Gators in Movement: Demystifying Latest Russian Amphibious Exercise

By Ben Claremont

The previous a number of weeks have seen some extraordinary Russian naval exercise.1 On 17 and 18 January 2021, six Russian amphibious warfare ships sortied from the Baltic Sea, passing by way of the Danish straits to the North Sea. On 24 January, TASS reported that over 20 floor combatants and auxiliaries sortied from the Russian Baltic Fleet.2 Latest satellite tv for pc radar imagery of Baltiysk Naval Base in Kaliningrad exhibits solely the 2 Neustrashimy-class frigates in port.3 This suggests that each one 4 Steregushchiy-class corvettes and a number of other of the 21 smaller ships assigned to the fleet are at sea.4 As well as, main parts of the Northern, Pacific, and Black Sea Fleets have sortied, nominally as half of a giant train.5 On 4 February, the six amphibious ships stopped for resupply in Tartus, Syria.6 At the moment, they’ve transited the Turkish Straits and entered the Black Sea.7

Because of the build-up of forces on the Russian border with Ukraine and in Belarus, Russia’s amphibious forces have acquired quite a lot of information protection. This consists of a minimum of eight articles in The Drive’s The Warfare Zone and common reporting from USNI Information, Forbes, Radio Free Europe, the French Navy, and quite a few different media retailers.8 The protection has usually centered on their progress and the viability and potential places of amphibious assaults on Ukraine. Whereas the capabilities, location, and vacation spot of those ships are necessary, their actions and potential targets have to be contextualized; the Russian Army has a definite understanding of and strategy to amphibious warfare. It additionally have to be saved in thoughts that these forces solely increase current capabilities within the Black Sea Fleet and so shouldn’t be used as an indicator of readiness to provoke battle.

Most commentary on potential Russian amphibious assaults in a conflict with Ukraine suggests targets comparable to Odessa and Mariupol or describes them as a feint.9 In November, the Chief of Ukrainian Army Intelligence recommended that amphibious assaults would goal Odessa and Mariupol.10 Responding to this within the January 2022 problem of Proceedings, Col. (Ret.) Phillip G. Wasielewski, U.S. Marine Corps, recommended that such assaults can be extremely dangerous.11 Nonetheless, the concept of amphibious assaults to grab main cities persists.12 Nonetheless, when this situation is in contrast with current Russian amphibious warfare capabilities, the Russian concept and apply of amphibious warfare (and its Soviet antecedent), and the bigger Russian deployment of forces, it turns into clear that Mariupol, Odessa, and different main city areas or ports are unlikely targets for the Russian Naval Infantry. Conversely, it’s unlikely that such forces are solely a bluff, feint, or ruse.

February 9, 2022 video by  Ihlas Information Company entitled (in Turkish), “Russian Warships Advancing From The Dardanelles To The Black Sea One After One.”


Russia’s amphibious ships are transferring in two teams with an estimated capability of two common battalions — one tank and one motorized infantry— with some area for artillery and air defenses. Alternatively, the teams may carry a Battalion Tactical Group.

Group 1: Baltic Fleet14

  • Пр.775/II [ROPUCHA-I] 127 Minsk
  • Пр.775/II [ROPUCHA-I] 102 Kaliningrad
  • Пр.775/III [ROPUCHA-II] 130 Korolyov

Group 2: Northern Fleet15

  • Пр.775/I [ROPUCHA-I] 012 Olenegorskii Gornyak
  • Пр.775/II [ROPUCHA-I] 016 Georgii Pobedonosets
  • Пр.11711 [IVAN GREN] 017 Peter Morgunov

A Battalion Tactical Group (BTG) is a task-organized mixed arms power created by augmenting a Motor-Rifle Battalion (MRBn) with tanks, artillery, digital warfare capabilities, air defenses, and different trendy conveniences needed for the mission at hand.16 It’s the smallest repeatedly fashioned mixed arms power within the Russian army able to impartial motion.17 It’s only the most recent type of a kind of unit which the Russians — and Soviets earlier than them — have been iteratively creating and adjusting because the Second world Warfare.18 A 1989 survey of Soviet skilled literature on the subject discovered that solely 12 of the 551 examined battalion-level actions concerned a battalion performing with out attachments or assist, and none passed off after 1972.19

From analyzing Russian workout routines, it may be inferred that these two teams can carry a BTG. Zapad 2021 featured an amphibious assault train by which 4 Ropucha-class tank touchdown ships (LSTs) and two Zubr-class touchdown craft air cushion (LCACs) landed a Naval Infantry power.24 The 4 Ropucha-class offloaded “greater than 40x BTR-80” whereas the 2 Zubr-class LCAC offloaded supporting automobiles. A Russian BTR-mounted infantry battalion has 44 BTR-80 variants, that means that 4 Ropuchas can carry all the infantry touchdown power of a BTG. This leaves two touchdown ships for no matter forces are connected — probably a combination of tanks, artillery, and air protection automobiles. Whereas the contents of their holds are unclear, a BTG is properly inside the six ships’ capability and congruous with the Naval Infantry’s most possible mission in battle: supporting the Russian Floor Forces.

Tank touchdown ship of the Russian Navy RFS Kaliningrad 102 (2012 Picture by way of Pacholski)

Principle and Apply

No matter its dimension, this amphibious power is skilled to conduct what the Russians name “десант” [desant]. Desant is the duty of touchdown troops on the enemy’s territory to conduct fight operations.25 The function of the Naval Infantry in these landings is to assist the motion of the Floor Forces. The Russian Navy didn’t think about themselves capable of conduct a brigade-scale touchdown — what they name an Operational Desant — in 2018, and there’s no indication this has modified.26 The Kavkaz 2020 and Zapad 2021 workout routines included landings by battalion-sized groupings. Particularly, Zapad 2021 featured 4 Ropuchas touchdown a Naval Infantry Battalion whereas two Zubr-class landed the battalion’s attachments.27 This restricts the mission profile to Takticheskii Desant (Tactical Desant), outlined as: desant utilized in an offensive battle or operation to destroy necessary enemy targets within the tactical and close-operational depths, stopping the maneuver of enemy troops and making certain the excessive charge of advance.28

The archetypical Soviet-Russian Tactical Desant is performed within the tactical depth to outflank an enemy protection or insert a power performing as a ahead detachment for the primary forces attacking alongside a shoreline.29 These are each viable missions for a Naval Infantry BTG. The placement of such a touchdown depends on the disposition of enemy forces and the touchdown power mission. Nonetheless, the Russians do consider that shock (Внезапность) is a prerequisite of success.30 Whether or not or not it’s nonetheless potential to hide an amphibious touchdown, it’s probably Russia would search to hide the beachhead and axis of the primary effort.31 A standard technique to attain that is by presenting the enemy with info which confirms pre-existing incorrect assessments of the time, place, and scale of a touchdown. Operation Fortitude is a traditional instance of this system, although Soviet apply went additional, typically conducting a secondary touchdown to proceed the deception or cut up enemy consideration.32 Examples of this embrace the January 1943 Taman landings by the 47th Military, the April 1942 Murmansk Offensive by the 14th Military, and the October 1944 touchdown at Malaya Volokovaya by the 63rd Naval Infantry Brigade.33

Soviet Amphibious Assault through the Novorossiysk-Taman Strategic Offensive Operation. Click on to increase. (SSRC Soviet Amphibious Warfare, p. 41)

The Soviet-Russian faculty of amphibious assault additionally closely options vertical envelopment by airborne or heliborne forces to assist the touchdown. This might both be in assist of seizing an preliminary beachhead or to help the Naval Infantry power in reaching their aims. One of the crucial frequent makes use of of vertical envelopment seen in Russian amphibious assault concept and apply is an preliminary touchdown of infantry and fight engineers to clear obstacles and supply safety for the beachhead.34 This preliminary touchdown could also be supplemented or changed by landings from small assault boats, such because the Pr.03160 Raptor-class.35 4 of those boats had been noticed on 30 January transferring on the M4 freeway between Moscow and Krasnodar by way of Rostov-on-Don and Voronezh.36

Click on to increase. (Graphic by way of Grau and Bartles, Russian Approach of Warfare, p. 148.)

All six amphibious ships appeared loaded in footage captured as they transited by way of Denmark.37 As well as, Frederik Van Lokeren famous that when the Northern Fleet Ropucha-class LST Aleksandr Otrakovsky and Georgiy Pobedonosets and Ivan Gren-class Pyotr Morgunov entered the Baltic on 11 January, “It seem[ed] that each Ropucha class vessels are totally loaded, with the RFS Pyotr Morgunov being partly loaded,” and that on 13 January no less than an organization of BTR-mounted Naval Infantry was seen leaving their barracks in Baltiysk.38 It’s subsequently potential that the BTG consists of Baltic Fleet Infantry and supporting belongings from the Northern Fleet’s Naval Infantry items.


Whereas these actions are trigger for concern, the initiation of armed battle is unlikely to be contingent on these forces. The Black Sea Fleet has seven LSTs natural to its forces, three Alligator-class and 4 Ropucha-class.39 Every Alligator-class has double the capability of a Ropucha-class.40 These seven ships have way more capability than the six amphibious ships from the Baltic and Northern Fleets.

Whereas amphibious landings may undoubtedly help in destabilizing Ukrainian defenses, the Russians have amassed a preponderance of forces close to the Ukrainian border, equal to 12 divisions or over 75 BTG.41 It’s extremely unlikely that Russian planning is reliant on whether or not they can put two BTG over the shore as a substitute of the only BTG they’re at the moment capable of land, and even whether or not they can land one maneuver battalion once they have deployed 12 divisions.

In sum: the Russians have moved loaded amphibious ships that double their touchdown capability within the Black Sea to 2 BTGs. In the event that they do conduct a touchdown, it’ll virtually actually be in assist of the Floor Forces, not an try to seize main city areas by coup de foremost. It’s unlikely that Russian offensive plans are contingent on the amphibious forces which simply entered the Black Sea. These forces signify lower than 1/seventy fifth of deployed Russian maneuver battalions and much lower than one p.c of deployed Russian fight energy when air belongings and high-level oblique hearth belongings are thought of.

The build-up section of the Russo-Belarussian joint train was scheduled to finish on 9 February. That is the date by which consultants comparable to Rob Lee have said that Russia’s deployment of forces would probably be full.42 On the time of publishing on 10 February the Baltic and Northern Fleet amphibious forces have arrived within the Black Sea. Nonetheless, these forces would solely increase current Black Sea Fleet functionality and so shouldn’t be used as an indicator of Russian readiness for offensive motion. Alternatively, these amphibious forces are unlikely to be a feint; the Russians have demonstrated the potential to land battalion-scale forces within the area, and such a touchdown matches into their concept and apply.

Benjamin Claremont graduated with an MLitt in Strategic Research from the College of St Andrews College of Worldwide Relations in 2021. His dissertation, Peeking on the Different Aspect of the Fence: Classes Realized in Menace Evaluation from the US Army’s Efforts to Perceive the Soviet Army In the course of the Chilly Warfare, explored the affect of fixing sources, analytical methodologies, and distribution schemes on US Military and US Navy risk evaluation of the Soviet Army, how this impacted coverage and technique, and what this could train in a renewed period of nice energy competitors. He acquired his MA (Honours) in Fashionable Historical past from the College of St. Andrews. He’s thinking about Technique, Operational Artwork, Naval Warfare, and Soviet/Russian Army Science.





[4] These comprise: 4x Nanuchka-III-, 6x Parchim-, 2x Buyan-M-, 3x Karakurt-, and 6x Tarantul-class corvettes and missile boats. The fleet flagship, the Sovermenny-class destroyer Nastoychivy is at the moment in refit.












[16] Grau and Bartles, Russia’s View of Mission Command of Battalion Tactical Teams (2016), p. 5-7

[17] Grau and Bartles, Russian Approach of Warfare (2017), p. 37-40

[18] The Soviets habitually task-organized their battalions into mixed arms formations all through the Nice Patriotic Warfare. Grau, Mixed Arms Battalion, p. 31

[19] Les Grau Soviet Mixed Arms Battalion – Reorganization for Tactical Flexibility, p. 14.

[20] Grau and Bartles, Russian Approach of Warfare, p. 224

[21] Ibid p. 210

[22] Ibid p. 148, 267, 334

[23]As a activity organized group these numbers are solely free estimates.


[25] VES 1986 p. 229 Be aware that desant is seen as the identical elementary exercise regardless of the mode of transport.

[26] Bartles, Russian Naval Infantry – Growing Amphibious Warfare Capabilities, Marine Corps Gazette, (Nov. 2018), p. 64

[27] ; Be aware that this was not described as a BTG touchdown. That is maybe as a result of restricted assist or particular mission deliberate.

[28] Военный энциклопедический словарь 1986 version (VES86), p. 229.

[29] Additional Studying might be present in Leavenworth Paper 17: The Petsamo-Kirkenes Operation and SSRC Report CR-57 Soviet Amphibious Operations: Implications for the Safety of NATO’s Northern Flank.

[30]; that is almost unchanged from the late-soviet definition. For extra dialogue see: FM 100-2-1 (1990) p. 1-35:1-41 and Советская военная энциклопедия 1979 Version (SVE79) Vol. 2, p. 161-163

[31] Soviet Amphibious Operations p. 58-59

[32] Soviet Amphibious Operations p. 59

[33] Soviet Amphibious Operations p. 59, Petsamo-Kirkenes Operation p. 89-91

[34] Vertical envelopment is usually supplemented by personnel landed from small assault boats just like the Pr.03160 Raptor-class.



[37] A pal within the Danish Navy who noticed them sortie confirmed they had been decrease within the water than typical even for workout routines.

[38], citing

[39] The Alligator-class is understood to the Russians as Undertaking 1171 Tapir.

[40] Apalkov, Touchdown Ships p. 8-9



Featured picture: {A photograph} of Russian Ropucha-class Korolev adopted by the French patrol vessel Flamant whereas transiting the English Channel (Credit score :

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Back to top button