Russian commando frogmen
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- Reconnaissance diver (Водолаз разведчик, tr: Vodolaz razvedchik) is a Russian term for members of a special purpose unit of the Russian or Soviet Naval Spetsnaz - SpN VMF (СпН ВМФ).
- Сombat swimmer (Боевой пловец, tr: Boyevoy plavets) is a Russian term meaning members of special purpose anti-sabotage divers' units. The public media and others who do not serve in the Russian and/or Soviet Naval Spetsnaz, sometimes use this term unofficially for meaning (1).
- Naval spetsnaz man ( Морской спецназовец, tr: Morskoy spetsnazovets) is an unofficial Russian term for meaning (1).
The Soviet Union started frogman operations during World War II. The first unit of combat divers (or RON team), was formed in Leningrad in 1941.
Russian combat swimmers (formerly called "combat divers"), are nowadays part of the Naval Spetsnaz which is a branch of Intelligence.
SpN PDSS (Противо-диверсионные силы и средства, Protivo-Diversionnye Sily i Sredstva; Anti-diversionary forces and means), are elite units of special purpose anti-sabotage divers, which appeared in the Soviet Navy at the end of the 1960s to counter possible attacks by frogmen. Their name in full is (о) СпН ПДСС, [отряды] Специального назначения по борьбе с подводными диверсионными силами и средствами ((o) SpN PDSS, [otryady] Spetsial'nogo naznacheniya po bor'be s podvodnymi diversionnymi silami i sredstvami; Special-purpose combat [units] with underwater diversionary forces and means).
Before 2000/2001 they were called ОБ ПДСС, Отряды по борьбе с подводными диверсионными силами и средствами (OB PDSS, Otryady po bor'be s podvodnymi diversionnymi silami i sredstvami; Combat units with underwater diversionary forces and facilities).
Officially there are no Naval Spetsnaz units in any of the former Soviet states, except for Ukraine which inherited theirs from the Soviet Black Sea Fleet. In order to have Naval Spetsnaz on the Black Sea, the Russian Navy transferred the OMRP of the Caspian Flotilla under the Russian Black Sea Fleet command. They sometimes used false names and numbers called "Legends" (cover-up). For example, the Naval Spetsnaz Unit in the Baltic Fleet uses the cover-name Аварийно-спасательная школа №49 (Avariyno-spasatel'naya shkola nomer 49; Diving Rescue School No. 49).
All Russian military units have their own five-digit number. For instance, the Naval Spetsnaz Unit in the Baltic Fleet officially has the Number 10617.
Among Navy and Army Intelligence servicemen, all Naval Spetsnaz units are called ОМРП (OMRP, Отдельный морской разведывательный пункт (Otdel'nyy morskoy razvedyvatel'nyy punkt; Detached Naval Reconnaissance Point) and have their own numbers. For example, the Naval Spetsnaz Unit in the Baltic Fleet is officially the 561st OMRP.
Naval Spetznaz units have unofficial names, the unit in the Baltic Fleet is unofficially called by themselves and other servicemen Парусники (Parusniki; Sailing Ships), because this unit is based in a settlement called Парусное (Parusnoye), whose name means "sail place". But in the 1950s and 1960s it was unofficially called Потехинцы (Potekhintsy) after its first commander, Colonel Potekhin.
This link gives details of training and the actions of Soviet combat frogmen and says that they are in a KGB spetsnaz organization called Delfin. Other sources mention units called "Dolfin", "Omega", "Barrakuda", and others. Another source says that Naval Spetsnaz units have never used such names, but that the name Delfin arose as false information sold to a journalist, who published information about this unit in the early 1990s.
Every PDSS unit has around 50-60 combat swimmers. There are PDSS units in all major Naval Bases.
"Riding on Proton" by Afonchenko (Russian) seems to describe in passing some Russian frogman-type operations and techniques including an infiltration into the sea off South Korea. (This "Proton" is a one-man submerged diver-carrier similar to a Protei-5.)
Russian frogmen use this equipment among others:-
- IDA Rebreathers: see IDA71 for an example.
- "Piranha" midget submarine, can carry six frogmen and their equipment.
- 2-man torpedo of the "Siren" type that can be launched through an ordinary submarine's torpedo tube. It is longer than a British or Italian Chariot because it has two warheads.
- "Akula" (= Shark) electric diver-tug. See http://www.therebreathersite.nl/Zuurstofrebreathers/Russian/photos_ida-71.htm (bottom of page).
- "Triton-1" midget submarine, which can carry two combat divers.
- "Triton-2" midget submarine, which can carry six combat divers.
- APS Underwater Assault Rifle.
- SPP-1 Underwater Pistol.
- Protei-5 and similar one-man underwater diver-carriers.
- October 22, 1938: During wargaming between units of the Russian Pacific Fleet in Vladivostok, a group of Soviet military divers exited a Shch-112 submarine through a torpedo tube, entered the naval base and completed certain acts of sabotage. These combat divers were equipped with oxygen rebreathers, dry suits, handguns and grenades. This did not lead to a permanent combat diver unit being set up, but it was the beginning of the history of combat divers.
Great Patriotic War
- August 11, 1941: RON (рота особого назначения, Rota Osobogo Naznacheniya; Company of Special Designation), a Soviet combat frogman unit, was set up on Goloday Island (which is now called Dekabristov Island), near Leningrad. Its commander was Ivan Vasilyevich Prokhvatilov.
- August 1941: Two RON frogmen towing a sea mine, demolished a bridge over the river Narva which German forces had reached.
- September 1941: During the Finnish army's re-invasion of the area around Lake Ladoga which had been lost to the USSR, Finnish forces took an island south of Vyborg, isolating 23 Soviet units who were in Vyborg port. Two RON frogmen swam to the island, laying a guide cable as they went. 50 RON frogmen followed this cable, landed and found that the Finns had removed parts from their guns and abandoned the island, perhaps because they had seen the Soviet preparations.
- See these images of RON frogmen on site http://www.vrazvedka.ru :-
- frogmen entering water
- early Russian frogman's breathing set
- early Russian frogmen standing waist deep in water
- early Russian frogman
- early Russian frogman
- In those early days RON made its own equipment, including adapting army breathing sets for underwater use; they did not use 'fins' until the end of the 1950s.
- September 23, 1941: 270 German aircraft attacked the Soviet naval base at Kronstadt near Leningrad. They sank the transport vessel "Barta" opposite the Peterhof. The ship sat on the seabed but remained partly out of the water.
- September 1941: Prokhvatilov decided to use the "Barta" wreck as an observation post. They saw that the Germans had built a pier at Staraya Peterhof, and stacked piles of naval mines by it. RON frogmen towed two naval mines to the pier and destroyed it. The Germans did not rebuild it.
- Early October 1941: start of frogman training in the Soviet Pacific Fleet.
- 1941–1943, winters: RON men patrol the supply road over the ice of frozen Lake Ladoga.
- September 1943: During the siege of Leningrad, a group of combat swimmers of a RON unit entered the German naval base at Strelna and destroyed Italian combat boats of the Decima Flottiglia MAS.
- April 1944: ROON (a unit like RON), was formed in the Soviet Black Sea fleet.
- July 1944: Combat swimmers of RON completed underwater work on board the German submarine U-250, which had been sunk by the Soviet anti-submarine Hunter-killer MO-103. Some secret documents and a new type of acoustic torpedo were found. Some key components of this T-5 G7es torpedo were subsequently given to British naval specialists by the Soviet forces. German aircraft and torpedo boats tried to interrupt the diving operation. Negotiations between the Soviet and British sides over the T-5 acoustic torpedo are depicted in the book "The Way to Victory" written by Soviet admiral N.G. Kuznetsov.
- October 1945: RON and ROON and all similar organizations were officially disbanded.
- July 1946 to the beginning of 1950; and May 29, 1952: discussions in the USSR about the need for combat frogmen.
- January 24, 1953: A conference in the USSR confirmed that combat frogmen were needed.
- 1953: The first naval combat divers' unit, the 6th OMRP, was established in the Black Sea.
- 1954: Scuba divers' or frogmen's footprints were found on a beach near a sanatorium used by the Soviet state party elite. This caused a security alarm, compelling the USSR to form a combat frogman unit.
- October 15, 1954: The naval combat divers' unit, the 561st OMRP, was established in the Baltic Sea.
- April 1956: The Lionel Crabb underwater spying incident and the Soviet warship Ordzhonikidze caused a security alarm and pushed the USSR towards forming a combat frogman unit.
- According to Jan Willem Bech's site, Soviet oxygen rebreathers, whose manufacturing codes end in two digits, of-which the lowest such number is 51, (the IDA-51). The characteristic metal backpack-box (like the one the IDA-71 has), seems to be first definitely known is the LVI-57. The LVI-57 shown on Jan Willem Bech's site was made in 1964. Sometimes with Soviet products (as with the AK-47 rifle) these numbers indicate when that make came into production, e.g. the IDA-71 in 1971.
- June 1967: When the Six-Day War between Israel and Arab nations took place, some Soviet ships were in Port Said. This showed naval commanders that their ships in the Eastern Mediterranean were well protected from air attack, but were not properly protected from frogman attacks. As a result, Soviet naval commanders decided to form the PDSS.
- 1967: PDSS (Противо-Диверсионные Силы и Средства, Protivo-Diversionnyye Sily i Sredstva = Anti-diversionary forces and means), began development in the Soviet Black Sea Fleet. PDSS is a complex of special measures developed by the Soviet Navy to counter possible attacks by frogmen. PDSS includes specially trained units (teams) of the Soviet Navy, frogman and anti-frogman training and special weapons and tactics. According to some historians, Soviet Naval Commanders decided to form PDSS after the Lionel Crabb incident.
- 1968: The 6th OMRP was transformed into the 17th Отдельная бригада специального назначения, OBrSpN, Otdel'naja brigada spetsial'nogo naznacheniya = Detached Brigade for Special Purposes).
- 1969: PDSS units were formed in the Soviet Pacific, Baltic and Northern fleets.
- 1970 and after: frogmen from the OB PDSS operated in Angola, Vietnam, Egypt, Mozambique, Nicaragua, Ethiopia and other places, often at the request of the nation that they operated in. They went to Angola and Nicaragua to protect Soviet ships and to consult local armed forces.
- (date unknown): Soviet frogmen protected a USSR trade commission who were visiting a place on the coast of Africa. They saw, fought against and drove off a group of six or eight South African combat frogmen in an underwater battle. There were no deaths.
- (date unknown): See Anti-frogman_techniques#Trained animals for an incident when Soviet frogmen killed some trained anti-frogman dolphins in an incident off Nicaragua.
- 1989: Mikhail Gorbachev and George H. W. Bush met on board the Soviet ship Maksim Gorkiy near the coast of Malta. For three days, frogmen from the Baltic Fleet, including spetsnazmen from the 561 OMRP and Osnaz, protected the ship.
- 1990: The 17th OBrSpN was transformed into the 1464th OMRP.
- January–May 1995: Several seamen, midshipmen, warrant officers and officers from different OMRPs took part in the First Chechen War as volunteers. They were included in naval infantry units and operated as conventional marines in reconnaissance units, not as a separate Spetsnaz unit.
- 2004: The Russian state-controlled Channel One showed a documentary film dedicated to some Spetsnaz operations which were not known to the general public. The film is called Spetsnaz: the Operations. Among other stories, the film depicted an episode about the tactics of Russian combat swimmers from a PDSS unit. The episode was based on a real incident that occurred a few years earlier in a Russian naval base. Agents of a Russian PDSS team had detected activity of foreign frogmen. According to the film's narrator, these frogmen were well-trained professionals who planned to accomplish a terrorist act inside the base as a Russian battleship[vague] was arriving in harbour. The intruders had recruited a local man as a source of information. They planned to destroy a pier, together with the relatives of naval officers and sailors, by the remote detonation of a special mine. During fast and bloody combat, all the foreign frogmen were killed; their weaponry, explosive devices and diving equipment were captured by a PDSS team.
- 2008, August 12 : during the 2008 South Ossetia war, combat swimmers from the Russian Black Sea Fleet successfully demolished Georgian torpedo boats and missile boats inside Poti harbour.
Links to images
- http://dss.army.lv/divers.jpg Training a combat diver in the 561st OMRP, with IDA-type rebreather. A safety diver with aqua-lung is to the left, (mid-1970s).
- http://dss.army.lv/malta.jpg Combat divers of the 561st OMRP, who took part in guarding Mikhail Gorbachev and George H.W. Bush in Malta in 1989. Midshipman Ivan Alexeyevich Avdot'in (surname is changed for understandable reasons), is to the right.
- http://dss.army.lv/oath.jpg Russian combat diver takes the oath. 561st OMRP, 1990s.
- http://dss.army.lv/diver.jpg Diving training. 561st OMRP, (mid-1970s).
- http://dss.army.lv/parachute.jpg Parachute training. 561st OMRP, (mid-1970s).
- http://dss.army.lv/liepaja.jpg Military exercise near Liepāja in Latvia, winter 1976.
- http://dss.army.lv/parusnoe.jpg Parusnoye castle. Due to this place name, combat divers of the 561st OMRP are unofficially called Parusniki, (mid-1970s).
- http://dss.army.lv/three.jpg Parusniki before parachute jump, 1976.
- http://dss.army.lv/tree.jpg Three combat divers, not in diving gear, (mid-1970s).
These pictures are from the archives of A.Rzhavin.
- (Russian) Divers of Special Purpose
- (Russian) The Foundation of Underwater Spetsnaz: Strelna operation
- About Russian frogmen (uses the name Delfin)
- (English) (Russian) Extracts from a book about Soviet and Russian combat divers by Alexander Rzhavin Senior who served in the Soviet Naval Spetsnaz in from 1973 to 1976. With photographs. English- and Russian-language versions.