Jan 11, 2022
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What is the strength in, brother? How the airborne forces “Kazakh robbers” dispersed

In the photo: servicemen of the Airborne Forces of the Russian Federation as part of the peacekeeping forces of the Collective Security Treaty Organization during the protection of the territory of the Alma-Ata international airport.

In the photo: servicemen of the Airborne Forces of the Russian Federation as part of the peacekeeping forces of the Collective Security Treaty Organization during the protection of the territory of the Alma-Ata international airport. (Photo: Russian Ministry of Defense / TASS)

The success of the CSTO peacekeepers in Kazakhstan is obvious – in less than a week they managed to help restore constitutional order in the country and defeat the main forces of the rebels, who turned out to be well-trained terrorists. How did you manage to do this without the use of heavy weapons, combat aircraft and relatively small forces?

Officially, the total contingent of the CSTO peacekeeping forces in Kazakhstan totals 2,030 military personnel, this figure was announced by President Tokayev. They are based on the Russian military – 1,480 people from the 45th separate special-purpose brigade, the 98th airborne division, the 76th airborne assault division and the 31st airborne assault brigade. All from the Russian Airborne Forces. The peacekeeping units of Armenia, Belarus, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan are represented by a smaller number of military personnel. It can be assumed that the CSTO contingent currently has slightly more servicemen and military equipment involved. The figure is also called 19 thousand, but there is no official confirmation of this. The truth usually lies somewhere in between. Let’s assume that this is about 5-8 thousand “peacekeeping bayonets”.

The number of the armed forces of Kazakhstan is more than 70 thousand people, there is also the National Guard, which includes another 20 thousand fighters, and the staff of the police in the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the country is about 125 thousand. This entire large army of power and law enforcement structures turned out to be powerless in front of the pogromists and those 20 thousand terrorists (this figure was announced by the same President Tokayev) who organized the riots in the country. And only the arrival of peacekeepers, of whom there are not so many, made it possible to reverse the situation and calm the rebels.

Let’s leave aside the arithmetic on the number of parties. There are other nuances here. The peacekeepers who quickly arrived in Kazakhstan took control, in addition to the cities of Nur-Sultan and Alma-Ata, a number of government and military facilities of strategic importance. Thus, they “untied the hands” of the Kazakh army and law enforcement agencies, gave them the opportunity to re-aim at performing other tasks – “cleansing” the territory from the rioters. This is invaluable assistance, in which the moral support to the Kazakh military, who were at first confused before the onslaught of the rebels, is of particular importance.

But how did they do it! The current operation of the Russian paratroopers (as part of the CSTO peacekeepers) will undoubtedly be included in the textbooks of military tactics, as an example of efficiency, planning, and also the courage of the airborne troops. The first “boards”, where there were groups of special forces of the 45th brigade and a company of special forces of the 76th airborne assault rifle, flew into the unknown – the tasks were concretized already in flight. The goal is to land in Nur-Sultan and Almaty, take control of airports, gain a foothold, expand the territory of responsibility and ensure the arrival of the main forces. So everything was done.

The paratroopers were not embarrassed by the number of the opposing side, nor their weapons, nor the aggressiveness of their intentions – the task was set, so it must be completed. At any price. Note that there were no losses – from the Russian peacekeepers, at least. For the “Kazakh robbers” everything is much more deplorable – they were forced to flee and, as the official authorities of Kazakhstan reported, half of the militants were killed in the first days of the anti-terrorist operation. It must be assumed that the Russian paratroopers had a hand in this – whoever resists is against us.

This suggests an analogy with the famous march of Russian paratroopers to Pristina in June 1999, when they were several hours ahead of a British tank column and occupied the Slatina airport. And they were no longer allowed to go there either to Kosovar fighters of Albanian origin, or to NATO soldiers. Do you have tanks? And we have grenade launchers and an order – no unauthorized entry is allowed. It worked.

One can also recall the paratrooper operation in December 1979 in Afghanistan, when parts of the 103rd Airborne Division were transferred to Kabul and Bagram by landing method. The Afghan capital was taken by the 317th and 350th regiments of the division, the Bagram airport (45 kilometers from Kabul) by the 345th separate airborne regiment and the 375th regiment of the 103rd airborne division. The total number of the airborne group was 7,700 people and 804 armored vehicles (343 VTA sorties were used for their transfer). This number was enough to block all units of the Afghan army and ensure the entry of Soviet troops into Afghanistan. Sometimes the forces of one airborne platoon, and these are 25-30 people and three BMDs, managed to force an entire tank brigade to lower the weapon.

– The Airborne Forces have changed, improved and modernized over the entire period of their existence, acquiring new combat qualities, – says former commander of the Airborne Forces, Colonel-General Georgy Shpak (from 1996 to 2003). – The first landing in 1930 was armed with Mosin rifles and Degtyarev machine guns, now the military transport aviation is capable of throwing heavy tracked equipment, artillery and other weapons into the enemy’s rear. Here you need to take into account the fact that the main purpose of the Airborne Forces is not to conduct an offensive operation, but to ensure it by capturing a bridgehead and holding it until the main forces approach. The depth of penetration can be any. Here, the efficiency and secrecy of the landing, both by parachute and landing method, the seizure of enemy countermeasures and the holding of positions until the arrival of the main forces are important. Actually, all this was successfully accomplished even now, during the peacekeeping operation in Kazakhstan.

Here we can also note the fact that the Ministry of Defense, having launched a large-scale reform of the Airborne Forces, orients their focus on participation in the rapid reaction forces. It is assumed that the units and formations of the Airborne Forces will be autonomous and will be able to solve a wide range of tasks. Troops receive their own artillery, tank units, and in the near future, their own aviation. Some of the weapons are not capable of parachuting, and the Airborne Forces are not at all what they were before 1991 – this is a kind of symbiosis of assault units, a mixture of special forces and conventional infantry.

– The use of airborne forces is now expanding significantly, – says Valery Yuriev, Chairman of the Central Council of the Union of Russian Paratroopers, who served in the reconnaissance of the Airborne Forces. – The paratroopers are the force that can be used both to strengthen the ground forces and to conduct independent operations, including reconnaissance and sabotage. Transfer to helicopters and airplanes, as a means of ground delivery of troops, does not threaten the landing with any side effects. It all depends on the tasks set, and the Airborne Forces are used to performing them.

In recent years, the Airborne Forces have noticeably “grown heavier” – due to armored vehicles that are not capable of parachuting. This includes the T-72B3 tanks, which appeared in the battalion in the 7th Novorossiysk and 76th Pskov airborne assault divisions. The troops also have 120-mm Nona-S mortar and howitzer installations, and Sprut 125-mm self-propelled guns. With a peacekeeping mission as part of the CSTO in Kazakhstan, these “pieces of iron” are not particularly needed. The paratroopers make do with armored personnel carriers BTRD-MD “Shell”, combat vehicles BMD-4M, armored vehicles. It is noted that all Russian peacekeepers are armed with new AK-12 assault rifles – the special forces of the Airborne Forces received them in the first place. It is also known that two Orlan-10 reconnaissance drone are used to monitor the surroundings of the Alma-Ata airport.

Equipping such military equipment allows Russian peacekeepers to solve peacekeeping tasks. At the same time, the main quality of the paratroopers remains courage, determination and readiness to confront any enemy. This is the strength of the Airborne Forces.

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