Monday, March 16, 2015

Cold War BMP or BTR equipped Soviet Battalions

In 1970's Soviets started to mount BTRs and BMPs in large numbers. Original TOE for both unit types was roughly same:

Battalion HQ -3 MR Companies -AT Platoon* -Mortar Battery

*AT Platoon has been mentioned as part of both BTR and BMP Battalion type but in most cases it has been mentioned as part of ONLY in BTR Battalion.

Each MR Company had 10 BMP/BTR. Each squad had one APC with three men in Company trained as Close-Range SAM gunners (and thus company had 3 SA-7 systems).

The AGS-17 grenade machinegun came into service in 1970's and BTR equipped company should thus have two such systems carried amongst other men of company. Number of APCs is still supposedly ten although it should be VERY tight fit and thus I'd suggest changing it to 11 BTRs like in Early 1980's TOEs. and/or playing it this way to depict life in Soviet army right when AGS-17 was introduced (and supposedly new vehicles had not yet been introduced).

The AT Platoon should have: -1 ATGW Squad (with 2 AT-3 systems).* -1 RCL Squad (with 2 SPG-9 systems).** *This could be replaced with AT-4 system when it becomes available. **Although it has not been mentioned, I personally believe that this can be replaced with 57mm AT Gun to depict very old equipment.

Mortar Battery has six 120mm Mortars that are towed with Gaz-66. Some sources say that in some Battalions (supposedly in BMP equipped Bns -while BTR battalions keep their Gaz-66- these are replaced with MT-LB. however, 1980's TOEs I've seen do not support this change. Thus you should probably keep Gaz-66 truck as transport system and forget MT-LB.

In early 1980's following changes were made: Number of soldiers in dismounted Squad dropped from 8 to 7.

BTR Battalion TOE was slightly tweaked into following: -Bn HQ -3 MR Companies -Mortar Battery -AT Platoon

BMP Battalion had now following TOE: -Bn HQ -3 MR Companies -Mortar Battery -AA Platoon -AGL Platoon

The differences are due following: BTR Company had 11 vehicles (with 1 new vehicle carrying two AGS-17 system). Company also kept the Close range SAM systems (3 SAM systems in company).

AT Platoon of BTR Battalion was reinforced as following: -2 ATGW Squad (each with 2 ATGW systems)* -1 RCL Squad (with 2 SPG-9 system) *ATGW was either AT-3 or AT-4. Platoon had 4 APCs to carry troops.

BMP Company kept 10 BMP structure and moved (or added?) SAM systems to AA Platoon and AGLs to AGL Platoon. Their organization was following:

AA Platoon 3xBMP 9xClose Range SAM System

AGL Platoon 3xBMP 6xAGS-17 AGL system.

Sources state that Mortar battery in both Battalions had 120mm Mortar (either old or the new one) and used Gaz-66 to move them. Thus I am rather skeptical of using MT-LB to move these mortars around.

Late 1980's saw reorganization of BTR Battalions to roughly similar as BMP Battalions and some firepower increases in BMP Battalions:

BTR Battalion: -Bn HQ -3 MR Company -Mortar Battery -AT Platoon -AA Platoon -AGL Platoon

BMP Battalion was similar but it had no AT Platoon.

AT platoons retained fairly similar organization as their early 1980's brethren with the difference that some high readiness units had now increased strength: AT Platoon: -2 ATGW Squads (each with 2 ATGW systems) -1 RCL Squad (with 2 SPG-9 system) Platoon had supposedly now 5 BTRs. Some high readiness units could have 6 AT-4 ATGW systems and three SPG-9 systems.

Mortar Battery for both battalion types had now 8 mortars. This could be either 120mm mortar or 82mm 2B9 automatic mortar.

Biggest change in BTR Battalion was introduction of two new support unit types: AA Platoon and AGL Platoon. These were created by removing these systems from companies. Following TOEs were in use:

AA Platoon -3 BTRs -9 Close range SAM systems

AGL Platoon -3 BTRs -6 AGS-17 AGL systems

MR Companies lost these assets that were replaced with more anti tank firepower and infantry support. Number of BTRs was increased to 12 (from 11) and new platoon (1+16) was built as Machinegun/AT Platoon. It had three ATGW teams (that used new AT-7 ATGW system) and three GPMG teams (that used the old PKM system). Russians do not seem to have issued tripods to these GPMG weapons and they appear to be employed in bipod role or as attached to APCs for added firepower on them.

BMP equipped MR companies had similar addition of infantry firepower. Machinegun Platoon (1+16) was added to TOE rising company's MICV strength from 10 to 12. MG Platoon had 6 PKM GPMG teams to bolster firepower of company. They had no ATGWs added.

Both units started to field variety of LADs to individual soldiers during 1980's. These are issued as rounds of ammo and do not appear on TOEs.

One interesting development in the Soviet units is that there does not appear to be single source of how they issued their small arms. Generally it appears that infantry squad had always one RPG as light AT weapon and either one or two light SAWs or one GPMG or one LMG. I have seen source touting PK as squad level support weapon and replacing old RPD in this role but this does not appear to be the final truth when considering popularity of SAWs like AKM-47 and AKM-74 too. 1970's TOEs indicate they used PK as squad level support weapon replacing old RPD but 1980's TOEs suggest they used either 1 or 2 of AKM series SAWs and delegated PKM to support role or kept on vehicle. I'd avoid using PKM as squad level weapon and keep RPD as squad weapon until replaced by AKM-47 and AKM-74 (in late 1970's.

Regarding the BTRs:

In the late 1970s, the Soviet Ground Forces issued the BMP to the motorized rifle regiment of the tank divisions and to one motorized rifle regiment of the motorized rifle divisions. The other 2 motor rifle regiments in these divisions had BTRs. Here are the proportions of APCs/IFVs in European Russia in 1990 (earlier totals not available):

MTLB -- 1300
BTR-50 -- 7
BTR-60 -- 4191
BTR-70 -- 3936
BTR-80 -- 1130
Total -- 10,564

BMP-1 -- 8146
BMP-2 -- 5996
BMP-3 -- 33
BRM-1K* -- 1363
Total -- 15,538

*Recon variant of BMP-1 with no missile.

In the mid 1980s, I think a reasonable interpolation of this data would mean that 60% of APCs were BTR-60s; 40% were BTR-70s. And perhaps 80% BMP-1 and 20% BMP-2 (I'd guess that these would be in tank divisions).

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