Russian Naval Infantry.
Russian Naval Infantry.
“The current world tectonic events require a significant strengthening…of the Naval Infantry of the Russian Navy.”
At the beginning of Russia’s 2022 invasion of Ukraine, Russian Naval Infantry included five brigades and one regiment. During the invasion, Russia has formed at least three more naval infantry battalions from volunteers and mobilized personnel, trained based on existing naval infantry formations such as the 155th Guards Naval Infantry Brigade in Primorye.[i] In late December, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu announced a large expansion of the Russian Armed Forces, including the addition of 12 new divisions. Five of these new divisions will be formed by converting five naval infantry brigades into naval infantry divisions.[ii] The accompanying excerpted article from the pro-Kremlin daily newspaper Izvestiya states that these new naval infantry divisions will consist of two naval infantry regiments, a tank battalion, reconnaissance battalion, artillery regiment, and unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) battalion. The naval infantry regiments in the divisions will likely resemble the 177th Naval Infantry Regiment subordinated to the Caspian Flotilla, consisting of three battalions, an airborne reconnaissance company, UAV company, artillery, and other units. These divisions will be much smaller than equivalent U.S./NATO echelons, likely having less than 5,500 personnel per division when fully staffed.
Dmitry Boltenkov,“Морскими темпами: как изменится структура черных беретов в ближайшие годы (At the Sea’s Pace: How the Structure of Black Berets Will Change in the Coming Years),” Izvestiya (Pro-Kremlin daily newspaper), 3 January 2023.
The current world tectonic events require a significant strengthening, first of all, of the Naval Infantry of the Russian Navy. On December 21, 2022, Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu announced plans to form five Naval Infantry divisions.
In 2018, the 177th Naval Infantry Regiment was created in Kaspiysk to support the Caspian Flotilla. It consists of three battalions, an airborne reconnaissance company, UAV company, artillery and other units. Most likely this promising regimental structure will be basis for future naval infantry regiments…
In Kamchatka, the 40th Krasnodar-Kharbinskaya twice Red Banner Brigade is practically the only formation capable of resisting the attempts of a potential enemy to seize this remote territory… In Primorye, the 155th Guards Brigade is also, in fact, the only large formation in the Vladivostok region capable of defending the region and participating in counter-landing operations on Sakhalin Island and the Kuril Islands… In the north, on the Kola Peninsula, Russia currently has only three brigades: the 61st Kirkenesskaya Red Banner MP, the 200th motorized rifle and Arctic brigades. Sweden and Finland finally decided to break with their neutrality and join NATO. Accordingly, Russia will have to strengthen its northern borders. The 336th Guards Brigade and a number of other units of the coastal troops of the Baltic Fleet are deployed in the Kaliningrad exclave. The exclave is surrounded by the most hostile NATO states to Russia – Poland and the Baltic states. In 2023, we should expect the integration of parts of the DPR and LPR into the Russian Armed Forces. It is possible that the Black Sea division of the Naval Infantry will be deployed on the basis of these units. And in general, the situation in the Ukrainian direction for many years will require the presence of powerful forces capable of also conducting amphibious assault operations.
Do not forget the fact that on long-distance cruises there are groups of Naval Infantry on warships and auxiliary vessels to defend these units themselves from enemy saboteurs. With the increase in the naval fleet and the intensification of the Russian Navy’s combat service, more Naval Infantry are required to defend our ships.Thus, at present there is a direct need for Russia to increase the number and power of its amphibious strike formations. Even now such work is underway. So, for example, in the brigades of the Naval Infantry of the Pacific Fleet operating in the Donbass, 152-mm artillery systems are observed, these systems were not previously in service with the Naval Infantry units. The divisions themselves, presumably, will look like this: two regiments of naval infantry, tank battalion, reconnaissance battalion, artillery regiment, and UAV battalion…
[i] Russian Naval Infantry have been active in Ukraine since the first day of Russia’s 2022 invasion. The Naval Infantry reportedly conducted a successful landing in Berdyansk and was involved with the taking of Mariupol. Russian sources also claim that the possibility of a landing of Black Sea Fleet Naval Infantry units near Odessa, which never materialized, was successful in the sense that many Ukrainian forces were fixed for a time to defend against the landing, providing freedom of maneuver for other Russian forces. Naval Infantry units were also active around Kyiv, Kharkov, and Pavlovka. Eight Naval Infantrymen have earned the title “Hero of Russia,” some posthumously, since the onset of the conflict. The honorary title of “Guards” was bestowed on the 155th Naval Infantry Brigade of the Pacific Fleet, and the 336th Naval Infantry Brigade of the Baltic Fleet was awarded the Order of Zhukov. The 810th Naval Infantry Brigade reportedly requested to have “Mariupol” added to its official unit title due to its role in supposedly liberating the city.
[ii] The Naval Infantry has been reorganized many times since its inception in 1705. The most recent organization occurred during the “New Look” reforms, resulting in each Russia’s four fleets having its own Naval Infantry brigade (although the Pacific Fleet has two Naval Infantry brigades). By 2017, the standard structure of Naval Infantry brigades consisted of a reconnaissance battalion, an air assault battalion, one or two naval infantry battalions, an artillery battalion, a tank battalion or company, a UAV company, a sniper company, and a few other units.
Image 1: Russian Naval Infantry
Attribution: CC BY-SA 4.0
Image 2: Russian Naval Infantry
Attribution: CC BY-SA 4.0