Category Archives: Force Structure

The VDV’s 45th Spetsnaz Brigade

October 24 was the MOD’s Day of Special Designation (Spetsnaz) Subunits.  For the occasion, KZ featured the Airborne Troops’ storied 45th Independent Guards Orders of Aleksandr Nevskiy and Kutuzov Special Designation Brigade.

The 45th was a regiment as recently as 2014, but — as VDV Commander Shamanov promised — it is now a brigade.  Maybe it’s expanded in size with its upgraded status.

We’ve heard nothing yet about whether the 45th was deployed in a deep reconnaissance role prior to (and during) Moscow’s air operation against the various enemies of Syrian leader Assad.  It’s a pretty good bet it did and is.

KZ’s story describes at length the process of joining the brigade.  No one, it says, ends up in the 45th by accident.  All are willing volunteers, and far from every would-be VDV Spetsnaz soldier becomes one.

The very strict selection process including physical and psychological examinations begins with draftees in the Voyenkomat, and continues once conscripts reach the unit.  Besides speed, strength, and endurance tests, candidates have to “spar” in three 3-minute fights.  KZ writes:

“Here’s where the quality of determination is revealed:  this is when a candidate, taking a blow, falls, but then gets up and continues to fight to the end.”

The article reports DOSAAF helps train and identify candidates. Belgorod Oblast’s DOSAAF had an entire company of young men accepted into the 45th last year.  Brigade officers look for potential contractees when they visit VDV and other military units.  However, the article doesn’t provide a current breakdown of conscripts and contractees in the brigade.

The article does say 90 percent of its contractees conclude a second contract. The average contractee makes 35,000-40,000 rubles per month after three years. They are eligible for MOD mortgage and non-resident higher education programs.  The brigade is, KZ writes, a special kind of collective, a family, and officers and soldiers don’t want to leave it.

The article describes the brigade’s jump training.  Traditional D-10, and Arbalet-1 and newer Arbalet-2 ram-air parachutes are used.  About 25 D-10 jumps are needed before trying Arbalet.  Some 20 days of training are required on the Arbalet-2.  Troop testing for this chute was done in the 45th.  A skilled paratrooper can reportedly “plane” up to 17 km in a jump with the Arbalet.  The brigade’s soldiers make about 10 training jumps annually.

Not Much Room Left on the Brigade's Memorial Wall (photo:

Not Much Room Left on the Brigade’s Memorial Wall (photo:

Subunit commanders in the 45th remind their soldiers that, “Reconnaissance ends when the shooting starts.”  Especially deep reconnaissance.  The brigade’s primary mission is reconnoitering targets, transmiting their coordinates, and leaving without detection.

But, KZ asks Hero of Russia and deputy commander Lieutenant Colonel Vladimir Seliverstov, with his 15 years of service in the 45th, can’t 21st century technology — satellites and UAVs — replace deep reconnaissance on the ground?  He replies:

“Not fully.  First, a special designation group will direct strike assets against a number of strategic targets no matter what.  Second, after air strikes and artillery preparation, a ground operation begins where special designation subunits will be first to act conducting sabotage and ambushes.  Spetsnaz always work precisely…”

“In recent years, the list of missions put on Spetsnaz has increased substantially.  Some of which I never thought about earlier will be ours.”

Seliverstov notes that the men of the 45th had to equip themselves in 2000, but are now fully outfitted by the state.

KZ writes that an independent reconnaissance detachment from the brigade took part in the operation to “return Crimea to Russia” in the spring of 2014.

The brigade has 14 Heroes of Russia, including four still serving.

A little searching turned up other articles to round out the picture of the 45th. They mostly give the brigade’s history and tend to repeat each other.

There is KZ again, from 2011.

This site gives a bio on current brigade commander Colonel Pankov.  The 47-year-old officer is, of course, career Spetsnaz.  He fought in both Chechen campaigns, and commanded Spetsnaz groups and detachments before becoming deputy commander of the 45th in 2000.  He received his Hero of Russia award in 2001.

Colonel Vadim Pankov (photo: Krasnaya zvezda)

Colonel Vadim Pankov (photo: Krasnaya zvezda)

This one reports that Pankov took command in August 2012 and it has some useful links.

Kubinka’s site covered the brigade’s 20th anniversary in the summer of 2014, and it has some good photos.  The brigade was still a regiment at that point.

The English wiki on the 45th is a little incomplete and a little dated.  The Russian version is more useful, and has a number of sources and links.

Aleksandr Nevskiy Arrives

Families Welcome Nevskiy Home for First Time (photo:

Families Welcome Nevskiy Home for First Time (photo:

Following a roughly 40-day inter-fleet transfer, proyekt 955 Borey-class SSBN Aleksandr Nevskiy arrived at Rybachiy at approximately 1700 hours local on September 30.  Families waiting for the submarine held a sign reading “Welcome to Your Native Shores!”

The Pacific Fleet’s website provided lots of good photos of the occasion.

Nevskiy at New Pier (photo: Ministry of Defense)

Nevskiy at New Pier (photo: Ministry of Defense)

NG published this MOD photo of Aleksandr Nevskiy at its new pier.

The MOD press release for Nevskiy’s arrival focused on the reconstruction of the Pacific Fleet’s SSBN base.  It noted that the new base “should systematically underpin the service cycle, base training, technical servicing of submarines, and life cycle support and have essential social infrastructure to allow crewmen to fulfill their duties fully with great efficiency.”

Down the Gangplank (photo: Ministry of Defense)

Down the Gangplank (photo: Ministry of Defense)

Navy CINC Salutes Nevskiy's Commander (photo:

Navy CINC Salutes Nevskiy’s Commander (photo:

Behind Navy CINC Admiral Viktor Chirkov, Pacific Fleet commander Admiral Sergey Avakyants also salutes.

In remarks to assembled officials, Navy personnel, and families published on, Chirkov said the Pacific Fleet’s submarine force is in a “renewal phase.” Demands on the training of submariners are greater now that 4th generation boats are entering the fleet.

Admiral Chirkov added that the design of 5th generation submarines has begun within the framework of the 2050 Shipbuilding Program.  These future boats will be stealthy, and have improved C3, automated reconnaissance and “collision avoidance” systems, and better weapons, according to him.

In the Interfaks-AVN recap, Admiral Chirkov also referred to the “deep modernization” of existing 3rd generation nuclear subs saying that, “These boats have great modernization potential allowing them to be made practically new and return to the Navy’s order-of-battle as effective and powerful units.”

“The intensity of combat service of [Russian] strategic and multipurpose nuclear-powered submarines on the world’s oceans will be maintained at a level that guarantees our country’s security,” according to the Navy CINC.

Of course, Chirkov didn’t note that — with Russia’s array of land-based ICBMs and position in Eurasia’s heartland — that intensity, that level of submarine operations may not need to be too great.

Nevskiy Captain Vasiliy Tankovid Addresses His Crew (photo:

Nevskiy Captain Vasiliy Tankovid Addresses His Crew (photo:

Family Reunion on the Pier (photo:

Family Reunion on the Pier (photo:

A happy scene familiar to every sailor.

20th CAA on Ukraine’s Border

Russia’s 20th Combined Arms Army (CAA) is redeploying from Nizhegorod to Voronezh on Ukraine’s border, according to a TASS news agency source in the General Staff.

Reports of the army’s transfer from Nizhegorod Oblast, east of Moscow, first appeared in March.  Some Russian media say its 9th Motorized Rifle Brigade has already relocated to Boguchar, southeast of Voronezh on the Ukrainian border.  On 13 August, TASS reported that the army’s units will occupy existing garrisons in Orel, Kursk, Tambov, and Lipetsk Oblasts.

Moscow withdrew the 20th CAA from Germany by 1994, and it spent 16 years in Voronezh before relocating to Mulino, Nizhegorod in 2010.

Voronezh and Boguchar (Red Marker)

Voronezh and Boguchar (Red Marker)

The news agency’s source said the General Staff and Western Military District are determining the future composition of the 20th CAA, particularly new units to be formed or transferred from other military districts.  Its major maneuver forces will likely include another motorized rifle brigade and a tank brigade.  The process is in the initial phase, but should be complete by 1 December, the start of the army’s training year.

The 20th Army will need reinforcement because its most capable formations — the 2nd Taman Motorized Rifle Division, 4th Kantemir Tank Division, and 6th Tank Brigade — reportedly will become part of Russia’s reconstituted 1st Tank Army near Moscow this fall.

TASS reported that General-Major Sergey Kuzovlev will command the army. The Ukrainian Security Service alleges he commands Russian forces and local militia in the self-proclaimed Lugansk People’s Republic.  Officially, he is chief of staff of the Southern MD’s 58th Army, and previously commanded the 18th Motorized Rifle Brigade in Chechnya.

Moving the 20th CAA is a reaction to a year and a half of fighting in eastern Ukraine, and an effort to enhance Kremlin options for border contingencies.  Nevertheless, it’s likely to be some time before most elements of the 20th CAA are settled, manned, trained, and combat ready.

Shaltay Boltay, Missile and Boomer Bases

Shaltay Boltay

Shaltay Boltay

Computer security, whistleblowers, hacks, compromises, and leaks have arrived on these pages.  Not through technical interest, but because of information that’s become available.  But more preface is required.

Russia watchers aren’t sure who’s behind Anonymous International.

Are they computer genius anti-Putin “hacktivists” stealing Kremlin emails and documents, auctioning off some and publicizing others?  Or are they a small, relatively liberal Kremlin faction (or just a few people) leaking information to benefit themselves politically?  Take your choice of analyses (here, here, and here).

They take their noms de plume from Alice in Wonderland.   Shaltay Boltay — Шалтай Болтай (Humpty Dumpty) — is the group’s voice.

The group is famous for hacking and spoofing Prime Minister Dmitriy Medvedev’s Twitter account, and for revealing the Kremlin’s hired trolls at work on Western web sites.  But the group’s latest information is of interest here.

Anonymous International addresses the Chief of the FSB’s Military Counterintelligence Department, General Colonel Aleksandr Bezverkhniy in mock indignation over Defense Ministry emails it obtained.  They reportedly came from the secretary of the former MOD Construction Department Director, Roman Filamonov.

Anonymous International calls the MOD’s information security organs “criminally negligent.”  It claims it used,, and to obtain “service” (FOUO) documents sometimes containing secret data on Russia’s defense capabilities.  Reports on meetings with the Defense Minister and his deputies were allegedly transmitted via easily accessible open email.  The group says Filamonov’s secretary put her username and password for the MOD’s official email server in her electronic files.

Anonymous International asks Bezverkhniy to address the cavalier attitude toward information security among former and current MOD officials.  But everything mentioned is just an excerpt.  The group says it will sell a copy of its complete four-year collection of files from Filamonov’s secretary to the FSB for half price. appended a July 2014 report detailing Spetsstroy work on seven bases for Iskander-M SRBMs, supposed to be done that month.  The 7-billion-ruble contract to prepare these installations for the Iskander-M centered primarily on erecting 56 “tent-mobile shelters.”

But only 21 were completed on schedule — in Luga (26 рбр, 6А, ЗВО), Molkino (1 рбр, 49А, ЮВО), and Birobidzhan (107 рбр, 35А, ВВО).  Others — in Mozdok (probably a battalion’s worth), Znamensk, and Totskoye-2 — were experiencing significant delays in design or construction.  One in Shuya was not due for completion until February of this year.  It’s likely four more bases will be outfitted under some future contract.

This information from Filamonov’s secretary’s email is not particularly revelatory.  The missile brigades are well-known.  But it’s embarrassing that only one-third of this work was finished on time, despite the priority given Iskander-M.  Recall this program is supposed to be 100 percent  procured by 2017.  Additional money will probably be needed to bring the effort back on schedule.

Anonymous International also posted a slightly redacted report on construction, or reconstruction, of 12 Pacific Fleet submarine facilities near Vilyuchinsk to support the basing and operations of proyekt 955 Borey-class SSBNs.  It vaguely outlines a three-phase plan to complete this work in 2014, 2015, and 2017.

Vilyuchinsk and Rybachiy

Vilyuchinsk and Rybachiy

The report refers without specifics to work on mooring areas, shore power, dredging, and 12th GU MO nuclear warhead storage buildings.  In the second phase, it mentions completing a 100-ton crane, missile and weapons handling areas, storage buildings, roads, service housing, and “social infrastructure.” Finally, the report describes “full completion of the Pacific Fleet submarine base” including pier, administrative, vehicle, missile, and weapons storage areas, and roads as well as the “full development” of the energy and water supply for nearby residential areas.

The report is a year old, but depicts a base not quite ready for new fourth generation SSBNs.  Apparently, Aleksandr Nevskiy (K-550) is coming anyway.  Three more Boreys will follow while work at Vilyuchinsk and Rybachiy continues.  As noted previously, the issue of maintaining Russia’s naval strategic nuclear force in the Pacific has been long and painful for the MOD and for the Glavk personally.


Vladimir Monomakh and Yuriy Dolgorukiy in Gadzhiyevo

Vladimir Monomakh and Yuriy Dolgorukiy in Gadzhiyevo

Interfaks-AVN reports Borey-class SSBN Aleksandr Nevskiy (K-550) will soon embark on an inter-fleet transfer from the Northern Fleet submarine base at Gadzhiyevo to Vilyuchinsk in the Pacific Fleet.

Nevskiy may not spend another winter in Gadzhiyevo like Monomakh and Dolgorukiy above.  Not too many months ago, it was thought Monomakh would also reach the Pacific Fleet this year.  That boat apparently needs a second successful Bulava SLBM firing before it can depart the northern waters where it was built.

The Russian Navy conducted a major training assembly on under-ice operations for nuclear submarine crews last February.

An article in Krasnaya zvezda reported that this training was aimed squarely at SSBN and Borey crews particularly.  Retired Vice-Admiral Anatoliy Shevchenko, Russia’s most accomplished under-ice submariner, was the featured speaker.

Nevskiy’s inter-fleet along Russia’s Northern Sea Route (Северный морской путь) could begin this month or next.

Soviet submarines built in Severodvinsk used to inter-fleet to bolster the Pacific order-of-battle.  The first were November-class SSN K-115 and Hotel II-class SSBN K-178 in September 1963.

But inter-fleet transfers beсame rare in the Russian era.  Four Oscar II-class SSGNs traversed the Sevmorput in the 1990s.  The last inter-fleet was Delta III-class SSBN Ryazan, which came in 2008 to keep the Pacific Fleet from losing its strategic nuclear strike capability.

According to a Navy Main Staff source, Nevskiy will conduct its third Bulava launch after its arrival in the Pacific Fleet.  The second hull of the Borey-class, Nevskiy was officially commissioned in December 2013.

Nevskiy is part of the 25th Submarine Division (25-я Дивизия подводных лодок or 25-я ДиПЛ).  Nevskiy (and Monomakh) were long ago inscribed on its roll.  But only three aged Delta III-class SSBNs (including Ryazan) are physically present in the Pacific.

We should recall (yet again) that, although President Vladimir Putin intervened personally to save the Pacific Fleet’s SSBN force in 2002, his men still can’t quite finish new basing facilities required for Borey-class boats.  Watch for more details on this, possibly tomorrow.

Fifth Generation Reconnaissance Man

Last week KZ ran a piece titled “Fifth Generation Reconnaissance Man.”  Easy to overlook, it turned out to be about the Black Sea Fleet’s new 127th Independent Reconnaissance Brigade based in Sevastopol, Crimea.

The article informs us that the brigade was formed after last year’s invasion.  It has the latest and greatest in weapons and equipment, including mobile EW and ELINT systems and Orlan and Leyer UAVs.  But its men, the article says, are the main thing.

The new brigade is 100 percent contract-manned, according to the article, but it is less than clear on the point.  Is it fully manned and all personnel are contractees or is it less than 100 percent manned but men on-hand are all contractees?  The article offers no other information on the brigade’s TO&E.

KZ notes that the commander and sub-unit commanders have combat experience and medals.  Colonel Aleksandr Beglyakov commands the 127th.  But there’s precious little about him.  What looks like a fragment of an Odnoklassniki profile appears below.

Beglyakov's Odnoklassniki Profile?

Beglyakov’s Odnoklassniki Profile?

If it’s him, he’s young at 37, but not exceptionally so for a Russian O-6.  He attended the Novosibirsk Higher Military Command School — cradle of Russian Army reconnaissance men.  He’s completed his mid-career school — VUNTs SV “Combined Arms Academy of the Russian Federation Armed Forces.”

The brigade’s recon men appear to be organized into groups like GRU Spetsnaz. At least one sergeant came from an independent Spetsnaz regiment in Stavropol. He says we are the “most polite” of all “polite people.” We come quietly, fulfill our mission, and leave quietly, according to him.

The KZ author describes another soldier as a “fifth generation reconnaissance man” — physically strong, equally skilled with weapons and modern digital systems.

This article brings us to the independent reconnaissance brigade, the ORBr — what it is, its origin, and what its future will be.

The first modern Russian Army ORBr, the 100th Independent Reconnaissance Brigade, is based in Mozdok.  It was formed in 2009 under former defense minister Serdyukov and was branded “experimental.”  There have been reports it would disband, but it apparently hasn’t.

One apparently knowledgeable observer shared this description:

“The 100th Experimental Independent Reconnaissance Brigade (Mozdok, North Ossetia) was formed in the summer of 2009 on the basis of the 85th Independent Spetsnaz Detachment [ooSpN] of the 10th Independent Spetsnaz Brigade:”

“command, air-assault battalion, reconnaissance battalion (two reconnaissance companies + a tank company), SP howitzer battalion, SpN detachment, UAV detachment, anti-aircraft missile-artillery battalion, EW company (expanding into an independent ELINT battalion), engineer company, maintenance company, material-technical support company, medical company, in the future its own helicopter regiment.”

“A mixed squadron transferred into the brigade from Budennovsk.  The helicopter sub-unit carries out missions for the ground formation and is operationally subordinate to it.  The squadron provides cover for the brigade’s armored columns, transports supplies, and conducts all types of reconnaissance.”

“The brigade’s command was formed on 1 December 2009.”

It’s a very interesting and unique brigade by Russian Army standards.  It has surprisingly robust combined arms firepower to go along with its reconnaissance and intelligence capabilities.

ORBr roots extend to Soviet times.  But it was different then.  The 25th ORBr in Mongolia had three reconnaissance battalions, a “deep reconnaissance” (SpN??) battalion, and fewer technical intelligence systems.  Its helo squadron had 20 Mi-8s and an Mi-2 for the brigade commander.  Soviet forces in Mongolia also included the 20th ORBr.  Most Russians who served in or comment on these formations are pretty adamant that they reported to the GRU.

Ten “New” Chemical Defense Regiments

Russian Soldier in Chemical Defense Gear (photo:

Russian Soldier in Chemical Defense Gear (photo:

In late June, provided comments by the Deputy Chief of Radiological, Chemical, and Biological Defense (RKhBZ) Troops, General-Major Igor Klimov. He said:

“Development of the troops of RKhB defense is currently directed at supporting conditions for an adequate response to all possible threats — radiological, chemical, and biological.”

The RKhBZ Troops are capable of completing missions for the Armed Forces and the state as a whole, according to him.

General-Major Igor Klimov

General-Major Igor Klimov

But Klimov added:

“One should note that just in 2014 alone ten regiments of RKhBZ were formed in the composition of combined arms armies.”

At the same time, the TO&E structure of the four independent RKhBZ brigades of the military districts was “optimized.”  That means, of course, reduced, cut, slashed, etc.

Klimov added:

“In 2016-2020, the composition and TO&E of formations, military units and organizations of the RKhBZ Troops will improve with the goal of guaranteeing fulfillment of RKhBZ missions for Armed Forces groupings in armed conflicts and local wars, eliminating the effects of emergency situations, and conducting research in the applied sciences (chemistry, biology, biochemistry, genetics, biotechnology).” also noted that RKhBZ formations, units, and organizations will undergo a transition to new org-shtat structures as they receive new types of weapons and equipment.

The ten “new” regiments look like this:

The shift from brigades is creating regiments that aren’t really “new.”  It’s a reshuffling of existing RKhBZ units to integrate them into Russia’s combined arms armies.  They will be army- rather than MD-level assets.  

The “new regiments” are rather sparse.  Most press indicates they will have about 300-600 personnel and 100-200 pieces of equipment each.  In Soviet times, a combined arms army had several RKhBZ battalions including recon, protection, decon, flamethrower, and smoke.



Perhaps RKhBZ is returning to army-level control because of the growing role of thermobaric rocket launchers like the TOS-1A in Russia’s fire support plans.