet Union / Russian Federation, all while working in close cooperation with the KGB and GRU. During the Soviet-Afghan war, VYMPEL units conducted intelligence gathering and sabotage raids. They have infiltrated Mujahideen groups, conducted "subversive operations" (Example: Turning one band of guerillas against another) and freed captives held by the Mujahideen. In 1991, as the Soviet Union dissolved, "Vympel" was assigned an additional task: Should a strategically important facility be captured by terrorists or other irregular forces, it would be their job to re-secure it. As an interesting note, VYMPEL conducted a training exercise alongside KGB elements, acting as the Opposition Force. The units defending the targetted objectives were given some, or no warning of an impending attack in order to test readiness and proeficiency. VYMPEL usually conducted mock attacks on several objectives simultaneously. Missions included reconnaissance, securing samples of sensitive technology, kidnapping important personnel, "destroying" rail-heads, missile silos, etc, and other such tasks. Reportedly the training was a complete success with everyone involved gaining a tremendous boon of experience. If you've read this far, then you know how the units are used now. Go forth and make some kickass missions. Regards, - AKA very interesting read if you ask me.
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