SPETSNAZ - Special or special?

January 14th, 2011  

Topic: SPETSNAZ - Special or special?

In many Western countries there are difficulties understanding what Soviet and Russian Special Forces really was and still are. One of the reasons for this could be, that the Russian language has two words for the concept of military units with special training and special tasks: ”osobyy” and ”spetsialnyy”. The original term for these forces were ”Osobogo Naznacheniya”, (Unit with special purpose) in short OSNAZ, while the present (and more Western inspired?) term often is ”Voyska Spetsialnogo Naznacheniya” or just ”Spetsialnogo Naznacheniya”, in short SPETSNAZ which means forces with special tasks. And it gets worse if we focus more detailed on the individual Special Forces units. To create an overview maybe it would be practical to take a quick walk through the Spetsnaz environment.

Army Spetsnaz:
The central parts of Army Spetsnaz units are professionals, but the main bulk still is conscripts. Conscription is 2 years of very hard training, like the British SAS in the Territorial Army. After these two years the conscript can be demobilized (dembel in Russian), or choose from the following three options if he is qualified:

He can move on to officers course at the Airborne Forces Officers Academy.
He can stay on as an enlisted man.
He can be transferred to the active reserve for a 5-years period.

The core gets a far better training than the reserve or the conscripts. Besides the normal training in parachute jumping, reconnaissance, hand to hand combat and weapons practice, they are taught foreign language, radio code techniques and silent killing.

Danish military experience with Russian Special Forces soldiers indicate, that their language skills are limited to reading of signs and roadmaps and some very limited use of the language. Even though one must presume that GRU – like a lot of other similar authorities – link the individual soldier to a geographical area, like the Nordic countries (Denmark, Sweden and Norway), their language skills are not well enough to enable them to pose as a native. But another consequence of this geographical system probably is that in every Russian Diplomatic Mission there is a Rezident (commanding officer) who takes care of GRU business in that particular country.

The Army Spetsnaz units are called ooSpN (Otdelniy Otryad Spetzialniya Naznacheniya), Independent Special Operations Detachments. These detachments are company-sized, which means 75 – 150 soldiers. Units are numbered with 3-digits, for example like 173.ooSpN that was established in Afghanistan in 1980 and later on participated in the invasion of Chechniya. Units can be deployed by parachute, as a long-range recon patrol or as a disguided part of a regular army unit. Often small detachments are integrated in airborne formations in order to get the detachment unseen into their operations area.

Next: Navy and Naval Spetsnaz.
January 16th, 2011  
Navy and Naval Spetsnaz:
Navy and Naval Spetsnaz are normally recruited from the Navy or the Navy Marine Infantry. Often young soldiers join the Spetsnaz after ending their conscription. Basic training is conducted in Kiev,the rest of the training with the teams. Some of the specialized divers training takes place on one of the 3 diving schools. Some recruitment goes through the paramilitary youth organisation DOSAAF (Dobrovol'noe Obshestvo Sodeistviya Armii Aviacii i Flotu), The Volunteer organisation for support of the Army, Navy and Air Force.

Navy Spetsnaz conduct reconnaissance missions against areas of interest close to the coastline or where Navy Infantry will land. A lot of training missions are carried out against harbour facilities and naval installations. They use a lot of time on parachute jumps, combat swimming and sabotage. In peacetime Navy Spetsnaz are often used to test units guarding major facilities such as power plants, nuclear installations, Navy bases etc. Navy Spetsnaz are not directly subordinated GRU, but operate through the individual Navy’s Intelligence Center. Units were established in the beginning of the 50’es under the name RON (Rota Osobogo Naznacheniya), Special Operations Company. Today they are called OMRP (Otdel'niy Morskoy Razvedyvatel'niy Punkt), Independent Navy Reconnaissance Center. Like the Army Spetsnaz they have 3-digit number, for example 561. OMRP from the Baltic Fleet.

Unit can be deployed by parachute, from surface vessels and submarines or from special mini-submarines like the PIRANHA.

The Navy OB PDSS units:
The Central Navy Staff operate a number of separate units to protect Fleets, Naval Bases and port installations. Units are called OB PDSS (Otdel'naya Brigada Podvodnyh Diversionnyy Special'nyy Sil), Independent Brigade against Underwater Saboteurs, and are defensive forces. They do not go on recon missions, their job are to defend Russia against the other countries Navy Special Forces

OB PDSS units are fairly small, but they have very sophisticated equipment at their disposal, among these firearms that can be used under water, stun grenades and listening and explosive devices. These units are normally stationed at Navy bases, for example at Gadzhievo, a nuclear submarine base with the Northern Fleet. If necessary they can be stationed on board a major surface vessel to participate in the ships defence against hostile divers and submarines.

Next: State Security Service Spetsnaz

January 17th, 2011  
State Security Service Spetsnaz:
When the Soviet Union was dissolved, so was KGB. Today the State Security Service Spetsnaz is divided between FSB, SVR, FPS and FSO.

FSB (Federalnaya Sluzhba Bezopasnosti), The National Security Service, takes care of the interior security, which is protection of the borders, anti-terror and counter-intelligence. They tend to look more relaxed on the term “border” and their operations areas are border areas and related areas of interest, including areas in other neighboring countries and the Russian Embassies around the world. FSB probably has agents on most of the Russian Embassies with their own Rezident. The anti-terror part is becoming more and more vital, and FSB command a couple of very professional units called ALFA, BETA and VYMPEL. These names do not indicate anything about these units; the names simply are the first three letters in the alphabet.

SVR (Sluzhba Vneshnei Razvedki), The Foreign Intelligence Service, mainly deals with espionage and counter-espionage, in fact as a direct successor of KGB. Naturally there would be a SVR-resident on every embassy supported by a staff of operatives.

FPS (Federalnaya Pogranichnaya Sluzhba), also known as The Border Troops, has been under security service control. Since borders are taken very literally there are border troops personnel attached to all Russian Embassies.

Finally we have the Central National Security Service FSO (Federalnaya Sluzhba Okhran) that protect the central administration and communications installations.

Next: Ministry of Interior Spetsnaz.
January 17th, 2011  
Ministry of Interior Spetsnaz:
MVD, (Ministerstvo Vnutrennikh Del), Ministry of Interior, is responsible for the general security in Russia. They deal with riots, local anti-terror, hostage situations, organized crimes and all other “local” crime. To do this they have a great number of special units of which some can be compared with the Western SWAT teams. The general name for these units is OMON (Otryad Militsiy Osobogo Naznacheniya), The Special Forces of the Militia, and they cover a vast area of responsibilities which is why these units are scattered all over the country.

From the birth of the Soviet Union is was necessary to have a large standing military force for the purpose of upholding law and order in the country. This force could be seen as reminiscence from the civil war around 1920 and the wish to always be prepared to fight and destroy counter-revolutionary forces in the country. These forces are organized in the same way as the army and are called VV (Vnutrenniye Voyska), The Internal Security Forces. They have been in action numerous times against citizens of the Soviet Union and Russia in order to suppress riots or rebellions. The largest formation is called The Dzerzhinsky Division and the general term for this force is ODON (Otdelnaya Diviziya Osobogo Naznacheniya), The Independent Special Forces Division.

Militia Spetsnaz
To complete the Special Forces picture I will shortly mention the Militia (Police) Spetsnaz. These forces are seen more and more in the medias and are used by the “real” Spetsnaz when there is a need for a lot of manpower, for instance during the hostage drama in Beslan in 2004. The Militia Spetsnaz do not have the same training level as the Army or Security Forces Spetsnaz, but training and equipment are getting closer to their Western counterpart. Unfortunately leadership and communication still seems to be as bad as in the Soviet Union.

Next:Other examples of “Spetsnaz”
January 17th, 2011  
Other examples of “Spetsnaz”:
As earlier mentioned there are many ”Spetsnaz” forces in Russia today. An interesting example is the Air Force Rescue Service, (Yedinaya Gosudarstvennaya Aviatsionnaya Poiskogo-Spasatelnaya Sluzhba SSSR),Air Force Special Forces for SAR Operations. But this one is also a Space Rescue Service!

This service was founded during WW2 and went through an enormous development during the Soviet war in Afghanistan. The Soviet Army and Air Force lost a lot of helicopters and airplanes in Afghanistan and the rescue service tried to save as many pilots as possible. The Air Force Rescue Service has continued its development and implemented advanced equipment and training and is today a very capable service. Unfortunately there are financial problems in Russia which is the reason for not all units being as well equipped and trained as they could be.

Finally I would like to mention The President’s regiment (Prezidentskiy Polk), which of many is considered a parade unit. But this unit also has a security function, since this regiment is responsible for the protection of the Kremlin and the central ministries.

These last examples of ”Spetsnaz” are just to show how different the Eastern and Western definition for Special Forces really is. There is no doubt that it is popular to call oneself Spetsnaz in russia today, but it does not change the fact that there are and have been "special units" in Russia that was and is very competent.

I hope this has given a slightly better understanding of the concept of "Spetsnaz"
January 17th, 2011  

Topic: A little more information.

Gruppa Spetsialnogo Naznacheniya ALFA (Special Operation Group Alpha)

Established 28th July 1974 on a direct hand-written order from the KGB chief Yuri Andropov in the KGB's 7 directorate (Anti-Terrorism) and is very similar in structure to the British SAS and the German GSG-9. First known actions were in Afghanistan in the 1980s and later they performed a wide range of anti-terrorist operation in the '80s, especially in connection with kidnapping and hijacking. The group participated in the suppression of the coup against Gorbachev in 1991, and was immediately subject to the Ministry of Security under the direct control of the president. Participated in the defeat of the coup in 1993 and was then subject to the Federal Counter Intelligence Service FSK (Federalnaya Sluzhba Kontrarazvedki) under the operational command of the CounterTerrorism Center. In 1995, subject to the Federal Security Service FSB (Federalnaya Sluzhba Bezopasnosti) when FSK was renamed the FSB.

Group members are all officers (from lieutenant to colonel) with a background history of professional sports. Training includes the same techniques as SAS and GSG-9. Parts of the group are experts in underwater operations. Other members are experts in mountaineering, assassinations, negotiation techniques, analysis and psychology.

When the USSR collapsed some sections of ALFA followed over into the new republics and became the core for new national anti-terrorism units. ALFA is the CIS countries' primary counter-terrorist unit.

Gruppa Spetsialnogo Naznacheniya BETA (Special Operation Group Beta)

Training Unit for Alpha and Vympel. Training takes place at the Balashikha Special Operations School, originally created by the KGB and now operated by the FSB.

Gruppa Spetsialnogo Naznacheniya Vympel (Special Operation Group Vympel)

Established 19th August 1981 under the KGB's 7 directorate as a formalization of existing small infiltration units. Also known as Group Beta (not to be confused with the above operation group). Main task was secret reconnaissance and infiltration in wartime and hidden direct actions such as precision attacks, kidnappings and attacks against key installations. Cadres of Vympel were veterans of the ZENITH group, with participated in the attack on Darulaman Palace in Afghanistan where the Afghan president was executed. The training included airborne, maritime and land infiltration. In 1983 a combat swimmer unit was established with veterans of the PDSS and DOLPHIN. Vympel has conducted operations in Beirut in 1985 in connection with a hostage situation with Russian nationals. Members of the group have been stationed in East Germany with the task to take the Ramstein Air Force base in conjunction with second Guards Army in the event of war. In 1987 the strength was about 500 men and was a part of the national anti-terror readiness specializing in counter-terrorism operations against nuclear terrorism. From 1991 it followed the same pattern as the unit ALFA and on orders from Boris Yeltsin stormed the White House in 1993. Vympel was then made subject to the central guard unit of the MVD and many of the experienced members left the group and went into the private sector. The group was then dissolved and followed by the VEGA Group (under the MVD), but again set up in 1994.
January 17th, 2011  
Gruppa KASKAD (Cascade Group)

Officially established by the KGB in 1981 and subject to the 8th Administrative directorate (electronic intelligence) with main task to perform covert electronic intelligence in areas outside Russian control in wartime. Later, the unit also participated in anti-terrorism and intelligence missions. The unit is reported dissolved in connection with the KGB's transformation to the FSB, but this seems unlikely.

The Cascade Group was also observed as a special KGB operation force in 1979 with the invasion of Afghanistan. Here two 30-man groups (GROM and ZENITH) infiltrated Kabul disguised as sports teams and captured the presidential palace and then executed the president. The groups consisted of special selected members of ALFA, BETA and Vympel under the command of the Chief of the Balashikha Special Operations School. Most likely the cascade members have participated in the special operation force as SIGINT and also participated in the actual fighting.
January 18th, 2011  
They do like to use the word 'special' a lot.... So I guess they must be pretty special
January 18th, 2011  

Topic: haha

good 1 ted, i wonder if they have a "special" special unit
January 19th, 2011  
Originally Posted by booty539
good 1 ted, i wonder if they have a "special" special unit

Gruppa Spetsialnogo Naznacheniya Femazzy (Special Operation Group Femazzy)

A special group dealing with the suppression of naughty children in kindergartens.

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