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Russian Airborne Forces

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Russian Airborne Forces
Воздушно-десантные войска России
Vozdushno-desantnye voyska Rossii
Emblem of the Russian Airborne Forces
Founded7 May 1992
BranchRussian Armed Forces
TypeAirborne forces
Size45,000 (2023)[1]
Nickname(s)Blue Berets, Winged Infantry, Troops of Uncle Vasya, Angels of Death
Motto(s)Никто, кроме нас! (Nobody, but us!)
Color of Beret  Sky Blue
AnniversariesParatroopers' Day (2 August)
WebsiteOfficial website
CommanderColonel General Mikhail Teplinsky
Chief of Staff and First Deputy commanderColonel General Evgeniy Ustinov [ru]
General Georgy Shpak
Medium emblem

The Russian Airborne Forces (Russian: Воздушно-десантные войска России, ВДВ, romanizedVozdushno-desantnye voyska Rossii, VDV) is the airborne forces branch of the Russian Armed Forces. It was formed in 1992 from units of the Soviet Airborne Forces that came under Russian control following the dissolution of the Soviet Union.

Troops of the Russian Airborne Forces have traditionally worn a blue beret and blue-striped telnyashka undershirt and are called desant (Russian: Десант), from the French Descente.[3]

The Russian Airborne Forces utilizes a range of specialist airborne warfare vehicles and are fully mechanized. Traditionally they have had a larger complement of heavy weaponry than most contemporary airborne forces.[4]


After the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the Russian Airborne Forces were reduced from seven divisions to five, which were the 7th, 76th, 98th, 104th, and 106th. Out of these, the 104th was disbanded, and the four existing divisions had their size reduced to only two regiments instead of three. A new unit was also formed, the 45th Separate Reconnaissance Regiment, which was subordinated to the GRU military intelligence for operations despite being part of the Airborne Forces. The VDV had about 35,000 personnel at this time. In 2006, the 7th and 76th were re-designated as air assault divisions, while the 98th and 106th remained as airborne divisions. The main difference was that the latter still had the ability to parachute troops into a location while the air assault divisions would simply be transported there by aircraft. The 7th Division was also designated as a "mountain" air assault division. The 31st Separate Air Assault Brigade had all of its artillery and armored vehicles removed, which made it more comparable to a Western airborne unit.[5]

Russian paratroopers at Tuzla Air Base in Bosnia-Herzegovina in 1997 as members of the Stabilization Force.
Paratroopers of the 106th Guards Airborne Division in Kazakhstan in 1999.
Paratroopers of the 83rd Airborne Brigade preparing for jump drills in 2017.

The 11th Air Assault Brigade in the Central Military District (formerly the Siberian Military District) and the 56th Air Assault Brigade in the Southern Military District (formerly the North Caucasus Military District) were partially infantry formations reporting directly to the military districts they are stationed in.[6] The VDV's training institute is the Ryazan Institute for the Airborne Forces named for General of the Army V.F. Margelov.[7] In addition, in the mid-late 1990s, the former 345th Guards Airborne Regiment was stationed in Gudauta, Abkhazia AR, Georgia. It later became the 10th Independent Peacekeeping Airborne Regiment. The unit was further designated the 50th Military Base.

In the early 1990s, General Pavel Catzilla, the first Russian Defence Minister, planned for the VDV to form the core of the planned Mobile Forces. This was announced in Krasnaya Zvezda, the Ministry of Defence's daily newspaper, in July 1992. However, the Mobile Forces plan was never enacted. The number of formations available for the force was far less than anticipated, since much of the Airborne Forces had been 'nationalised' by the republics their units had been previously based in, and other arms of service, such as the GRU and Military Transport Aviation, who were to provide the airlift component, were adamantly opposed to ceding control of their forces.[8]

From 1996 the VDV dispatched the 1st Airborne Brigade to Bosnia and Herzegovina as part of IFOR's Multi-National Division North. The brigade, unusually, used Russian Ground Forces equipment such as BTR-80s.

After an experimental period, the 104th Parachute Regiment of 76th Airborne Division became the first Russian Ground Forces regiment that was fully composed of professional soldiers (and not of srochniki – conscripted soldiers aged eighteen). It was announced that the 98th Airborne Division was also earmarked for contract manning, and by September 2006, it was confirmed that 95% of the units of the 98th Division had shifted to contract manning.[9]

With the reduction in forces after 1991, the 61st Air Army, Russia's military air transport force, has enough operational heavy transport aircraft to move one airborne division, manned at peacetime standards, in two-and-a-half lifts.[10] The single independent brigade, the 31st at Ulyanovsk, however, is not equipped with its own armor or artillery and may be equivalent to Western airborne troops in that it functions as light infantry, on foot when reaching their destination. The 31st was the former 104th Guards Airborne Division.

VDV troops participated in the rapid deployment of Russian forces stationed in Bosnian city Ugljevik, in and around Pristina Airport during the Kosovo War. They also took part in the invasion of Chechnya as an active bridgehead for other forces to follow.

Notable former Airborne Forces officers include Aleksandr Lebed, who was involved in responses to disorder in the Caucasus republics in the last years of the Soviet Union, and Pavel Grachev who went on to become the first Minister of Defence of the Russian Federation.

On 26 May 2009 Lieutenant-General Vladimir Anatolevich Shamanov became the commander of the VDV, replacing Lieutenant-General Valeriy Yevtukhovich who was being discharged to the reserve. Shamanov had been decorated as a Hero of Russia for his combat role in the campaigns in Chechnya. His previous posts were as chief of the combat training directorate and commander of the 58th Army, and later chief of the main combat training directorate.[11] Shamanov and the acting commander of the 106th Airborne Division were severely injured in a car crash on 30 October 2010, with the driver being killed.[12]

On 28 January 2010, the Russian Defense Ministry announced that the VDV's air components had been placed under the VVS.[13]

Under the 2008 reform programme, the four existing two-regiment divisions should have been transformed into 7–8 air-assault brigades. However, once General Shamanov became commander-in-chief of the Airborne Forces, it was decided to keep the original structure. The divisions were strengthened, becoming four independent airborne/air-assault brigades, one for each military district.[14] The 332nd School for Praporshchiks of the VDV (Russian: 332 Школа прапорщиков ВДВ) in Moscow was disbanded in December 2009 (also under the 2008 reform programme, all praporshchik (WO) posts in the Russian Armed Forces were formally abolished).

In October 2013 it was reported that the three airborne brigades under military district control (apparently the 11th and 83rd (Ulan-Ude and Ussuriysk) in the Eastern Military District and the 56th at Kamyshin in the Southern Military District) would be returned to VDV command.[15] The process was completed by July 2015.[16] In October 2013, Commander-in-Chief of the VDV Vladimir Shamanov announced that a new air assault brigade would be formed in Voronezh in 2016 with the number of the 345th Guards Airborne Regiment.[17] The establishment of the brigade was postponed to 2017–18, according to a June 2015 announcement.[18] It was announced in July 2015 that plans called for the 31st Airborne Brigade to be expanded into the 104th Guards Airborne Division by 2023,[19] and for an additional airborne regiment to be attached to each division.[20]

Elements of the 76th Guards Air Assault Division's 104th Guards Air Assault Regiment allegedly participated in the war in Donbas.[21] These units allegedly were used as spearhead forces during the August 2014 DPR and LPR counteroffensive.[22] During the August 2014 counteroffensive, battalion tactical groups of the 7th Guards Airborne Division's 247th Guards Air Assault Regiment, the 98th Guards Airborne Division's 331st Guards Airborne Regiment, the 106th Guards Airborne Division's 137th Guards Airborne Regiment, and the 31st Guards Air Assault Brigade allegedly were sent into Ukraine. Reconnaissance teams from the 45th Detached Reconnaissance Brigade and the 106th's 173rd Guards Separate Reconnaissance Company were previously deployed to Ukraine alongside Ground Forces units.[23]

In February 2016, it was reported that an airborne battalion would be permanently deployed to Dzhankoy, Crimea, in 2017–18, and upgraded to a regiment in 2020.[24] In May 2017, Shamanov announced that the battalion would be formed at Feodosiya by 1 December 2017 as part of the 7th Guards Mountain Air Assault Division, and would be expanded into the 97th Air Assault Regiment with three battalions by late 2019.[25] Since the 2014 annexation, the status of Crimea is under dispute between Russia and Ukraine; Ukraine and the majority of the international community considers Crimea an integral part of Ukraine, while Russia considers Crimea to be an integral part of Russia.[26]

In August 2016, Russian paratroopers placed 1st place in the Airborne Platoon competition during the International Army Games in Russia, defeating teams from China, Iran, Belarus, and Kazakhstan.[27]

On 4 October 2016, Colonel General Andrey Serdyukov was appointed commander of the Russian Airborne Forces, replacing Shamanov, who became chief of the Duma Committee on Defense.[28]

During 2016, three reconnaissance battalions and six tank companies, and two companies of electronic warfare and unmanned aerial vehicles were formed. 188 new and upgraded armored vehicles were delivered, with the Russian Airborne Forces equipment level of modern weapons at 47%.[citation needed] From 2015 to 2016 five intelligence units and six tank units have been formed, over 3,000 new pieces of weaponry and special military equipment were supplied, the number of contract servicemen had grown by 1.5 times, while the troops' training intensity had risen by 20 percent.[citation needed]

The Russian Airborne Forces received over eleven thousand new and upgraded weapons in 2017. The share of modern armaments and hardware comprises 62 percent. In two years four battalion sets of 120 BMD-4M and BTR-MDM Rakushka vehicles were supplied. Besides that, the force received over 100 upgraded weapons, including 2S9-1M self-propelled guns. From 2015 to 2017 the air defense units received close to 500 modern automated reconnaissance and command complexes, new Verba portable missiles, and over 30 upgraded Strela-10MN missile complexes.[citation needed]

On December 1, 2017, the organizational events to create a separate airborne assault battalion in Novorosiisk mountain division deployed in Feodosiya and a separate repairs and maintenance battalion in the Moscow region were completed. Contracted servicemen comprised over 70 percent of the troops. Barnaul-T R&D produced a planning module paradropped to airborne units to simultaneously track a hundred air objects, and a paradroppable reconnaissance and command module to detect targets in a 40-km range, deployable in five minutes.[citation needed]

State tests of a new Bakhcha-U-PDS parachute platform for the BMD-4M and BTR-MDM vehicles were completed in May 2018.[29] Deliveries of new 'heavy drop' systems PBS-950U and PBS-955 began in 2020.[30] In 2019, two battalion sets of BMD-4M airborne combat vehicles and BTR-MDM Rakushka armored personnel carriers, more than 200 units of various automotive equipment, including special armored vehicles, army snowmobiles, four-wheelers and buggies and more than 9,000 parachute systems D-10 and "Arbalet-2" were delivered to the troops.[31]

In April 2020, military personnel from the Russian Airborne Forces, performed the world's first HALO paradrop from the lower border of the Arctic stratosphere. The Russian commando group used "next-generation special-purpose parachute system", military-tested oxygen equipment, navigation devices, special equipment, and uniforms. This was the first high-altitude landing in the Arctic latitudes over 10 km in the history of Russian aviation.[32][33]

As part of its mission in the Arctic region, the aircrew provided landing of airborne units from altitudes of between 10 and 1.8 kilometres, as well as landing of cargo with a total weight of about 18 tons. After conducting practical combat training, the Il-76 aircrews landed at the Nagurskoe airfield in the northern part of the island of Franz Josef Land. The high-altitude landing was dedicated to the 75th anniversary of victory in the Great Patriotic war of 1941–1945, and the 90th anniversary of the formation of the Airborne troops.[32][33]

In 2020, the VDV continued to modernize and re-equip its command posts, started to receive the Stayer high-altitude parachute system which enable airdrops from up to 10 km altitude, and completed receiving special-purpose controllable parachute systems.[34][35][36][37]

Two air assault regiments were set up in Pskov and Crimea as part of air assault divisions in 2021. The Russian Defense Ministry also accepted the Zavet-D artillery fire control vehicle for the Airborne Forces.[38][39] In 2021-2022, the Airborne Forces received about 30,000 sets of landing equipment and parachute systems.[40][41] Sergey Shoigu claimed in September 2023 that VDV have received more than 2,000 hardware units and 5,500 landing means and also a new airborne regiment formed since the beginning of the year.[42] The Russian Ministry of Defense said on 1 January 2024 that the VDV received during the past year over 2,500 units of weapons, military and special equipment, including more than 780 samples of "newest and contemporary ones". Among the newest samples were T-90M tanks and BMD-4M IFVs as well as BTR-MDM "Rakushka" and BTR-82A APCs.[43] It was also reported on 3 January that 20 military units were created in 2023, including the Ulyanovsk air assault division.[44] About 16,000 landing means were also reportedly delivered[45] and 1,000 more in the first quarter of 2024.[46]

Russian invasion of Ukraine[edit]

VDV Airborne troops at Hostomel Airport during the Battle of Antonov Airport
VDV Airborne troops attacking a Ukrainian drone during the Battle of the Svatove–Kreminna line

The VDV participated heavily in the Russian invasion of Ukraine. In the opening hours of the invasion the VDV attempted to secure key airports and support assaults around Ukraine. These paratroopers were recognizable by the orange-and-black Saint George ribbons decorating their helmets and arms.[47]

The VDV landed troops with Mi-8 and Mi-17 helicopters to take the Hostomel Airport in northern Kyiv, in order to use the airport to airlift more troops and heavy equipment to take Kyiv as a form of forward "air bridge"[48] that would enable rapid deployment of Russian forces far in advance of the Russian land front, in an action that became known as the Battle of Antonov Airport. Upon landing, the VDV troops at the airport engaged the Ukrainian National Guard's 4th Rapid Reaction Brigade, which with the help of the Ukrainian Air Force encircled the unsupported VDV troops and, with significant artillery fire support, forced the paratroopers to temporarily withdraw to nearby woods.[49]

The next day battle resumed, and the VDV conducted a renewed helicopter assault to land troops at the airport. Deploying around 200 helicopters and with support from the Ground Forces arriving from the north (Belarus and Chernobyl), they established Russian control over the airport. In the end, however, the Ukrainians claimed that the airport became too damaged from the battle to be used as an airstrip.[50]

40 kilometers south of Kyiv in Vasylkiv, VDV paratroopers also dropped in an attempt to secure the Vasylkiv Air Base. Without any support from air or ground forces, the VDV troops in Vasylkiv were eventually encircled and were unsuccessful in achieving their objectives, giving victory in the Battle of Vasylkiv to the Ukrainians.[51]

On February 27, VDV troops with BMD-2s and BTR-Ds were seen advancing south of Hostomel in Bucha.[52] The VDV and Ground Forces' units were hit on the same day by Bayraktar air strikes. The Ukrainian government claimed that "more than 100 units of enemy equipment were destroyed”.[53] On the following weeks the VDV served as mechanized infantry and light infantry during the Kyiv offensive.[54]

During the Battle of Kharkiv, VDV paratroopers landed in Kharkiv on March 2 in an attempt to capture the contested city.[55] They attempted a raid on a local military hospital but were repelled by local Ukrainian forces.[56]

According to the UK Ministry of Defence in June 2023, Russia was redeploying regular military units to the Bakhmut sector following withdrawal of Wagner forces. These included elements of the 76th and 106th VDV divisions and two additional brigades. The MoD added that the VDV was much degraded from its pre-invasion "elite" status.[57]

Analysis of losses[edit]

On 3 March 2022, it was reported that Major General Andrei Sukhovetsky of the VDV's 7th Guards Mountain Air Assault Division, who was the appointed deputy commander of the 41st Combined Arms Army, was killed in action in Ukraine.[58] His death is attributed to sniper fire either near Mariupol (which was besieged by Russian forces)[59] or Hostomel during the Kyiv offensive.[60] Ukrainian sources said he was killed on 2 March and his death was first confirmed on VKontakte by "Combat Brotherhood", a Russian veterans group,[58] and later by President Vladimir Putin.[59] The VDV suffered similar losses in Bucha and Irpin with poor command and control being cited.[54] The VDV also joined the assault on the city of Mykolaiv during the Battle of Mykolaiv, but were pushed back by a Ukrainian counter-offensive.[61]

On 18 March it was reported that Colonel Sergei Sukharev along with deputy Major Sergei Krylov of the 331st Guards Airborne Regiment had been killed during fighting in Mariupol.[62]

In late April, Bellingcat journalist Christo Grozev claimed that he "personally checked" and that Russia had lost "almost 90% of its best paratroopers" in the first echelon of the invasion.[63] Many helicopters were shot down by Ukrainian defenses, and the paratroopers were stranded without armored vehicles or air support.[64] In early May, the UK MoD claimed that the VDV units and other elite forces had suffered high losses and that it would "probably take years for Russia to reconstitute these forces."[65]

On 19 June 2022, it was reported by Odesa military-civilian spokesperson Serhiy Bratchuk[66] that Putin had sacked Serdyukov for his failures and high casualties among paratroopers in Hostomel.[67][66] This was confirmed by Russian media reports.[68] He was replaced by Colonel General Mikhail Teplinsky.

According to BBC News Russian and the Mediazona news website, 1,937 VDV deaths had been documented by the end of August 2023, which included 340 officers, accounting for 6% of the 31,665 Russian fatalities who had been identified by name, and 8% of those who could identified by both name and service branch.[69]

UK intelligence estimate that around 30,000 paratroop forces were deployed to Ukraine in 2022 and that 50% of those have been killed or wounded by summer 2023. A Russian General in August 2023 stated that 3,500 wounded paratroopers had refused to leave the front for treatment and 5,000 had returned to the front after treatment.[70]

According to open-source intelligence analysis website Oryx, as of 21 December 2023, at least 248 BMD-2, 101 BMD-4M, 83 BTR-D and 11 unknown BTR-D/BMD-2 have been lost in the invasion.[71]

Creation of new VDV forces[edit]

After the invasion it was announced that the Airborne Forces would create two new divisions. Teplinsky announced on August 2, 2023 that the VDV is expanding the 31st Air Assault Brigade into the 104th Guards Air Assault Division. The 299th and 119th Parachute-Landing Regiments were also reestablished, expanding two other divisions from two to three regiments.[72]

Also reported was the creation of a new Airborne Forces artillery brigade and the 44th Air Assault Division, created on the basis of the 111th and 387th Motor Rifle Regiments of the 1st Donetsk Army Corps of the turncoat Donetsk People's Republic. The 44th Air Assault Division recalls the number of the Soviet-era 44th Training Airborne Division. But formed from newly-formed motor rifle regiments, it would not be anything like the quality of existing Air Assault formations.


Banner of the Airborne Forces Commander-in-Chief.

Command personnel[edit]

  • Commander Air Landing Forces – Colonel-General
  • Chief of Staff and First Deputy Commander of the Air Landing Forces – Lieutenant-General
  • Deputy Commander of the Air Landing Forces – Major-General
  • Deputy Commander of the Air Landing Forces for Peacekeeping Operations and Collective Rapid Reaction Forces – Major-General
  • Chief of Air Landing Training and Deputy Commander of the Air Landing Forces for Air Landing Training – Major-General
  • Chief of Combat Training and Deputy Commander of the Air Landing Forces – Major-General
  • Deputy Commander of the Air Landing Forces for Educational Work – Colonel


The structure of the Russian Airborne Forces

The Air Landing Forces combine Parachute Landing (парашютно-десантние) and Landing Assault (десантно-штурмовие) units. The difference between the two is that while both were airborne qualified and mechanised with BMD, BTR-D, 2S9 Nona, the parachute landing units are lighter (only quarter mechanised) and play the role of entry element, while landing assault units were fully mechanised and were intended to develop the breach opened by the parachute landing forces.[73]

Paratroopers at the 2008 Victory Day parade.
Airborne Forces commander Andrey Serdyukov in front of Spasskaya Bashnya on Paratroopers' Day in 2020.
Russian VDV with the Belarusian 38th Air Assault Brigade in 2018. Belarusian and Russian forces maintain a close working relationship.

Armament and equipment[edit]

Personal firearms and crew served weapons include:[citation needed]

  • AK-74M (including upgraded variants with the KM-AK Obves modernization kit)[78] and AKS-74 assault rifles, and AKS-74U special purpose and self-defence carbine (5.45×39mm)
  • AK-12 assault rifles (5.45×39mm)[79]
  • RPK-74, light weight machinegun (5.45×39mm), now largely withdrawn from service and replaced by the PKM/PKP
  • PKM, general purpose machinegun (7.62×54mmR)
  • 6P41 "Pecheneg" (PKP) general purpose machine gun (7.62×54mmR), currently replacing the PKM as the general purpose machine gun throughout the Russian Armed Forces
  • Dragunov SVDS, sniper rifle (7.62×54mmR)
  • Dragunov SVU, modified SVD in bullpup configuration and its variants are in limited use
  • SV-98, main sniper rifle (7.62×54mmR)[80]
  • ASVK-M Kord-M anti-materiel sniper rifle (12.7×108mm)[30]
  • VSS Vintorez, silenced sniper rifle (9×39mm)
  • AS Val special assault rifle[81]
  • MP-443 Grach, semi-automatic pistol (9×19mm Parabellum)
  • Makarov, semi-automatic pistol (9×18mm Mak) & Glock 17, semi-automatic pistol (9x19 Parabellum)
  • GP-25, GP-30 and GP-34, under-barrel 40 mm grenade launchers for fragmentation and gas grenades
  • AGS-17 Plamya (Flame), 30 mm automatic grenade launcher
  • RPO-A Shmel (Bumblebee), infantry rocket flamethrower, currently replacing the older RPO Rys (Lynx)
  • RPG-7D anti-tank rocket launcher, or more modern systems such as the RPG-22 and RPG-26
  • 2B14 Podnos 82 mm mortar or the 120 mm 2S12 Sani on UAZ vehicles
  • 9K38 Igla man-portable SAM system, or the more modern 9K338 Igla-S
  • 9K333 Verba man-portable SAM system, currently entering service[82]
  • 9K111 Fagot,[83] 9K115 Metis[citation needed] and 9M133 Kornet[84] man-portable anti-tank systems
  • MTS-566 sniper rifle[85]

The VDV are fully equipped with Barmitsa and Ratnik infantry combat suits as of 2018.[86][87][88] Andromeda-D, Barnaul-T and Dozor automated control systems, AS-1 snowmobiles, four wheelers, a specially-created uniform for hot climates and Nanuk Arctic gear, reconnaissance-control and planning modules and the REX-1 counter-unmanned aerial vehicle rifle-like, man-portable jammer developed by Kalashnikov Group subsidiary ZALA Aero Group are also being introduced into service.[89][90][91][92][93][94][30] Portable versions of the Garmony air defence radar, modernized reconnaissance and artillery fire control posts and Aistyonok and Sobolyatnik radars are being supplied to the VDV.[95] The Russian Airborne Forces have also received new special-purpose controlled wing-type parachutes.[96] VDV servicemen performing tasks in Ukraine received VKPO 3.0 all-season field uniform kits in 2023.[97] The automatic cargo parachute system Junker-DG-250 passed acceptance trials and began to be supplied in November 2023.[98] VDV also reportedly use the Lesochek EW system.[99][100]

Armoured vehicles[edit]

There are over 1,800 armored fighting vehicles, mostly BMD-1 (since 1969), of which all but around 100 are in storage,[101][failed verification] and at least several hundred BMD-2 (since 1985). There are over 100 BMD-3 (1990) that were partially upgraded to BMD-4 level. All of them are amphibious, moving at around 10 km/h in water. The BMD-4 is capable of full, continuous fire while in deep water, unlike any other vehicle with such heavy weaponry (100 mm gun and 30 mm auto cannon). However, some units (such as those who served on peacekeeping duties in the Balkans) are known to have used BTR armored personnel carriers rather than BMD's. T-72B3 tanks supplied to the Russian Airborne Forces in 2018 have been upgraded and are equipped with Andromeda automatic control system and some of them with top-attack defence screens.[102] As of 2021, the Russian Airborne Forces have 150 T-72B3 and 10 T-72B3 mod. 2016. T-90M tanks are also attached to VDV units as of August 2023.[103]

There is a turret-less variant of the BMD-1, the BTR-D, which is used as troop carrier and serves as the basis for specialised versions such as anti-tank, command and signals. The BTR-D will be partially replaced by the new multi-purpose APC BTR-MD "Rakushka" that will also come in several different versions. Approximately 280 vehicles in all BTR-D configurations are in service.[104] As part of the 2011 state defence order (GOZ), 10 BMD-4M and 10 "Rakushka's" have been ordered, but according to the VDV's CinC General Colonel Shamanov, Kurganmashzavod did not give a guarantee it would produce them.[105]

The Russian Defense Ministry adopted the BMD-4M in April 2016.[106] The first production batch of the new armored vehicles BMD-4M and BTR-MDM "Shell" in the amount of 24 units (12 each) transferred to the Russian Airborne Forces in 2015.[107] The VDV equipped the first regiment with BMD-4Ms and BTR-MDMs in 2016.[citation needed] In 2017, they received two battalion sets of BMD-4M combat airborne vehicles and BTR-MDM APCs, over 80 Rys’ and UAZ Pickup armored automobiles.[108]

The BMD-4M
The BTR-MDM "Shell"

Russian airborne brigade-level units have received SPM-2 GAZ-233036 Tigr armored cars. They have ordered Kamaz Typhoon armored infantry transports, following modifications to meet the demands of the airborne troops and accepted them for supply in August 2021. The Russian Airborne Forces have received about 100 Tigr and Rys special armored vehicles, 200 Snegohod A-1 snow-going and AM-1 all-terrain vehicles, UAZ Patriot light motor vehicles, Toros 4x4 armored vehicles and Kamaz trucks that can be air-dropped.[109]

The VDV currently receives Berkyt protected snowmobiles for personnel transportation and fire support in arctic conditions.[110][111] Infauna and Leer-2 EW systems alongside Aileron-3SV UAVs and P-230T command vehicles are also received.[112][113] The RKhM-6 chemical reconnaissance vehicle based on the BTR-80 armored personnel carrier, the BTR-D airborne assault armored personnel carrier with a ZU-23 anti-aircraft gun and the R-149MA1 and the R-142DA command and staff vehicles were demonstrated in August 2021.[114] The Sarmat-2 light tactical buggy participated in the Zapad-2021 drill.[115]

On 1 August 2013, it was reported that the Russian Airborne Forces will develop a hybrid combat vehicle that combines features of an airborne infantry fighting vehicle and a helicopter. To meet the demands of future armed conflicts, a combat module that combines a light combat vehicle and an attack helicopter is being considered, with a crew of three-four people. The vehicle will be developed for the VDV by 2030.[citation needed]


"Sprut-SD" tank/howitzer for airborne forces (equipped with parachutes)

The airborne self-propelled artillery guns ASU-57 and ASU-85 have been withdrawn. They had light armour and limited anti-tank capability, but provided invaluable fire support for paratroopers behind enemy lines (the caliber of the gun in mm is the number next to the ASU designation).

Also withdrawn were the multiple rocket launch systems RPU-14 (8U38) of 140 mm and the BM-21V "Grad-V" (9P125) of 122 mm on GAZ-66, as well as the 85 mm gun SD-44.

Today the VDV operates the following systems:

  • 2S9 Nona and modernized 2S9M[116] 120 mm self-propelled gun-mortar. Currently being replaced by the 2B23 Nona-M1 120 mm towed mortar and 2S31 Vena 120 mm self-propelled gun-mortar/2S12A modernized 120 mm self-propelled mortar[117][118]
  • 2S25 Sprut-SD 125 mm self-propelled artillery/anti-tank gun based on BMD-3 hull
  • D-30 (2A18) 122 mm howitzer and anti-tank weapon, towed by truck, not amphibious, able to make 360 degree turns as it is deployed on a tripod
  • ZU-23-2 23 mm air-defence gun, is either mounted on the BTR-D, or can be towed by a jeep or truck as it has wheels. Since 2011, some ZU-23s are being replaced by the Strela-10M3/MN and since 2016 by the newest versions of the Buk missile system.[119][120]
  • TOS-1A 220 mm self-propelled 24-barrel thermobaric/incendiary unguided rocket launcher since 2022.[121][122]
  • 2S36 Zauralets-D – future 120 mm self-propelled gun-howitzer based on the BMD-4[123]
  • 2S37 – future 152 mm self-propelled gun-howitzer based on the BMD-4[123]

The VDV is equipped with numerous types of airborne capable trucks and jeeps, for example the Ural-4320, the GAZ-66V and the GAZ-2975 "Tigr" for transporting cargo, specialist crews and equipment (e.g. mortars, ammunitions), but not infantry (all fighting paratroopers are transported in armoured vehicles). Currently, the GAZ-66 is being replaced by the KamAZ-43501.[119][124]


A Granat-4 UAV of the 56th Guards Air Assault Brigade

Ranks and rank insignia[edit]

Officer ranks
Rank group General / flag officers Senior officers Junior officers Officer cadet
Russian Airborne Forces
No equivalent
Army general
генера́л а́рмии
Colonel general
Lieutenant general
Major general
Lieutenant colonel
Senior lieutenant
ста́рший лейтена́нт
Junior lieutenant
мла́дший лейтена́нт
Other ranks
Rank group General / flag officers Senior officers Junior officers Officer cadet
Russian Airborne Forces

Senior warrant officer
Ста́рший пра́порщик
Warrant officer
Master sergeant
Senior sergeant
Ста́рший сержа́нт
Junior sergeant
Мла́дший сержа́нт

Commanders of the Russian Airborne Forces[edit]

The flag of Russia's Commander-in-Chief of the Airborne Forces
Name Rank Period of command
Yevgeny Podkolzin Colonel general May 1992 – December 1996
Georgy Shpak Colonel general 4 December 1996 – September 2003
Alexander Kolmakov [ru] Colonel general 8 September 2003 – 19 November 2007
Valeriy Yevtukhovich [ru] Colonel general 19 November 2007 – 6 May 2009
Nikolai Ignatov [ru] Lieutenant general 6 – 24 May 2009
Vladimir Shamanov Colonel general 26 May 2009 – 4 October 2016
Andrey Serdyukov Colonel general 4 October 2016 – 16 June 2022
Mikhail Teplinsky Colonel general 16 June 2022 – present


The older sleeve ensign of the Russian Airborne Forces
The former sleeve badge of the Russian Airborne Forces
The current sleeve badge of the Russian Airborne Forces


Paratroopers' Day celebrations[edit]

Russian airborne troops had their own holiday during the Soviet era, which continues to be celebrated on 2 August. Their most emblematic mark of distinction is a blue beret. VDV soldiers are often called "blue berets". Each year, current and former paratroopers, often in an inebriated state, celebrate by meeting up and wandering city streets and parks. The day is notorious for two common sights: paratroopers frolicking in fountains and picking fights with hapless passers-by.[133] On Airborne Forces Day in many Russian cities, it is customary to turn off the fountains and hold veteran reunions near those fountains.[134]


The combined band

The Combined Military Band of the Airborne Forces is an integral part of all the solemn events of the Airborne Forces. Every year, the band's personnel take part in the Victory Parade on Red Square, as well as the opening ceremony of the International Army Games. In the ranks of the combined band were musicians of the military bands of the airborne and assault formations of the Airborne Forces. There were six other military bands in the airborne forces.[135]

The Song and Dance Ensemble of the Airborne Forces is the theatrical troupe of the VDV. It began its creative activity in 1937, as the Red Army Song and Dance Ensemble of the Kiev Military District, numbering only 18 people. On 3 May 1945, three days after the signing of the German armistice, the ensemble gave a concert on the steps of the destroyed Reichstag.[136]

During the Cold War, the unit was known as the Song and Dance Ensemble of the Group of Soviet Forces in Germany. During this time, it had participated in concerts in the cities of East Germany, Czechoslovakia, and Poland. It gained its current status in 1994. The Song and Dance Ensemble also contains the Blue Berets musical group.[136]


See also[edit]



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Further reading[edit]

  • Austin, Greg; Muraviev, Alexey D. (21 June 2000). Red Star East: The Armed Forces of Russia in Asia. Allen & Unwin. ISBN 978-1864485981. LCCN 2001276255. OCLC 859420476. OL 38565480M – via Internet Archive.
  • Bonn, Keith E. (7 November 2004). Slaughterhouse : The Handbook of the Eastern front. The Aberjona Press. ISBN 978-0971765092. OCLC 1170020077. OL 8565591M.
  • Состав и дислокация Воздушно-десантных войск [The composition and deployment of the Airborne Forces]. brinkster.com (in Russian). n.d. Archived from the original on 10 December 2013. Retrieved 21 June 2022.
  • Feskov, V.I.; Kalashnikov, K.A.; Golikov, V.I. (21 June 2000). Sovetskai︠a︡ Armii︠a︡ v gody "kholodnoĭ voĭny," 1945-1991 [The Soviet Army in the Years of the 'Cold War' (1945–1991)] (in Russian). Tomsk University Press. ISBN 5-7511-1819-7. LCCN 61109861. OCLC 859420476. OL 38565480M.
  • Feskov, V.I.; Golikov, V.I.; Kalashnikov, K.A.; Slugin, S.A. (2013). Вооруженные силы СССР после Второй Мировой войны: от Красной Армии к Советской [The Armed Forces of the USSR after World War II: From the Red Army to the Soviet: Part 1 Land Forces] (in Russian). Tomsk: Scientific and Technical Literature Publishing. ISBN 9785895035306.
  • Glantz, David, The Soviet Airborne Experience, Research Survey No. 4, Combat Studies Institute, November 1984.
  • Isby, David C., Weapons and tactics of the Soviet Army, Jane's Publishing Company, London 1988
  • Schofield, Carey, The Russian Elite: Inside Spetsnaz and the Airborne Forces, Stackpole/Greenhill, 1993
  • Simpkin, Richard, Red Armour: An examination of the Soviet Mobile Force Concept, Brassey's Defence Publishers, London, 1984
  • Staskov, Lt. Gen. N.V., 1943 Dnepr Airborne Operation: Lessons and Conclusions, Military Thought, Vol. 12, No.4, 2003 (in Russian)

External links[edit]