MOSCOW: The newly-appointed commander of Russia’s Airborne Troops, Lt. Gen. Vladimir Shamanov said on Wednesday his personnel remained the core of the Russian army, but modern equipment was needed.
Shamanov, a Hero of Russia and commander of the 76th Airborne Division during the second Chechen War, has replaced Lt. Gen. Valery Yevtukhovich, who was discharged on May 6 after reaching the retirement age of 55.
“The Airborne troops proved during the five-day war [with Georgia] that they…remain the backbone of Russia’s conventional forces,” the general said at a first meeting with his staff.
However, like the Russian Ground Forces in general, the Airborne Troops are also experiencing problems with outdated hardware and weaponry, he said.
“For instance, the BMD-1, the main armored troop carrier, entered service more than 30 years ago, and the BMD-2 more than 20 years ago,” Shamanov said, adding that communications and battlefield intelligence systems also needed upgrading.
The commander said the transition in Russia’s Armed Forces to a brigade-level structure, which is currently being carried out as part of military reforms, would not affect the Airborne Troops as their organizational structure will remain division-based.
“The division-level structure is optimal and will remain the basis of the Airborne Troops, which have their own characteristics,” Shamanov said.
The central point of the current reforms is the reorganization of the military command and control system from a four-tier (military district – army – division – regiment) to a three-tier structure (military district – operational command – brigade).
The general also said additional airborne units would be deployed in the Moscow and the Leningrad military districts.
“At present, all military districts in Russia, except the Moscow and the Leningrad military districts, have their own air assault units. Therefore, we are planning to deploy an air assault brigade in the Moscow district, and the 3rd Airborne Regiment from the 76th Airborne Division based in Pskov to the Leningrad district,” he said.
Russia’s Ground Forces are deployed in six military districts: Moscow, Leningrad, North Caucasus, Urals, Siberian, and Far Eastern.
The Airborne Troops are considered the most capable mobile assault forces in Russia. Various estimates put the current personnel at about 48,000 troops deployed in four divisions and a brigade.
According to Russia’s military reform plans, the Airborne Troops will be fully manned with professional soldiers by 2011.