Organization and structure of Spetsnaz, Russian special purpose regiments. - Dagger and Cloak

Wednesday, 27 June 2007

Organization and structure of Spetsnaz, Russian special purpose regiments.

Federal Security Service units

The Center of Special Operations (CSN) of the FSB is designed to combat terrorism and to protect the constitutional order in the Russian Federation. The CSN FSB consists of 3 different "operative" subdivisions - Department A (also known as spetsgruppa "Alfa"), Department V (also known as spetsgruppa "Vympel"), and so-called SSO (Special Operations Service). The headquarters of CSN FSB is a huge complex of buildings and training areas (dozens of hectares worth of land, 76 training facilities, etc). It is located in the town of Balashikha-2, only 10 km away from the Moscow ring. The average training of a solid CSN operative lasts about 5 years.

"Alfa" is a well-known counter-terrorist unit begun in 1974. Today "Alfa" is a highly professional unit, which consists of roughly 300 servicemen. The majority of the unit is stationed at Moscow, the rest of the unit is located in three other cities - Krasnodar, Yekaterinburg, and Khabarovsk. All the "Alfa" operatives undergo special airborne and firearms training. Roughly one third of them have special mountain training; another third have special counter-sabotage diving training. Spetsnaz operatives always improve on their skills in countless exercises and special operations (including constant service in North Caucasus). The unit utilizes a wide range of modern Russian and foreign weapons and equipment, some modified from the original versions to fit the unique needs of the unit.

"Vympel" (the Pennant) – formerly known as an elite cold war-era KGB sabotage unit – is now also a counter-terrorist and counter-sabotage unit. But, unlike "Alfa", instead of learning how to storm airplanes and buses, they operate in an entirely different environment. They are experts in 18 special disciplines (among which - how to infiltrate guarded buildings, extensive marksmanship training, driving APCs and airplanes, and medical training) and are Russia's last defense against possible terrorist acts involving nuclear plants, hydroelectric dams, and other industrial complexes. However, "Vympel" operatives are still heavily used in special operations missions in the Northern Caucasus, along with their counterparts from "Alfa" unit. "Vympel" has 4 operative units, "Alfa" has 5 operative units. One unit from each Department is always participating in offensive operations in Chechnya. They constantly rotate their troops, and each operative unit is stationed in Chechnya at least 2-3 times per year. "Vympel" is stationed in Moscow, but it also has multiple branch offices in virtually every city where there is a nuclear power plant.

Department A and B operatives' standard BDU color is black. However, in Chechnya they use different kinds of camouflage.

Not much information about SSO can be obtained, but it is known that they also participate in FSB special operations in the Northern Caucasus and also act as highly skilled bodyguards for government officials.

Together with Center of Special Operations and its elite units, there are many FSB special forces units of regional significance. Such operative detachments are usually called ROSN (Regional Department of Special Designation). The most powerful ROSNs are said to be at Saint Petersburg (ROSN "Grad") and Nizhny Novgorod.

Ministry of Interior units

Spetnaz MVD includes 16 Interior Troops units, which are of good quality and intended for use to combat insurgency and for counter-terrorism purposes. These units usually have a unique name and official OSN number. Here is a list of some of these spetsnaz units (the list is deliberately not full due to obvious reasons):

  • 1st PSN (former 6th OSN) VV "Vityaz" - stationed in Moscow;

  • 7th OSN VV "Rosich" - Novocherkassk;

  • 8th OSN VV "Rus" - Moscow;

  • 12th OSN VV "Ratnik" - Nizhni Tagil;

  • 15th OSN VV "Vyatich" - Armavir;

  • 16th OSN VV "Skif" - Rostov.

They are generally well-trained and equipped, being far superior to the regular Russian infantry. For example, it is claimed that the unit "Rus" had fought successfully against the insurgents in Chechnya with a casualty ratio of approximately 1 to 200. Their missions may include reconnaissance missions and regular combat operations (mostly house-to-house CQB assaults). They (especially "Vitjaz") have sometimes served as the back-up team during the counter-terrorist operations by team "Alpha". The parallel of United States Army Rangers and 1st SFOD-D (aka "Delta Force") is apparent.

Aside from the Interior troops special forces, MVD has plenty of police special forces, which are stationed in virtually every large Russian city. While OMON units are mostly used as riot police and during drug busts, they are not really considered a significant counter-terrorist force and simply lack the sufficient expertise. For these reasons MVD has numerous OMSN units (formerly known as SOBR), which consist of senior ranked police officers and are properly trained and equipped to combat terrorists, insurgency, and to participate in any kind of high-risk mission in general.

Russian army special forces

Spetsnaz GRU, or Russian army special forces, are the original SPETSNAZ and are generally considered the best trained units of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation. Despite this, they are not very similar to the Special Forces of the US or the SAS of the UK. The Spetsnaz have created a fierce reputation as one of the best special forces in the world today due to the very harsh standards of their training. They are controlled by the GRU (the Russian military intelligence agency). During the Cold War, these units were deployed in Eastern Europe in order to carry out reconnaissance and sabotage missions against the NATO forces in the event of a war in Europe. The units of Spetsnaz GRU have no official names, such as is the case with units of Spetsnaz MVD. They are generally referred to by numbers, for example, "16th Separate Brigade of Spetsnaz", much like any other military unit, and are usually integrated in the structure of the VDV (airborne troops) though not under VDV command aegis.

Few details are actually known about the operations of Spetsnaz GRU, but it is known that the units were heavily involved in wars in Afghanistan and Chechnya. Spetnaz GRU teams usually wear standard-issue VDV uniforms, light blue VDV berets and unit patches in order to avoid identification. However, they can also wear different uniforms, for instance, they would wear the uniform of a unit which is stationed nearby, in order to blend in.

Here are most of the Spetsnaz Brigades and the location at which they are stationed:

  • 2nd ObrSpN - Promezhitsy (Pskov region); strength around 960 (Leningrad Military District)

  • 3rd Guards ObrSpN - Roshinskij (Samara Oblast); (Volga-Ural Military District)

  • 10th (Mountain) ObrSpN - Molkino (Krasnodar region); activated July 1, 2003 (North Caucasus Military District)

  • 12th ObrSpN - city of Asbest-5 Sverdlovsk region); (Volga-Ural Military District)transferring: Chaikovskyy (Perm')

  • 22nd Guards ObrSpN - Kovalevka (Rostov Oblast); (North Caucasus Military District)

  • 67th ObrSpN - Berdsk (Novosibirsk Oblast); (Siberian Military District)

  • 83 SPETZNAZ CDO BDE Ussuryysk (Far East Military District)

  • 216 INDEP SPETZNAZ BN Moscow (Moscow Military District)

and many others, including:

  • 14th Separate Brigade of Special Designation Ussuriysk, Far Eastern Military District

  • 16th Spetsnaz Brigade - formerly Teplyi Stan, suburb of Moscow, now [Tambov[Chuchkovo]], Moscow Military District

  • 24th Spetsnaz Brigade - [Ulan-Ude[Kyakhta]], Siberian Military District

A Spetsnaz brigade consists of three to five Spetsnaz battalions, a signals company, support units, and a headquarters company containing highly skilled professional soldiers responsible for carrying out assassinations, kidnappings, and contact with agents in the enemy rear area. The organisation of a naval SPETSNAZ brigade reflects its emphasis on sea infiltration, with up to three frogman battalions, one parachute battalion, and a mini-submarine battalion, as well as the signals company, headquarters company, and support elements.

Russian Naval Spetsnaz

The Soviet Naval Spetsnaz came in to being in 1957 by order of Defence Minister Zhukov.The Black Sea fleet created their spetsnaz unit in 1967. A marine counter terrorist and counter sabotage unit was created in 1969 as "protivodiversionniye sili i sredstva"-counter-underwater forces. In 1970, the Main intelligence service of a General staff (GRU) created a top secret reconnaissance - sabotage group "Delfin" (Dolphin) for operations against sea bases of foreign states. Instructors from group "Delfin" prepared the combat swimmers for KGB groups "Alfa" and "Vympel". At the fall of the Soviet government, each of the Soviet Red Banner Fleets (four total) had a Naval Spetsnaz Brigade assigned to it (see combat swimmers). Furthermore, modern Alfa and Vympel special purpose forces also have naval units.

Russian Naval Infantry, or the Russian Marines, are elite forces, but by no means are they Spetsnaz troops as Naval Special Operations would be carried out by Delfin (Naval Spetsnaz) troops rather than the Marines, which are intended to spearhead amphibious invasions. The 4 Major Naval Spetsnaz units are:

  • 4 INDEP SPETZNAZ PT Parusnoe (Baltyysk) (Baltic Fleet) formerly Viljandi, Estonia (transferred from Army GRU to Navy GRU)

  • 431 INT SPETZNAZ PT Tuapse (Black Sea Fleet) formerly Kronstadt (Baltic Fleet)

  • 42 SPETZNAZ PT Russkyy island (Pacific Fleet)

  • 420 INT SPETZNAZ PT Polyarnyy (Northern Fleet)


Russian intelligence agencies, MVD, FSB, and the FPS and the Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR, "Sluzhba Vneshnej Razvedki", Russian equivalent of the American CIA) have their own Osnaz units.

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