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Russia to create rapid reaction force as relations with West get strained

August 07, 2014, 18:50 UTC+3 Zamyatina Tamara

MOSCOW, August 07. /ITAR-TASS/. Russia’s airborne troops are expected to double in strength and be fundamentally rearmed over five years to come to eventually serve as the backbone of a rapid reaction force, as follows from what several military experts have told ITAR-TASS in a brief poll on Thursday.

A high-ranking source at the General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces said the Defense Ministry’s leadership has approved the idea of the airborne force commander, Colonel-General Vladimir Shamanov to approximately double the strength of the airborne troops’ manpower to 72,000 officers and men over a period of five years.

A week earlier Shamanov said the airborne troops were going to expand the zones of their presence outside Russia. He speculated that a future rapid reaction force, to be created on the airborne troops platform, will incorporate army aviation units. Combat drones the airborne troops will be equipped with as early as 2015 will enable reconnaissance units to operate deep inside the enemy’s rear.

“The plans for doubling the airborne troops’ strength are quite realistic and relevant, as the vision of threats to Russia amid the crisis in Ukraine has changed,” a member of the military-industrial commission under the Russian government, Mikhail Remizov, told ITAR-TASS.

“Apparently, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu is determined to correct mistakes committed by his predecessor, Anatoly Serdyukov, whose military reform was aimed at slashing the airborne troops’ strength of 35,000 men by half,” the expert said.

“Just several years ago the concept of Russia’s military reform was based on the assumption the era of classical wars between countries is gone never to return. All of a sudden it has turned out that threats against Russia keep mounting. This circumstance has required building up the strength of the airborne troops as the most mobile component of all,” Mikhail Remizov said.

“British General Adrian Bradshaw, NATO’s Deputy Supreme Allied Commander Europe, has said that the alliance’s rapid reaction force, charged with the mission to deter Russia, should incorporate both ground and air forces. Russian President Vladimir Putin, in turn, warned Russia would provide a symmetric response to NATO’s build-up. For this reason the plans for arming Russia’s airborne troops with combat drones looks very timely and appropriate against the backdrop of new challenges. So far this class of aircraft has been the greatest weakness of Russia’s military hardware.

“A considerable airborne troops build-up was discussed at the Defense Ministry back in 2012-2013, but at first nobody was in a hurry to translate it into reality. The latest decision was prompted by the current political situation in Ukraine and the need for reacting to actions by our counter-partners, such as NATO member-countries,” Colonel-General Viktor Yesin, a former chief of the strategic missile forces’ staff, told ITAR-TASS.

“The airborne troops have a two-fold mission of dealing with local conflicts and serving as the backbone of peace-keeping forces. Of late, the number of both types of challenges grew considerably, so the strength of mobile troops should be increased, on the condition, though, the overall build-up will not exceed the current overall strength of Russia’s armed forces,” Yesin said.

“Converting Russia’s airborne troops into a full-fledged rapid reaction force their material and logistics base should be reinforced considerably. An ever wider use of drones by mobile, naval and ground units is an overall world trend. The fact that the Russian Defense Ministry has set the task of arming the airborne troops with drones is a very timely measure,” Yesin said in conclusion.

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