- See NPO Vympel for the Russian air-to-air missiles designer
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|Country|| Soviet Union (1981-1991)
Russian Federation (1991-)
|Role||Counter-terrorism, Special operations|
|Size||Considered about 1000|
|Part of||Soviet Armed Forces (until 1991)
Armed Forces of the Russian Federation (since 1991)
|Garrison/HQ||Mainly different Moscow districts|
|Colors||Green or Red|
Vympel (pennant in Russian, originated from Dutch wimpel, and having the same meaning), also known as KGB Directorate "B" , Vega Group, Spetsgruppa V or Group B (Cyrillic for V) is an elite Russian spetsnaz unit under the command of the FSB.
The exact lineage of Vympel is not known but the unit was formed in 1981 by the KGB Gen. Drozdov within the First Chief Directorate of the KGB, as a dedicated spetsnaz unit specialised in deep penetration, sabotage, universal direct and covert action, protection of Soviet embassies and espionage cell activation in case of war. Most of the Vympel operatives mastered two or three foreign languages since they were intended to act in foreign countries, deep behind enemy lines.
Vympel quickly gained the reputation of being among the best Soviet special forces units, surpassing its GRU and MVD counterparts. However, after the collapse of the USSR, Vympel was decimated by endless re-organisation and re-definition. It passed under the aegis of the Security Ministry before being receded to the GUO (the two institutions were short-lived offspring of the ex-KGB during the Boris Yeltsin era) and finally passed to the MVD (Interior Ministry). However, the militsiya had no use for such a unit. The bulk of the Vympel operatives could not stand the humiliation of being subordinated to the police, and duly resigned: of 278 officers, only 57 chose to remain within the MVD. The unit was renamed "Vega."
In 1995, the FSB Special Operations Center (TsSN FSB) was granted control over Vympel. The group regained its original name and was reintegrated into the Intelligence Service structures. The emphasis shifted from covert and clandestine sabotage operations to counter-terrorism and nuclear safety enforcement. Vympel operatives undergo special training related to improvised or special explosive devices, permitting them to use "terrorist-like" tactics to carry out their operations. Physical training includes close hand combat, parachute training, diving, underwater combat techniques, climbing, and alpine rope techniques. Regional groups of Vympel were deployed in cities with especially important nuclear facilities.
Vympel (i.e. the Directorate "V" of the TsSN FSB) is still a classified and secretive unit. It took part in Russia's Chechen campaigns and in storming of the Supreme Soviet building during the 1993 Russian constitutional crisis. Little is known about its current operations and activities, the exception being the capture of the Chechen militant leader Salman Raduyev in March 2000 and the assault on the school in Beslan in September 2004.
Vympel training is the same as Alpha Group. All Vympel operatives are trained in tactical operations, parachuting, driving various vehicles, trained in methods of intelligence gathering, and other specialized skills.
- Alpha Group, a sister KGB/FSB unit; specialised in counter-terrorism missions and covert operations
- Boris Volodarsky, License to Kill, Wall Street Journal, 20 December 2006