Military Organization > Soviet Union > ​​​USSR Parachute-Airborne Company (1986-90)

USSR Parachute-Airborne Company (1986-90) 

By Brendan Matsuyama, Editor

The following was the organization of the Parachute-Airborne Company (Парашютно-десантная рота) of the Soviet Airborne Forces (VDV) from 1986 to 1990. These were footmobile companies, as opposed to the Airborne-Assault Company (десантно-штурмовая рота) which was mounted in BMD-1 or BMD-2 airmobile infantry fighting vehicles.


The next step up was the Parachute-Airborne Battalion, which consisted of 3 Parachute-Airborne Companies, 1 120mm Mortar Battery, 1 Anti-Tank Battery, 1 Anti-Aircraft Missile Platoon, 1 Communication Platoon, 1 Security Platoon, and 1 Battalion Aid Station.

Contents:

  1. Organization

    • 1 Company Headquarters

    • 3 Parachute-Airborne Platoons

    • 1 Mortar Platoon

    • 1 Anti-Tank Squad

    • 1 Grenade Launcher Squad

  2. Discussion

  3. Sources

vdv footmobile 1986-01.png
 

Organization

  • Type: Airborne Light Infantry Company

  • Origin: Soviet Airborne Forces (Soviet Union)

  • Time Frame: 1986-1990

  • Vehicles: 2 UAZ-469, 2 LuAZ-967M 

  • Personnel: 7 Officers and 84 Enlisted

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1× Company Headquarters (Отделение управления)

  • 1× Company Commander, Captain (OF-2), armed with 1 AKS-74 Rifle and 1 PM Pistol

  • 1× Deputy Company Commander for Airborne Instruction, Senior Lieutenant (OF-1), armed with 1 AKS-74 Rifle and PM Pistol

  • 1× Deputy Company Commander for Political Affairs, Senior Lieutenant (OF-1), armed with 1 AKS-74 Rifle and PM Pistol

  • 1× Company Sergeant Major, Warrant Officer (OR-9), armed with 1 AKS-74 Rifle and PM Pistol

  • 1× Medical NCO, Sergeant (OR-6), armed with 1 AKS-74 Rifle

3× Parachute-Airborne Platoons (парашютно-десантный взвод)

​→ 1× Platoon HQ (1 Officer)

  • 1× Platoon Commander, Senior Lieutenant (OF-1), armed with 1 AKS-74 Rifle and PM Pistol

​→ 1st Parachute-Airborne Squad (7 Enlisted)

  • Fire Element

    • 1× Deputy Platoon Commander/Squad Commander, Senior Sergeant (OR-7), armed with 1 AKS-74 Rifle and 1 RPG-18/22 Disposable Anti-Tank Rocket Launcher

    • 1× Machine Gunner, Private (OR-1), armed with 1 RPKS-74 Machine Gun

    • 1× Grenadier, Private (OR-1), armed with 1 RPG-7D Rocket Launcher

    • 1× Assistant Grenadier, Private (OR-1), armed with 1 AKS-74 Rifle

  • Maneuver Element

    • 1× Senior Rifleman, Yefreytor (OR-4), armed with 1 AKS-74 Rifle

    • 1× Medic-Rifleman, Private (OR-1), armed with 1 AKS-74 Rifle and 1 RPG-18/22 Disposable Anti-Tank Rocket Launcher

    • 1× Sniper, Private (OR-1), armed with 1 SVD Rifle and 1 RPG-18/22 Disposable Anti-Tank Rocket Launcher

​→ 2nd and 3rd Parachute-Airborne Squad (7 Enlisted each)

  • Fire Element

    • 1× Squad Commander, Junior Sergeant (OR-5) or Sergeant (OR-6), armed with 1 AKS-74 Rifle and 1 RPG-18/22 Disposable Anti-Tank Rocket Launcher

    • 1× Machine Gunner, Private (OR-1), armed with 1 RPKS-74 Machine Gun

    • 1× Grenadier, Private (OR-1), armed with 1 RPG-7D Rocket Launcher

    • 1× Assistant Grenadier, Private (OR-1), armed with 1 AKS-74 Rifle

  • Maneuver Element

    • 1× Senior Rifleman, Yefreytor (OR-4), armed with 1 AKS-74 Rifle

    • 2× Riflemen, Private (OR-1), armed with 1 AKS-74 Rifle and 1 RPG-18/22 Disposable Anti-Tank Rocket Launcher

1× Mortar Platoon (миномётный взвод)

  • 1× Platoon Commander, Senior Lieutenant (OF-1), armed with 1 AKS-74 Rifle and PM Pistol

​→ 4× Mortar Teams (3 Enlisted each)

  • 1× Mortar Commander, Sergeant (OR-6), armed with 1 AKS-74 Rifle

  • 1× Mortar Gunner, Private (OR-1), armed with 1 AKS-74 Rifle and 1 BM-37 82mm Mortar

  • 1× Assistant Mortar Gunner*, Private (OR-1), armed with 1 AKS-74 Rifle

 

​→ Vehicles:

  • 2× UAZ-469 Light Utility Vehicles

*The Assistant Mortar Gunners in 2 of the 4 teams are also drivers for the platoon's 2 UAZ-469 utility vehicles.

1× Anti-Tank Squad (Противотанковое отделение)

  • 1× Squad Commander/Senior Gunner, Sergeant (OR-6), armed with 1 9K115 Metis ATGM* and 1 AKS-74 Rifle

  • 3× Senior Gunners, Yefreytor (OR-4), armed with 1 9K115 Metis ATGM* and 1 AKS-74 Rifle

  • 3× Gunners, Private (OR-1), armed with 1 AKS-74 Rifle each

  •  Driver-Gunner, Private (OR-1), armed with 1 AKS-74 Rifle 

 

​→ Vehicles:

  • 1× LuAZ-967M Light Off-Road Vehicle

*8 missiles carried per launcher

1× Grenade Launcher Squad (Гранатомётное отделение)

  • 1× Squad Commander/Senior Gunner, Sergeant (OR-6), armed with 1 AGS-17 Launcher* and 1 AKS-74U Carbine

  • 1× Senior Gunner, Yefreytor (OR-4), armed with 1 AGS-17 Launcher* and 1 AKS-74U Carbine

  • 1× Gunner, Private (OR-1), armed with 1 AKS-74 Rifle

  •  Driver-Gunner, Private (OR-1), armed with 1 AKS-74 Rifle 

 

​→ Vehicles:

  • 1× LuAZ-967M Light Off-Road Vehicle

*8 belts of 29 rounds carried per gun

 

Discussion

The Parachute-Airborne Company was the footmobile variant of the Soviet Airborne Forces (VDV) rifle company, with the Airborne-Assault Company being mechanized mounted in BMD-1 or BMD-2 infantry fighting vehicles. This footmobile airborne company consisted of a Company Headquarters, 3 Parachute-Airborne Platoons, 1 Mortar Platoon, 1 Anti-Tank Squad and 1 Grenade Launcher Squad. This was fairly similar to its mechanized counterpart (minus the BMDs), although the Airborne-Assault Companies lacked the Anti-Tank and Grenade Launcher Squads and instead had a Machine Gun Platoon serving PKMS general-purpose machine gun. This was similar to the differences between the BMP and BTR Motorized Rifle Companies, with the standard BMP companies (with their vehicle-mounted ATGMs) having a Machine Gun Platoon and the BTR companies having a mix ATGM-Machine Gun Platoon. Both had mix AGS Grenade Launcher and NSV Heavy Machine Gun platoons in lieu, however, when deployed to Afghanistan.

Overall the Parachute-Airborne Company was a leaner operation than the equivalent Motorized Rifle Company, with 91 personnel as opposed to 110 in the Motorized Rifles. This is despite having more dismounted support elements to compensate for being light infantry and lacking integral vehicle support. Having fewer personnel overall has particular significance for airborne forces, as it allows units to fit in as few transport aircraft—in the case of the Soviets the IL-76D which held about 125-128 paratroopers without vehicles—as possible.

Company Headquarters

The Company Headquarters consisted of 3 officers and 2 NCOs. The Company Commander—a Captain—sat in the vehicle commander seat. The Deputy Company Commander for Political Affairs was the successor to the political commissars of World War II and prior. During the Cold War, they were subordinate to the Company Commander and performed the duties of educating personnel in the company on party policy, laws and ethics and instilling esprit de corps. Meanwhile, the Praporshchik, or Warrant Officer, was equivalent to the Company Sergeant Major (Commonwealth) or First Sergeant (U.S.) of the company. Additionally, unlike in standard Motorized Rifle Companies, there was a Deputy Company Commander for Airborne Instruction allotted during wartime.

 

The company did not have its own integral radios. Thus, 5 R-148 or R-158 wireless radio sets would be attached down to each company from the battalion communication platoon (1 for the Company HQ and 1 for each Parachute-Airborne Platoon).

Parachute-Airborne Platoons

Footmobile infantry was a relative obscurity for the Soviets, as the Soviet Army had doubled down on a fully mechanized force early on with their Motorized Rifles. Even so, the footmobile VDV platoons were organized essentially the same as mechanized VDV, minus the vehicles and replacing the vehicle crews with riflemen.

Each platoon consisted of 3 Parachute-Airborne Squads, henceforth referred to as rifle squads for brevity. Each rifle squad consisted of 7 enlisted personnel and was organized into Fire and Maneuver elements similar to the Motorized Rifles. Interestingly, despite not being limited by the space of an infantry fighting vehicle, the footmobile VDV squads remained the same size as their mechanized counterparts. Perhaps then the limitation on squad size was not the vehicles per se, but the aircraft that would transport them?

The squad was led by the Squad Commander—typically a Junior Sergeant or Sergeant—who also led the Fire Element. The Fire Element contained the RPG-7D—an airborne version of the RPG-7 that would replace the RPG-16 used in the 1970s and early-1980s—manned by the Grenadier and Assistant Grenadier and the RPKS-74 machine gun manned by the Machine Gunner. The Grenadier was not armed with a secondary weapon in theory or on exercise, but could be armed with a pistol, carbine or rifle in practice when on deployment in Afghanistan. This most likely varied unit-to-unit and was not necessarily indicative of what operations in Europe would have looked like. The Assistant Grenadier on the other hand was armed with an AKS-74 rifle (the folding stock variant, as were most other personnel in the company). The Grenadier carried 2 rockets, while the Assistant carried 3 rockets.

The Maneuver Element was led by the Senior Rifleman, a Yefreytor or senior-most Private and consisted of 2 Riflemen. Typically, the 2 Riflemen and Squad Commander would also be armed with 1-2 RPG-18 disposable light anti-tank rocket launchers in addition to their other weapons. If GP-25 grenade launchers were available, they would probably have gone to the Squad Commander or the members of the Maneuver Element.

Some personnel that would have been part of the Platoon HQ in the Motorized Rifles were instead in the 1st rifle squad. The Squad Commander of the 1st rifle squad was also the Deputy Platoon Commander and a Senior Sergeant. One rifleman was a Medic-Rifleman, while the other was a Sniper armed with an SVD. The addition of the SVD sniper to the platoon was made in 1986.

Fire Support Elements

As integral fire support, the Parachute-Airborne Company had an 82mm Mortar Platoon, Anti-Tank Squad and Grenade Launcher Squad.

 

The Mortar Platoon had 4 Mortar Teams of 3 men each, each serving a BM-37 82mm mortar. The platoon had 2 UAZ-469 light utility vehicles, driven by the assistant gunners of 2 of the Mortar Teams, which carried between 304-464 rounds for the entire platoon. The BM-37 had an effective range of about 3 kilometers, while the PM-38 120mm mortars held at the battalion-level had a range of 6 kilometers.

The Grenade Launcher Squad served 2 AGS-17 30mm automatic grenade launchers. With 8 belts of 29 rounds between each gun, the squad had a total of 232 rounds. These squads could be tasked out to provide fire support for individual platoons, or provide the company commander with an intermediate fire support option between the range of his platoons' weapons and that of the mortars.

The Anti-Tank Squad housed the company's ATGMs. The squad operated as 4 teams, each with an 9K115 Metis SACLOS wire-guided anti-tank guided missile. The squad was outfitted with enough missiles to provide each team with 8 reloads.

 

"The secret of all victory lies in the organization of the non-obvious."

      - Marcus Aurelius

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