Monday, August 31, 2015

Big Units for Big Operations

If Russia can flesh it out, the skeleton of an offensive army they are building could be used to launch a drive on Kaliningrad.

Russia is building large-scale units oriented to the west:

The Russian Defense Ministry is in the process of creating new, expanded armies, said the Russian news agency TASS today, August 11. In addition to the 14th and 6th Air Force and Air Defense Armies created in the Western Military Disctrict, Russia is also forming the 1st Tank Army and the 20th combined army by December 1.

In the Western Military District the Russian Defense Ministry plans to create a new tank army by December 1 and another, 20th combined army, will in fact be formed anew. ...

The 1st Tank Army will incorporate the Tamanskaya Mechanized Infantry Division and the Kantemirovskaya Tank Division, as well as the 27th Sevastopolskaya Mechanized Infantry Brigade and the 6th Tank Brigade.

"Reformatting the 20th Combined Army, which has been stripped of most of its combat units, is a more complex task," the source said. "At the moment it has incorporated the 9th tank brigade in Nizhny Novgorod. Other tank and mechanized infantry brigades for that army are being formed."

These aren't new formations, I don't think, but new headquarters to command existing units. Although 20th Combined Arms Army headquarters appears to be new.

And while they say new brigades are being formed, I really doubt Russia has the money or manpower to do that.

Nor do I believe these units will be equipped with the new Armata suite of advanced armored vehicles, as the story states.

But two armies (corps in our usage, I suppose) with 7 maneuver brigades and supporting units such as air defense, fire support, helicopters, and engineers, each and two air forces (with ground-based air defense units, too, it sounds) to support them is a potent offensive force just with the mass.

And they'll have another tank army formed by December around Moscow that is probably the strategic reserve.

Of course, these units have to be well trained to be really potent against a good army supported by a good air force.

So far, only the Russian airborne force and their Spetsnaz special forces are good quality troops.

If this article is to be believed, Russia in a year and a half of off and on combat in Ukraine has lost 2,000 dead and 3,200 disabled in a year of fighting:

By the end of February of this year, it reported, the Russian government had paid out death benefits to the families of more than 2,000 Russian soldiers, and disability benefits to more than 3,200.

This is based on a Russian story that was subsequently taken down. I just don't believe that figure is possible.

Sure, I can believe several hundred have died in the last year and a half. But 2,000 in just a year?

When I don't think Russia has committed more than 6,000 or so troops at any one time (if memory serves me), that represents a slaughter. We never lost a thousand in a calendar year during the Iraq War with up to 170,000 troops fighting. Yet Russia lost 2,000 during intermittent fighting with a much smaller force?

I don't think so. Nonetheless, Ukraine's ability to resist Russia's aggression in the Donbas demonstrates the weakness that a good army could exploit.

Poland might build that good army that NATO's air forces could support until other NATO ground units can move east to help.

But again, against a weaker enemy they could push them around.

Which should make Belarus nervous:

As we look at the Russian threat, Belarus should be a major subject of study. Belarus is a former Soviet state whose independence puts a sizable buffer between NATO Poland and Russia.

And as I've noted for both the defense of the NATO Baltic states and friendly but non-NATO Ukraine, Belarus in Russian hands (or friendly to Russia) threatens the eastern flanks of the Baltic states and the northern flank of Ukraine.

Yes. Poor Belarus. So far from God and so close to Putin.

As well as giving heartburn to the Baltic states, Poland, and Ukraine, which lie beyond the borders of Belarus.

While Russia holds their ground in Kaliningrad, surrounded by NATO.

Meanwhile, we're congratulating ourselves for scattering the equipment for a heavy brigade across multiple countries in eastern Europe.