Περί Ελαφρού Πεζικού – Μέρος Ε’

Το κείμενο που ακολουθεί αποτελεί το δεύτερο μέρος της μελέτης του Marc DeVore σχετικά με τις αερομεταφερόμενες δυνάμεις και τη μεταπολεμική τους εξέλιξη.

Στο πρώτο μέρος της μελέτης, ο DeVore εξέθεσε τη βασική του θέση, ότι οι αερομεταφερόμενες δυνάμεις ήταν μια προπολεμική σύλληψη που τόσο ο Β΄ΠΠ όσο και η μεταγενέστερη εμπειρία απέδειξαν ότι ήταν λανθασμένη. Παρ΄όλα αυτά, οι δυνάμεις αυτές δεν εξαλείφθησαν ή μειώθησαν κατά αντίστοιχο τρόπο, εξ αιτίας της ισχύος που τα στελέχη τους είχαν εξασφαλίσει εντός των αμυντικών οργανισμών των αντιστοίχων χωρών.

Στο δεύτερο μέρος που ακολουθεί, ο DeVore εξετάζει το ένα από τα τρία συγκεκριμένα παραδείγματα που χρησιμποιεί για να υποστηρίξει τη θέση του, αυτό των Ρώσων (και Σοβιετικών) αερομεταφερόμενων δυνάμεων.

Institutions and the Evolution of Postwar Airborne Forces

Marc DeVore

Security Studies Program Working Paper
June 2004
MIT Center for International Studies

The Soviet Union: Survival of an Airborne Army

The Soviet Union’s experience with airborne forces demonstrates the benefits and pitfalls associated with a high degree of institutional autonomy. In the case of Soviet paratroop forces, otherwise known as the Vozdushno-Desantnaya Voyska or VDV, autonomy both spurred innovation and prevented the validity of airborne operations from being seriously rethought or questioned. As such, it developed the Janus-faced quality of sparking creativity within the VDV, while at the same time stultifying thought outside of it and within the armed forces as a whole as to whether or not airborne operations remained feasible.

Ρώσοι αλεξιπτωτιστές κατά τη διάρκεια εκπαιδεύσεως

When the Soviet Union first set about building an airborne force in the early-1930s, Marshall Mikhail Tukhachevskiy and the Soviet High Command adopted strategies similar to those advocated by modern organizational theorists. Namely, they granted the airborne forces as much autonomy as possible and endowed them with a substantial resource base with which to train and conduct experiments. This resulted in the Soviet Union’s airborne forces acquiring the unique status of a service-within-a-service, rather than being institutionalized as regular field units, such as divisions or regiments, as occurred in other countries.

To begin with, the VDV was afforded its own supply of recruits, circumventing the normal allocation system providing Red Army units with their conscripts. Whereas most Soviet divisions received personnel allocations based on standardized criteria, such as armed forces test scores and the geographic location and category of the unit in question, the VDV had its pick of the young members of the Soviet Union’s Ossoaviakhim—an aerial sports organization for young communists.48 As a consequence, every conscript entering the VDV was a de facto volunteer who had already undertaken rudimentary parachute training at one of a thousand jump-towers strewn across the Soviet countryside.49

Besides possessing an independent recruitment base, the VDV also controlled its own service academy— the Ryazan Higher Airborne School. Once this school was running, every officer cadet with aspirations of entering the VDV attended the same service academy where they were surrounded by other airborne officer candidates and segregated from the rest of the armed services.50 Understandably, this distinctive system of professional higher education fostered an exclusive esprit de corps within the Soviet Union’s airborne forces’ officer corps.

In addition to having their own discrete system of officer education, the Soviet Union’s airborne forces also provided officers with distinctive career paths, allowing them to climb to the highest echelons of the Red Army without ever serving in non-airborne units. As is rarely the case with other armed services, this meant that Soviet airborne officers could devote themselves entirely to understanding and mastering airborne operations, while ignoring other developments affecting the outcome of wars.51

In sum, the Soviet VDV acquired most of the attributes of a separate service during the formative years between 1930 and 1941. With respect to organizational autonomy, there are many fruitful parallels to be drawn between the relationship of the Soviet airborne forces with the Red Army, to that of the United States Marine Corps with the United States Navy. In both cases, the sub-services in question manage their own recruitment and training, provide distinct career paths to officers within them and prepare to conduct high-risk military endeavors. Moreover, in each case the sub-service maintained a privileged relationship with part of the parent organization—as the VDV did with the Air Force’s Military Transport Aviation branch or as the Marines do with the Navy’s amphibious “Gator Navy.”52

In some respects, Soviet airborne forces were even more autonomous than the United States Marine Corps—especially insofar as professional education and operational independence are concerned. Whereas the Marines lack their own service academy and accept officers from the United States Naval Academy, the VDV maintained the aforementioned Ryazan Higher Airborne School which served all of its officer training needs. Similarly, while Marine units are regularly subordinated to naval fleets or regional commands, Soviet airborne forces were only answerable to the Defense Ministry and the Kremlin’s highest authorities.53

During the first years of its existence, this unprecedented degree of organizational autonomy fostered the innovative environment the Soviet High Command hoped to create. Large, independent and amply funded, the VDV prior to World War II led the way in developing such novelties as gliders, mass parachute drops, airdropped tanks and recoilless rifles—all of which later became integral parts of successful airborne operations. Such was the innovative spirit of the VDV’s early halcyon days, that by 1935 it was widely regarded as the most sophisticated airborne force in the world and probably the only one able to mount a combat jump. During the Kiev exercises of that year, the VDV stunned foreign military attachés and observers with a cutting edge demonstration of airborne warfare. When the maneuvers began, fifty TB-3 heavy bombers parachuted 1,188 infantrymen onto an airfield and its environs, after which a second wave of TB-3s landed on the airfield with an air landing force of 1,765 men armed with recoilless rifles, ten artillery pieces and a light tank.54

Many who witnessed the Kiev maneuvers regarded the VDV’s aerial delivery of 3,000 infantrymen to a target as a revolution in warfare. After viewing these exercises, the deputy chief of the French General Staff observed, “I am impressed with the success of the airborne force. Western Europe is lagging behind.” In a similar vein, an Italian general remarked, “I am literally amazed by the employment of such airborne landing forces.”55

Unfortunately for many of those responsible for the VDV’s incipient dynamism, neither foreign accolades nor the VDV’s organizational wealth or autonomy could shield officers from Premier Joseph Stalin’s wrath during his purges of the Soviet Union’s officer corps in 1937 and 1938. This was all the more true because the VDV’s close association with Marshall Tukhachevskiy stoked the flames of Stalin’s paranoia, prompting him to kill an exceptionally high percentage of the VDV’s officers during the purges.56 Predictably, Stalin’s slaughter of airborne officers robbed the VDV of much of its youthful vigor and brought an end to its period of innovation.

Regrettably, the Soviet Union and the VDV went to war within two years of Stalin ravaging its officer corps.57 And although all airborne operations were risky endeavors during the Second World War, the Soviet ones were especially catastrophic. Indeed, as illustrated by Table IV on the following page, four out of five major airborne assaults conducted by Soviet paratroopers between 1940 and 1943 ended in utter disaster.

In no case, except in Manchuria, did Soviet paratroops seize and hold their objectives, and in each case the vast majority of the men dropped behind enemy lines never returned. In fact, only a quarter of the paratroopers dropped during Soviet airborne operations usually managed to make their way back to Red Army lines.58

In light of the abject failure of Soviet airborne operations during World War II, the question emerges as to why such large airborne forces were retained after the war. The answer does not appear to be based on any sort of rational calculation about the future value of airborne forces. For one thing, the Soviet General Staff recognized that its own airborne operations, as well as those of other powers, were fiascos. In fact, one postwar Soviet assessment of airborne operations concluded that “with the exception of the German use of paratroopers in Holland and Belgium in 1940, wartime airborne operations were either failures or had no impact on the conduct of army operations.”59

If Soviet assessments of World War II airborne operations left little room for optimism, neither did their analyses of future wars. When it emerged under the guidance of Marshal Vasily Sokolovsky between 1952 and 1960, Soviet nuclear strategy anticipated the obsolescence of infantrymen in the event of a third world war. According to Sokolovsky, future wars would be nuclear wars, in which the blast and radiation effects of nuclear weapons would quickly kill any infantrymen not encased in sealed steel vehicles.60 On the face of it, this appreciation of nuclear war should have signaled the death knell of the VDV and its lightly equipped paratroopers.

Yet despite its failure in World War II and the development of the so-called Sokolovsky nuclear doctrine, the VDV continued to prosper throughout the post-war years. In a sense, the organizational autonomy accorded it before World War II shielded the VDV after that war to such an extent that rather than defending itself from critics, the VDV could concentrate on the task of reconstituting the Soviet Union’s shattered airborne forces. Perhaps there is no greater testament to the success of this endeavor than the fact that by the mid-1950s the Soviet Union’s VDV was bigger than it had been in 1941 and larger than the rest of the world’s airborne forces combined.61

Many are tempted to look for other non-institutional explanations for the VDV’s survival and growth following World War II. Stephen Rosen, for example, suggested that the Soviet high command retained airborne forces after World War II as a “counter-coup force” or praetorian guard.62 Although Rosen’s postulate is rational and intellectually appealing, there is no proof that the Soviet high command thought of using the VDV to prevent a coup d’état.63 On the one hand, airborne training and vehicles are superfluous and expensive for a counter-coup force. On the other hand, the Soviet Union possessed other NKDV (later KGB) and Ministry of the Interior forces specially designed and tasked with repressing internal discontent and protecting the government from a military coup.64

Another argument for the VDV’s size and continuity following World War II emphasizes the small size and slight cost of airborne forces when compared with Soviet ground forces as a whole. Steve Zaloga, for example, contends that maintaining airborne divisions was a “cheap” gamble for the Soviets because there were only seven airborne divisions out of a total of 140 divisions. In fact, the gamble was not as cheap as first appears to be the case. Most of Zaloga’s “140 divisions” were reserve units. Stalin’s active postwar army consisted of only 60 active category-one divisions, and these were manned at only 70% capacity.65 Far from a cheap gamble, the VDV comprised more than 12 percent of the active Soviet armed forces in the early 1950s.

Finally, in light of their role during the 1973 Arab-Israeli War, it is tempting to attribute the post-war survival and renaissance of Soviet airborne forces to a political decision to develop power projection capabilities. 66 Unfortunately, such an analysis puts the cart before the horse. While Stalin and Khruschev ruled from the Kremlin, the Soviet Union pursued a “continental” or “Eurasian” strategy, which expanded Soviet influence over contiguous states. Projecting power by air or sea played little role in Soviet grand strategy between 1945 and 1964. Only with Khruschev’s ouster in 1964 did Soviet foreign policy acquire a global orientation. 67 By this time the Cold War size and status of the VDV was already established and the Soviet Union’s first air-droppable armored vehicles were in service.

In short, the VDV used its autonomous position and surfeit of resources to tackle the problems associated with mounting airborne operations in a high threat environment. Soviet innovation in these areas was both costly and ran contrary to the tenets of Soviet foreign policy and nuclear doctrine during the 1950s and early 1960s.

Whereas World War II-era airborne forces were acutely vulnerable to armored or mechanized attacks, the VDV sought to build a well-armed airborne force capable of staving off assaults of this genre. In addressing this issue, the post-war VDV proved every bit as innovative as it had been during the 1930s.

To begin with, the VDV concentrated on manufacturing self-propelled airborne assault guns, a type of turret-less lightweight armored vehicle capable of mounting an antitank gun.68 The first such vehicle was the diminutive ASU-57. Weighing just three tons and mounting a 57mm antitank gun capable of perforating one hundred millimeters of armor at a thousand meters, the ASU-57 could be parachuted from a transport aircraft and would, it was hoped, give the VDV the armored punch it so lacked during World War II.69

Later, in 1961, the ASU-57’s successor, the heavier ASU-85, appeared. Whereas the ASU-57 weighed barely three tons, the ASU-85 tipped the scales at 14 tons, making it the largest airborne armored vehicle developed up to that time. This extra weight accommodated a larger antitank gun and more armor, making the ASU-85 a much improved weapons system.70

While the introduction of the ASU series of assault guns undoubtedly augmented the firepower of Soviet airborne forces, these vehicles fell short of solving the VDV’s fundamental problems. For one thing, the assault guns did nothing to reduce the vulnerability of Soviet paratroopers to the effects of nuclear or chemical environments, or to augment their mobility once on the ground. For another, the increased firepower conferred on airborne divisions by their ASU guns barely kept pace with the improved capabilities of regular infantry divisions. For at the same time as Soviet airborne divisions were adding 18 assault guns apiece to their inventories, American infantry divisions were acquiring battalions of armored personnel carriers and helicopters.71

The VDV’s answer to these unsolved challenges was both radical and unique. It involved transforming the VDV’s hitherto infantry divisions into a totally mechanized airborne force, which in theory was no different from conventional army units. As its capstone, the VDV’s new airborne mechanized divisions acquired the world’s first and only airborne infantry fighting vehicle. This vehicle, designated the BMD, crammed all of the capabilities of the army’s top-of-the-line 14-ton BMP infantry fighting vehicle into a compact 7-ton unit that can be delivered by parachute.72 As such, the BMD is proof against a nuclear, biological or chemically contaminated environments and mounts a 73mm low-pressure gun and AT-3 “Sagger” antitank guided missiles.

The development, deployment and employment of the BMD were major technical and industrial achievements.73 One of the difficulties encountered in developing this vehicle was getting the BMD’s weight down to the point that it could be dropped from an airplane. Whereas infantry fighting vehicles typically weigh between 14 and 29 tons, the BMD could not exceed seven, which was only achievable through a host of weight-saving engineering solutions such as the introduction of a unique variable suspension system.74 In addition to being light, the BMD also had to be easy to mass-produce. Requiring some 2,500 of these vehicles to meet its needs, the VDV’s demand for BMDs exceeded those of many major powers for their basic infantry fighting vehicles.75

Once all of these problems were solved, paratroop officers excusably claimed that the BMD rectified the difficulties posed by airborne forces’ perennial lack of firepower. As one 1976 article proclaimed, “The combat vehicle desant [BMD] substantially raised the tactical capabilities of the subunit; its firepower and maneuverability was increased, allowing them to deliver a decisive surprise attack, completing the destruction of the enemy before he was able to render organized opposition.”76

In addition to developing and producing ASU assault guns and BMD airborne infantry fighting vehicles, the VDV elaborated innovative procedures for delivering paratroopers and their vehicles to their destinations. In this context, new tactics and procedures were written, tested and refined through a series of lavish exercises and experiments.

For example, the Soviet Union’s Operation Dnepr war game of 1967 witnessed the world’s largest airborne combat jump since the 1944 Arnhem operation and the first one involving the delivery of a substantial armored force by air.77 During the airborne component of the Dnepr maneuvers, all 8,000 men of the 76th Guards Chernigov Airborne Division participated in the airborne assault.

After reconnaissance patrols secured the drop zones, the first elements of the airborne division to touch ground were the antitank companies with their ASU-57 assault guns. These light-weight vehicles were parachuted to their destinations on cargo pallets equipped with unique retrorocket systems designed to slow their descents.78 Following this, the rest of the division’s paratroops jumped as well. Finally, the airborne portion of Operation Dnepr culminated in the landing of the heavier ASU-85 assault guns by AN-12 “Cub” transport aircraft.

In many ways, Operation Dnepr demonstrated the VDV’s burgeoning capacity to deliver armor by air and integrate it into a broader scheme of operations. Although only ASU assault guns were available at the time of the Dnepr exercises, further exercises and experiments were conducted once BMDs started reaching combat units. In fact, beginning in 1968, the VDV launched Projects Kentavr (Centaur) and Reaktavr (Rocketeer), with the aim of developing techniques for dropping BMDs with their crews already inside.

Whereas the parachute delivery of armored vehicles results in unavoidable delays as vehicles and vehicle crews land far apart from one another, the objective of these projects was to invent techniques whereby armored vehicles could be dropped both fueled and crewed, and therefore ready for immediate action. After seven years of development and many harrowing experiments, the VDV deployed the materiel and instituted the standard operating procedures necessary for dropping crewed BMDs.79

Thus, by the 1970s, the introduction of the ASU airborne assault guns and the BMD airborne infantry fighting vehicles had transformed the VDV from a light-infantry organization to a mechanized airborne force such as the world had never seen. Concomitantly, cutting-edge parachute techniques enabled Soviet airborne forces to deploy this force by parachute in remarkably short order. In the articulation of this airborne mechanized force, the VDV demonstrated an innovative spirit on par with that it evinced in the 1930s.

However, the VDV’s inventiveness in augmenting the capabilities of airborne forces should not obscure the question of whether large-scale airborne operations were at all feasible in the event of war. For one thing, the VDV’s creation of an airborne mechanized force geometrically increased the difficulties of airlifting an 13 airborne division to its drop zone. With nearly 400 armored vehicles apiece, the VDV’s airborne divisions in 1970 required three times as much lift as they had during the 1950s.80 In concrete terms, this meant that all of the Soviet Union’s airlift—military or civil—would have been required to drop a single airborne division on its target.

Even if the Soviet Union used its airlift assets in this way, it is not at all certain whether the VDV would have succeeded in dropping a division on a target. Because ground based air defenses continued to evolve and thicken throughout the Cold War, the large numbers of lumbering transports associated with an airborne operation would have been acutely vulnerable to surface-to-air missiles and radar directed gun systems.

Although information is lacking on what the VDV thought of this threat, NATO countries invariably came to the conclusion that airborne operations were impossible in a high-threat environment. As Germany’s Major General G. Bernhard remarked in 1989, “a parachute assault can take place only in a low-intensity operation.”81 In a similar vein, Spain’s Paratroop Brigade concluded that, “parachute operations are vulnerable to enemy aircraft and air defenses, even under conditions of air superiority.”82 Indeed, considerations of this type led to the abandonment of proposed combat jumps in the Persian Gulf and Bosnia.83 In this context, it appears dubious as to whether enough Soviet transport aircraft would have penetrated NATO’s integrated air defense network.84

Finally, even if the VDV managed to establish an airborne bridgehead in NATO’s rear, its ability to defend this zone is doubtful. The weight limits imposed on the VDV’s assault guns and infantry fighting vehicles by the requirement of airlifting them meant that these vehicles were much less capable than their counterparts in NATO mechanized and armored divisions. In this context, small Soviet ASU-85s would be pitted against NATO tanks weighing between 36 and 55 tons, and 7-ton BMDs would face Bradleys, Warriors and Marders weighing between 23 and 29 tons.85 Inevitably, the weaponry and armor of the airborne vehicles would be found wanting compared to those of their heavier terrestrial counterparts.

Unable to airdrop more than a single division and probably incapable of penetrating NATO airspace, Soviet airborne operations were probably even less feasible in the 1970s and 1980s than they had been prior to the VDV’s creation of mechanized airborne divisions. In fact, the VDV’s flare for innovation had only solved the narrow problem of giving airborne forces more firepower, but ignored the broader issue of whether mass paratroop combat drops were even possible. In this context, the institutional autonomy accorded the VDV produced a sort of bounded rationality whereby the strength and inventiveness of airborne forces was maximized, but the transcendent question of what role these forces would play lay unexamined. As such, airborne forces, as a failed innovation, were not only able to soldier on, but also innovatively pursue their organizational essence at great cost to the Soviet Union and the rest of its armed forces.

Endnotes

49 Under the Red Army’s supervision, Ossoaviakhim built over a thousand jump towers by the time World War II broke out. In addition to filling the ranks of the VDV, Ossoaviakhim provided the Soviet Air Force with many of its pilots. See Sergent, Histoire mondiale des parachutistes, 48-52.
50 During most of its history, Ryazan only educated future airborne officers. Later, however, it also undertook the education of officers for the special forces and air assault brigades. See Isby, Ten Million Bayonets: Inside the Armies of the Soviet Union, 69-93.
51 Without a doubt, the VDV’s size—consisting of ten “army corps” during the Second World War and between seven and eight divisions throughout the Cold War—contributed to the existence of this independent airborne career-track. With an established strength of 10,419 troops, the airborne corps of the Second World War were in reality no larger than ordinary infantry divisions. Zaloga, Inside the Blue Berets: A Combat History of Soviet and Russian Airborne Forces, 1930-1995, 22-29.
52 The VDV has always enjoyed a hand-in-glove relationship with Soviet military airlift. In fact, before being known by the more generic name of Military Airlift Command (Voennoe-transportnaya Aviatsiya or VTA), Soviet transport aircraft were grouped together under the aegis of the TDA Air Assault Landing branch. Zaloga, Inside the Blue Berets: A Combat History of Soviet and Russian Airborne Forces, 148-49.
53 Zaloga, Soviet Bloc Elite Forces, 8-9.
54 Zaloga, Inside the Blue Berets: A Combat History of Soviet and Russian Airborne Forces, 14-15.
55 Ibid.
56 Glantz, 36.
57 Interestingly, the VDV continued to grow after the purges. Ibid., 38-39.
58 This average is based on the three operations: Viaz’ma, Demiansk and the Dnepr. Adequate information is lacking on the Finland airborne operation. The respective figures for these three operations are: 2,000 out of 14,000 survived the Viaz’ma operation; 900 of 7,000 survived the Demiansk operation; and less than 50 percent survived the Dnepr operation. See Zaloga, Inside the Blue Berets: A Combat History of Soviet and Russian Airborne Forces, 69, 109. And
Glantz, 260-61.
59 Zaloga, Soviet Bloc Elite Forces, 7.
60 Jonathan House, Combined Arms Warfare in the Twentieth Century (Lawrence, Kansas: University of Kansas, 2001),
193-95.
61 Zaloga, Inside the Blue Berets: A Combat History of Soviet and Russian Airborne Forces, 26-27, 118-19.
62 Rosen does not account for: 1) the amount of resources expended on preparing the VDV for large parachute assaults;
or 2) why an airborne force is particulary suited to this praetorian role as amphibious infantry, mountain troops, airmobile forces and mechanized infantry have all been viewed as elites and could also fulfill this role. Stephen Rosen, Course 17.953 (Cambridge: Harvard, April 30, 2002).
63 Nowhere in the English-language literature on Soviet Airborne forces did I find evidence that the Soviet government
maintained the VDV for internal security purposes. See Zaloga and Glantz.
64 Dedicated Soviet internal security and counter-coup units varied in size, but remained large between 1917 and 1991. Prior to World War II the NKDV possessed 15 rifle divisions for internal security purposes. As the war developed, these forces actually increased to a size of 53 divisions and 28 brigades. Internal security forces shrunk following World War II and the repression of anti-Soviet guerrillas in Ukraine and the Baltic States. However, as they became smaller, internal security forces became more selective and professional. Throughout most of the Cold War the Soviet Union’s  countercoup force par excellence was an elite KGB tank division located stationed outside of Moscow.
65 Matthew Evangelista, “Stalin’s Postwar Army Reappraised,” Soviet Military Policy (Cambridge: MIT, 1989), 287.
66 When an Arab defeat in the 1973 Arab-Israeli War appeared imminent, the Soviet Union used airborne forces a signal its willingness to intervene to prevent either the Israeli capture of Damascus or the destruction of the Egyptian 3rd Army. Six airborne divisions were put on “alert” status. A seventh division and an elite air transport unit were dispatched from its base just under one hundred miles south of Moscow to an airfield outside Belgrade in Yugoslavia for possible deployment to Damascus, Syria, where the division’s staff was already busy drawing up plans to intervene. The Insight Team of the London Sunday Times, The Yom Kippur War (Doubleday: New York, 1974), 409-10.
67 The first public articulation of the new Soviet doctrine came at the 1966 XXIIIth Soviet Communist Party Congress.
Georges-Henri Soutou, La guerre de Cinquante Ans: Les relations Est-Ouest, 1943-1990 (Paris: Fayard, 2001), 448.
68 In addition to the specifically airborne weapons mentioned in this paper, the VDV also acquired abundant quantities of the light antitank weapons being distributed within the army as a whole. Prominent amongst these were B-10 and B-11
recoilless rifles and a family of rocket-powered antitank grenade launchers or RPGs descended from Germany’s World
War II-era Panzerfausts. See Isby, Ten Million Bayonets: Inside the Armies of the Soviet Union (London: Arms and
Armour, 1988), 55-56. And Zaloga, Inside the Blue Berets: A Combat History of Soviet and Russian Airborne Forces,
128-29.
69 Zaloga, Inside the Blue Berets: A Combat History of Soviet and Russian Airborne Forces, 126-27.
70 Whereas the ASU-57 could only penetrate 100mm of armor at 1000 meters, the ASU-85 could penetrate 122mm of
armor out to the same range. Moreover, the ASU-85 had much improved optics over those of the ASU-57. See David
Isby, Weapons and Tactics of the Soviet Army (London: Jane’s, 1981), 155-56, 292-94.
71 US infantry divisions acquired APCs and helicopters during the ROAD reorganization of the 1950s. House, 209-10.
72 Isby, Weapons and Tactics of the Soviet Army, 295.
73 Contrary to appearances, the BMD is not a scaled down version of the Soviet BMP-1. In fact, the only component
common to the two vehicles are their turrets. See Zaloga, Inside the Blue Berets: A Combat History of Soviet and
Russian Airborne Forces, 166.
74 The original Soviet BMP-1 is the lightest IFV ever fielded, weighing a mere 14 tons. Western IFVs typically weigh
substantially more. For example, the American Bradley and the British Warrior both weigh approximately 23 tons and
the German Marder tips the scales at 29 tons. David Miller and Christopher Foss, Modern Land Combat, (New York:
Salamander, 1987), 106-15. And Zaloga, Soviet Bloc Elite Forces, 10.
75 This calculation is based on the Soviet Union’s seven airborne divisions receiving 330 BMDs apiece. According to
some sources, BMD production during the 1970s was 250 vehicles per year. See Isby, Weapons and Tactics of the Soviet
Army, 295. And Isby, Ten Million Bayonets: Inside the Armies of the Soviet Union, 56.
76 Military Herald (1976) translated and cited in Glantz, 360.
77 Operation Dnepr was the Soviet Union’s largest post-World War II military exercise. Presided over by Marshal A.A.
Grechko, the Dnepr exercises were a typically Soviet mixture of propaganda and training. While the airborne units
involved were regular line units, many of the other units which participated in Operation Dnepr were manned by
excessive numbers of officers, officer cadets and non-commissioned officers. Also, to facilitate an underwater crossing
of the Dnepr by tanks equipped with snorkels, the Red Army paved over part of the riverbed and built concrete furrows
to guide the tanks along. Andrew Cockburn, The Threat: Inside the Soviet Military Machine (New York: Random House,
1983), 52-53, 166-67.
37
78 Zaloga, Inside the Blue Berets: A Combat History of Soviet and Russian Airborne Forces, 153.
79 One author has referred to the process of being parachuted within a BMD as dangerous and “not for the faint of heart.”
Ibid., 170-71.
80 Airborne divisions possessed 330 BMDs, 31 ASU-85 assault guns, 27 BRDM-2 SP ATGM launchers and 8 BRDM-2
Reconnaissance Vehicles. Isby, Ten Million Bayonets: Inside the Armies of the Soviet Union, 56.
81 “Parachute Assault” International Defense Review (London: Jane’s, April 1989), 414.
82 Ibid., 415.
83 For information relating to France’s decision not to drop paratroopers on Srebrenica, see Mission d’information
commune sur les ÈvÈnements de Srebrenica, “Testimony of General Quesnot, Chief of the President’s Personal Military
Staff, 1995” (Paris: January 11, 2001).
84 John Mearshimer dismissed the possibility of Soviet airborne forces conducting a mass drop in NATO’s rear areas out
of hand. He argues that NATO’s air and ground defenses rendered this impossible. See John Mearshimer, “Correspondence: Reassessing Net Assessment,” International Security (Cambridge: MIT, Spring 1989), 138.

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