A Southern MD staff source told TASS on 24 March the Russian Army will establish a “full-blooded” motorized rifle division in the vicinity of Rostov-na-Donu this year. The source indicated orders to this effect came from Chief of the General Staff Army General Valeriy Gerasimov.
The new division will reportedly be based in three garrison towns in Rostov Oblast. Staff buildings and barracks will be constructed initially, with other facilities to follow in 2017. Housing the division, storing its equipment, and providing training grounds and other essential infrastructure improvements will cost at least 5 billion rubles [$73 million].
Headquarters to the Southern MD, Rostov-na-Donu is opposite Donetsk and was the staging area for Russian forces that intervened in eastern Ukraine in 2014.
On 12 January, Defense Minister Shoygu announced that three divisions would be established in the western direction during 2016, but didn’t say where. He also didn’t indicate if they would be completely new formations or existing ones moved to a new location and beefed up.
Most Southern MD forces are located south of Stavropol (headquarters of the 49th CAA) and are oriented on the Caucasus.
But Aleksey Ramm has suggested that an MRD at Rostov-na-Donu might be formed out of the current 33rd Independent Motorized Rifle Brigade (Mountain) now based in Maykop and Novocherkassk. There aren’t other good candidates except to make a new division out of whole cloth.
If Rostov-na-Donu is one division, what about the other two?
The reincarnated 1st Tank Army just west of Moscow probably needs its 6th Tank Brigade to become a division for the army to be a real tank army (at least two tank divisions).
The 20th CAA — moved from around Nizhniy Novgorod to Voronezh — could have either its 9th MRB or 1st Tank Brigade (both near Boguchar) turned into a division.
But in light of increased tension with NATO, especially with its newest and easternmost members, it seems the Kremlin might want a new division opposite the Baltic states, or perhaps even in Kaliningrad. The latter would be a low-cost reorganization since the Ground Troops already have an independent brigade and regiment in the Russian exclave.
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Is it known which model of tank the division is expected to use? I’ve read they’ve been rebuilding hundreds of T-72s into the B3 and B4 model, but it seems creation of new units is outpacing production/upgrades. Also, what is the most likely ToE – a two brigade or three regiment structure? I stand to be corrected, but Russia’s new divisions greatly resemble very late Soviet era divisions, which makes me wonder just how much of a capability boost they are over Soviet antecedents. At the end of the day, a T-72B3/4 isn’t *that* much more capable than T-72B obr. 1989 or T-80… In fact, I wager much of the equipment, at least in the short term, will indeed be late Soviet equipment (2S1, 2S19, BMP-2/3) taken from storage with repairs and some basic upgrades. Granted, tactics have changed greatly and they’re not facing off against crack NATO divisions.
There aren’t really any details yet, or in fact, any certainty they’ll put a division here in the end…. But you’ve hit the nail on the head — the men and equipment will mostly have to come from existing units transferred to Rostov-na-Donu. The pace of T-72B3 modernization actually looks to be slowing this year as Moscow wants to crank up the T-14 production line at UVZ. The share of modern / new equipment in the Ground Troops at the end of last year was still only 35 percent. One assumes the renewed emphasis on divisions is for more striking power in one location; the “new profile” brigades cover territory pretty well but are light. Divisions suck up lots of men and equipment making it harder to extend the force structure. Divisions will probably have a regimental structure as in Soviet times, so some of this is nostalgia. Regimental command is also where the Soviet / Russian O-6 got his first clear look at possibly becoming a general one day. But the entire post-Soviet experience has been fighting with “battalion tactical groups.” It all begs many questions without answers. But, based on recent experience, the Russians could change course again before they get too far down this road. Their military reforms are typically superceded before they are completed.
I noticed your tweet with the news from TASS about the 1st and 20th armies. Seems like these units are indeed Soviet style divisions for heavy, conventional warfare. I wonder what portion of the 10,000 men will actually be able to readily deploy… You mentioned battalion tactical groups – from what I’ve heard, some brigades, even those designated as high readiness, have only one BTG ready to deploy. Thus, the readiness ratio is only about 1/3 or 1/4 (1000 strong battalion out of 3500-4500 men in brigades). It would be even more unimpressive if a single BTG is combat ready out of an entire division, but I assume (hope?) they manage 2-3 BTGs per division… Nevertheless, it is good to see that the new units will have organic logistics implements, logistics traditionally being a weak area for Russian forces. What of the manning of this unit – is it expected to be fully contractee staffed?
Since the divisions are facing what the Kremlin seems to think is its greatest threat, they will aim for the equivalent of Soviet Cat A divisions — 80 percent or more combat ready and fully equipped. Can they reach that? Yes, but it would come at the price of less readiness elsewhere. Even manning at 100 percent remains a challenge. If they get this far, one might more reasonably expect them to try to keep one maneuver regiment per division in high readiness. But they are talking about four (vice three) maneuver regiments per division which makes the task all the harder. Moscow would still depend on some pretty obvious mobilization in the event of impending high-intensity conventional operations. The Russians claim to have more contractees than conscripts at this point, but virtually every unit still has a mix. Continued dependence on draftees makes readiness that much more difficult.
Oh, I see. It’s dissatisfying seeing them cling to the multi-tier readiness system, and, really, so many Soviet legacies. Roughly how many tanks, arty pieces and armored vehicles can we expect the new divisions to field?
There’s no value judgement above…no satisfaction, no dissatisfaction. Just outlining possibilities. Multi-tier readiness isn’t inherently bad. But the Russians haven’t gotten far enough to really see what they’ll do. Presumably, the OOB would resemble Soviet standards — tank division with 300+ tanks, 100+ armored vehicles, and 100+ artillery pieces.
Is it accurate to say the Russian land forces have a mishmash of different unit types based on expected operations for the various strategic directions? I.e. heavier conventional divisions in the Western MD and lighter, “new look” COIN/MOUT brigades in the south
Not really. They’ve stuck to traditional brigade organization. They talk about light, medium, and heavy brigades with different equipment types and numbers, but there’s little difference between medium and heavy. There is also the experiment with the 100th Reconnaissance Brigade in the Southern MD. It remains but others aren’t popping up elsewhere.
Thank you for your detailed and prompt replies. I’ll trouble you with another question with respect to the recent T-14 order – where can we expect the first Armata’s to be deployed? I presume IVO Voronezh?
One might expect the 20 pre-production T-14s are in testing with a unit near the factory in Nizhniy Tagil. The first production models might go to the new 1st Tank Army near Moscow. Probably its 4th Kantemir Tank Division — an elite formation that used to get new equipment first in Soviet times. No clear info on any of this yet though.