In the 1980s, the Soviets began to form new corps-type structures. These corps are divisions expanded to almost twice the size of a tank division [TD]. They are ideally suited to act as an operational maneuver group (OMG) for the front, conducting high-speed operations deep in an enemy's rear area. These NAC formations contain around 400 tanks, 750 infantry fighting vehicles (IFVs)and armored personnel carriers (APCs),and 300 artillery pieces and multiple rocket launchers (MRLs).Additional units of this type may appear once testing and operational evaluation end.
Soviet maneuver divisions are continuously undergoing a reorganization that significantly upgrades their combat capability. This manual includes the main features of the most current organizational changes. The addition of new sub-units and the upgrade of existing elements have expanded both motorized rifle divisions [MRDs] and TDs. The greatest changes are in the TDs.
The BTR-and BMP-equipped motorized rifle battalions (MRBs) have expanded the mortar battery from six to eight tubes. They have added a machine gun/antitank platoon to each company in the BTR-equipped MRB. The BMP-equipped MRB has added machine gun platoons, with no extra antitank weapons. Also, the Soviets have now consolidated the automatic grenade launcher and antiaircraft (AA) squads in platoons at the battalion level of both BTR-and BMP-equipped MRBs.
In order to support the fast-moving maneuver units envisioned for future battlefields, the Soviets have formed materiel support units within combined arms units from tactical to front levels. Within divisions and regiments, respectively, materiel sup-port battalions and companies combine formerly fragmented motor transport, supply, and service functions. The new rear area units will provide a 30-percent increase in motor transport assets and a streamlined command structure. A similar re-organization at army and front levels has created materiel support brigades with centralized control for ammunition, fuel, and other supplies.
The airborne division is now a fully mechanized combined arms organization. Airborne divisions now consist of three regiments equipped with the air-droppable BMD, affording these units greater firepower and mobility. The Soviets have also produced a new 120-millimeter 2S9 airborne self-propelled (SP) howitzer with a mortar capability for airborne and air assault units.
Since the late 1970s, the Soviets have developed the tank regiment (TR) into a combined arms team (tank, motorized rifle, and artillery) that promises to be as flexible in its employment as the motorized rifle regiment (MRR). (The MRR already had a tank battalion (TB) and an artillery battalion.) The addition of an MRB to the TR of a TD eliminates the necessity for the TD commander to reinforce each of his TRs with MRR assets. This leaves the TD with four maneuver regiments. The addition of an artillery battalion to the TR places a great deal more firepower under direct control of the regimental commander. The division commander then has greater flexibility in the use of his artillery resources to influence the battle. Hence, the capability of the TR and TD to conduct largely self-supported combined arms combat has increased greatly.
Large-caliber SP guns and mortars and long-range MRLs have increased the artillery available to army and front commanders. Additionally, some army-level regiments have grown to brigade size with the addition of a fourth artillery battalion. These battalions are currently expanding from 18 to 24 tubes, primarily in units opposite NATO. All of the Soviet's SP and towed guns/howitzers (152-millimeter and larger) are nuclear-capable. The Soviets are also adding newer nuclear-capable pieces such as the 203-millimeter SP gun 2S7 and the 240-millimeter SP mortar 2S4. They are deploying the BM-22 220-millimeter MRL, which can fire deep into the enemy's rear. These improvements greatly enhance area coverage and counter-battery support to subordinate divisions. The new T-64/72/80-seriestanks feature improved firepower, with a 125-millimeter main gun and an improved fire control system. Both the T-80 and a variant of the T-64 can fire an ATGM through the main tube. The T-80 can mount reactive armor which further protects against the West's antitank capabilities. At the same time, the establishment of army aviation has given ground forces a vertical dimension. The helicopter now provides CAAs and TAs with a highly maneuverable and versatile platform for reconnaissance, command and control (C2), and fire support. General-purpose and attack helicopter units can move with armies and divisions at the high rates of advance they will need to conduct combined arms operations in depth.
Soviet maneuver divisions are well-balanced, powerful, and mobile fighting units. They have a combined arms structure as well as a comprehensive array of combat support (CS) and combat service support (CSS) elements. In early 1987, there were 211 active Soviet maneuver divisions: 150 MRDs, 52 TDs, 7 airborne divisions, and 2 static defense divisions. The totals did not include 2 new army corps (NAC) and 5 mobilization divisions.
The basic structures of the three types of divisions (motorized rifle, tank, and airborne). While this presents "type" Soviet divisions, different configurations and different categories of readiness exist among actual divisions.
Divisions receive new items of equipment according to the priorities established by the MOD. High-priority formations, such as the Soviet forces in the Western TVD, are usually the first to receive modern equipment. When they replace older material, the Soviets send that older equipment to lower-priority units in the interior of the USSR or to reserve stocks. Late-model T-64/72/80 tanks constitute about one-third of the USSR's tanks. While older T-55 and T-62 tanks constitute moat of the remainder, over 1,500 T-80s are currently deployed opposite NATO and nearly 75 percent of the 19,000 Soviet tanks in the Western Theater are T-64/72/80 models.