DIRECTORATE OF INTELLIGENCE
Airlift and Auxiliary Air Support for Soviet Military Forces
Components of the Military Transport
Medium Transports 5
Current Long Range 7
Light Transports ,
Helicopters in Tactical
Light Aviation Units SupportingForces . 18
Strength and Disposition 18
Mission and Functions 21
Annex A: Soviet Airlift Duringin Czechoslovakia 25
Annex D: Soviet Military Transports(tables giving numbers ofunits and aircraft at midyearprojections to 2g
- 2 -
Components of the Military Transport Forces
There are three categories of aircraft whichtransport for the Soviot military: Military Transport Aviation transports. Tactical Air Force helicopters, and transport aircraft and helicoptersassigned in genoral support of major elements of tho armed forces and other agencies- (Tables inhow total numbers and major categories of transport aircraft and helicopters.)
Military Transport Aviationne of the major arms of the Soviot air forces, provides the main intertheater and long range airlift capability for the Soviet armed forces and the national One of its main missions is support of the airborne troops. VTA isaorganized otal ofondependent regiments. All are west of the Urals exceptivisionegiments) and an independuntalong Lhe Sino-Soviet border. (The map onhows the disposition of VTAach regiment is equipped withoub medium assault transports. (Tablennex B, shows the number of aircraft assignad to VTA.)
Helicopters assigned to the Tactical Air Forcos (TAF) have the primary missions of supporting front and theater forces with intratheater or short range airlift and ofariety of support tasks. (Tablennex B, gives the number of tacticalhelicopters in this role.)
term for all Sovvet mlttary transports andbut ths term VTA this report refers solely to the main force of transport, aircraft
In addition, other transport aircraft andore assigned to and perform general support functions for TAF, Long Range Aviation, Air Defense, Strategic Rocket Forces, and the Ministry ofeneral Purpose Transport Unit (GPTU) based atand one at Khabarovsk serve the highest military authorities. Other units probably supportctivities. (Tablennex B, shows the number of transports and helicopters in general support.)
The Soviet civil aira significant reserve adjunct to the militarycapabilities. Aeroflot hasctive high performance (jet and turboprop) transports in the Light, medium, and heavy categories, andight piston engine transports. In addition,
as manytransport and utilitybe in civil use.
The light piston engine and turboprop transports together with helicopters wouldaluable asset during tactical operations involving the uau of temporary airstrips. Many of the medium and all of the heavy transports would have to use airfields with longer and more durable runways. They could, for example, ferry troops and supplies to well-developed airfields and evacuate casualties -
The most important component of the militaryforces consist of thuedium transports of VTA.
There are nowedium transports in military units, including. f there assigned to VTA and the rest to the Ministry of Defense and the other majorof the Soviet air forces such as TAF and Long Range Aviation. If the current rate of growth continues,1 the total number of mediumcould reachircraft, including about.
Airlift capabilities in the western USSR have expanded7 through the probable additionourth rogiment to atfTA
Requirements for heavy airlifthe Soviet Fara athe ground forces buildup on the Chinesedivision there may be expandedr 4over the next year or two, making itdivisions in the western
other than theegiments, the only otner known medium transport regiment is oneamp transports. Iri!ubocdinate to the Soviet tactical air army there and supports both Soviet air and ground force elements in Eastern Europe. Theiun. transports amels AN-10
erlj'su^rr,3' rd B whTchSper^ormf 'unctions are assigned to transport units of varying size, many of which also include other categories of transports and helicopters.
Current Long Range Airlift Capabiliti
The missions this force car. performll
ronLnc Payload capabilities-seen the loading of the aircraft?
the availability of aircraft, and the altitude at which the mission ts flown.*
f tho main airlift force could, ingle mission, theoretically lift assaulttotaling some0 men and supporting equio-tnent for airdropadius of about BOOun
0 feet give
the beet fuel economy and thu* the greatest range forperations. Past assessments have generally concluded that AN-lZs probably would not carry trooos0 feet since the main cabin'P pressurized and the use ff oxygen masks results in excessive fatigue. A recent Red Star article, however dromons taring oxygen masks to the '
Aviation Medicine ha9
stated that the maximum tolerable altitude for troops about to go into battle is0 to0eanng oxygen masks, and that decompressionwould have an increasingly detrimental effect on the troops above0 feet. fven though some
carrying troops on long missions probably would uB-
Kitted, to reduce or eliminate detrimental VHen 'Cuipment onlytonfly at 9pHmmm
aircraft dossmall pressurised cabin which can accommodate 9 to Is passengers, per-
n* equipment such as assi.it
- ^rvjitr, i
(The number of aircraft that would actually befor an airlift depends in part upon serviceable rates which are assumed to beercenttanddown of ays for a total of' Considering past practices, the need for '
e Mother priority missions, and the feasibility of assembling and staging the aircraft,orce of up to half this sizeore realistic measure of what the Soviets would
2 an air2if5Por example,ere used during the early hours of the invasion of Czechoslovakia (see
Large numbers ofere used in out-of-counti operations during the ScJviet airlift to the Middleand to Yemen. Taking account of the major factors influencing airborne operationsloading factors, flight altitudes, and aircraft
resulting in non-
optimum flight profiles orforce of
a range ofm. The range could be to about nni if all aircraft were able to fly at altitudes best for fuel economy.
(The op or.howsangesariety of missions staged from Soviet airfields.)
The limitedf theedium transport when carrying heavy payloads and its inability to carry bulky equipment such as tanks and some heavy
artilleryUP the Soviet requirement for the ? ock heavy transport aircraft. According to the Soviets, thean0istancem but this performance is be-the^ANS oveistated for regular service use of
The firstrototype was produced5 and, after some delay, theas now beendeployed. tatement by the Soviet first deputy minister of civil aviation whichin American Aviation of9 andof the aircraft by knowledgeable observers
fL IJL V ^rif Airreason
for the slow deployment^ that the aircraft has
had vibration problems. Soviet statements indicate
rnT/tu' =hatPaction will increase and that the Soviets envisage widespread use of this aircraft.
ould be operational by
nd SOmeoould be operational by These projections are based on aincrease in the rate of production, postu-
requirements, and the rate at whichacilities to accommodate the aircraft and trained crews to fly them can be provided.
Moscow Air Show ult demonstration
inn ?hiChiU be employed in VTA units is not yet ciear, but there are several
options available. Atighlight of the large air
was the landing of FROG tactical rockets and Ganef
s- ^ee photographer,) When engaged in support of airborne troops.
theill probably bc used mainly to land heavy equipment and crews on airfields rather than to drop paratroops, although some equipment aboard thot9 Paris Air Show suggests that drop tests are currently being conducted by the aircraft.
To date, out-of-country missions by theave included flights to air shows and at least one flight in follow-on support of the invasion of Czechoslovakia.
There are currentlyightmostlyrates andabsfewokes andoaches. 0 aircraft are assigned to the Tactical
Short range military lift capabilities should significantly increase as additional numbers ofwin-turboprop transports (see photograph on pagere assigned to operational units.ould be in service by the mid-Seventies, mainly with TAF. The new version shown at9 Paris Air Show had full-width rear loading doors to facilitate loading and paradropping, and this version will probably be the primary one to go into military service. Theanounds of cargoangem.
in addition toight transports, there are anery light or small utility aircraft in Soviet military units. These aircraft are theolt, which can carry uo toassengers; theassengers; and theassengers.
ightings by attaches -in..: bservers and classified Soviet military articles
indicate that, excluding helicopters used in an ASW role, there areedium,ght--in Sovietunits. These helicopters are found both in units up to regimental size which are equipped solely with helicopters, as in the case of many TAF units, and in smaller elements of varying strength, many of which have some transport aircraft as well. The helicopters are used for airlift, for general support of theater ground and air forces and other elements of the national government and Ministry of Defense, and for special missions in support of the ground forces. (see the tables inor the present and projected numbers of helicopters by type and mission.)
Helicopters in Tactical Aviation Units
Tactical aviation, which provides the major helicopter airlift capability, haseavy and medium helicopters for this mission: ookoarke heavy helicopters and upound and at leastip medium helicopters. (See photographs on pagendn) Most ofelicopters ar in the western USSR or Eastern Europe, but there are nowpposite Communist China and the number there probably is still increasing.
There are Up toAF helicopter regiments equipped with varying numbers of helicopters. Over half the regiments appear to Consist of 10 to lb neavy helicopters and 25 to ediumelicopter regiment of this size is capable of handling an assault lorce the size of a lightly equipped battalion.
The Soviets arerowing appreci-
rtiT e Usearraed hel^optersactical role. Although the present Soviet concept apooars o be mainly one of providing fire support for heli-borne assault operations, some recent Soviet and bast European military writings also visualize tl
armed helicopterotentialand search and destroy operations.
There is no evidence that the Soviets havea helicopter, like the US Huey Cobra,for armed missions, and they continue to use transport helicopters* fittedariety of armament. Normal nose gun armament installed on theI-B, andelicoptersaliber) machine gun although someay nowuch machine gunsJmm weapon. In addition, both thendave been seen fittedetachable rocket launcher pods (see photograph on fc.ich pod can launchnch) unguidod rockets.
A Sovietecently sighted in Hungary was fittedrmament pylons andossible protuberance which couldighting system for antitank guided missiles. (Anare lightwas seen firing an antitank guided missile) ylons could be used to carryguided missiles, small bombs and bomb clusters, unguidod rockets, or gun pods.
A capability to fire antitank guided missiles has not yet been observed on thehich is now in service in significant numbers, but presumably it has been or will be equippedystem
which is similar to that seen on thend possibly now available for the MI-4.
Light Aviation Units Supporting the Ground Forces
Helicopters and small utility transport aircraft found at or near and routinely available to Soviet ground force elementside variety of They are organized into squadrons and flights and are conventionally referred to as air liaison or light aviation units.
These aircraft are in addition to the heavy and medium helicopters and lfght transport aircraft of Soviet tactical aviation regiments, which provide the ground forces with their major airliftfor short range tactical operations and satisfy logistic and auxiliary requirements for both air and ground elements.
The light aviation units of the ground forces are probably manned and maintained by TAF even though operationally subordinate and permanently attached to the ground forces.
Strength and Disposition
For reconnaissance functions, the Soviet tables of organization and equipmentorare light helicoptersound medium helicopters for light aviation units at the combined arms army level andI-lst the tank army level. These are assigned ac follows:
Number of helicoptersareound' (CAA) (TA) TCAAl TfA)
radio battalion Separate special, mission
radiotechnical battalion Separate reconnaissance
direeling-reconnaissance helicopter squadron Radiological and chemical reconnaissance flight
Since corps are evidently similar to armies in function, they may also have light aviation units. The number of helicopters authorized, however, may be fewer than with an army since corps appear to have fewer support units and usually control fewer divisions.
Group of Soviot Force their full complement of of r 17 reconnaissanc ground armies andorp helicopters.
Germany (GSFGJ have :opters. omplement .icopters in theid require about
at the division division and hi< helicopters for
ho tors (probablyeventieg most maym ssio.ls.
tank army has no fadi>technical battalion.
?rmany in avi-
Photography of Soviel bases in East German' July and9 indicates Lhat some tion units there are receiving the heli-copter produced in Poland, ineanroops, inew liqht observation helicopter could be in service in the early Seventies.
Army and some subordinate headquarters appear toew small utility transports, either thereek or theolt or both, as well as helicopters. Thelod twin-engine aircraft is expected to eventually replace the agingnd AH-2s. It is estimated that there areuch aircraft in light aviation units.
Mission and Functions
The mission of the aircraft in light aviatio units is varied. Some of there equipped to detect and intercept ground-based radio and radar emissions and others for the detection of radiologically and chemically contami nated aro^^
The Mi-Iseans ofand fire direction for army rocket andtroops. The helicopter squadron of I-ls consists of an administrative headquarters, afor airfield technical suoport,nit. f the KI-ls airborneelicopter squadron could conduct reconnaissance
0om) front to depth ofoilometers om).
The small utility transports are generally used for support of ground reconnaissance elements, trans ter of personnel and courier material between and training paratroops.
The Soviets are continuing to augment their military air transport capabilities. Growth of the medium transport force, which provides the majorof the airlift capability, is particularly Its capabilities were successfully put to the test during the invasion of Czechoslovakia.
Soviet capabilities for short range tactical operations and logistic support have beon increaseduildup and modernization of the tactical aviation helicopter force, particularly along the Soviet-Chinese border.
Long Range Airlift Farcos
The continuing buildup ot the main airlift force for intertheater or long range airliftransports enhances Soviet capabilities for airborne operations and other airlift missions to all of Europe and much of Asia and Africa. thes adequate for airlift missions to these areas, its ability to perform large scale distant operations is linitod oy the need to reduce payload to carry the necessary fuel. For example, oneersion can carry troops or high priority cargo ange of upautical miles but the payload would be onlyUOU pounds, limiting the types of support weapons and equipment which could accompany the force -
The strength of the main airlift1 tary Transport Aviation or VTA--now stands at about. soviet airlift operations to the Middle East and Africa and to Czechoslovakia during the intervention show that the Soviets are willing to commit up to one-half this force to achieve na;or objectives. orce of this sizeould, for example, carryaratroops with full supporting equipmentadiusmangeo depending on the altitudes flown-
The maximum cargo lift capacity of the samepermit carrying someons ofequipmentistancem in oneand troop carrying missions todistances are possible with
A few of the newock heavy transports are now operationally deployed. As additional aircraft enter service, Soviet capabilities for distantwill be increased. Thes designed to accommodate bulky cargo such as tanks and can,to the Soviets,0 pounds of cargom. This assessment is believed to be optimistic for service use of theut thewill stillignificant augmentation of Soviet capabilities. Some 40 toould be operational by
Overall Soviet long range airlift capabilities will continue to be limited by vulnerability to hostile Most Soviet fighters can provide escort from the USSR onlyadiusm or less, and forces on distant missions face the danger of destruction by hostile forces while en route to their objectives. in addition, even with thehe lack of jetas theA--limits Soviet abilities to respond quickly to high priority airlift requirements, and range and payload limitations of theimit the effective operating range of the force on large missions.
Short Range Airlift Forces
The Soviets are continuing to increase their capabilities for intratheater or short rangewith the assignment of additional heavy and medium helicopters to the Tactical Air Forces and the better positioning of helicopter units in an enlarged air base structure, particularly in the area opposite the border of China. The helicopter force, which now totalselicopters,igh degree of mobility but its overall strength and disposition arc inadequate toargc ground force.
Some steps may now be under way to expand the role of armed helicopters to include ground attack missions, but the basic Soviet concept ofstill appears to be one of providing fire support for heliborne assault forces. Helicopters used for such support are standard transportequipped with machine guns,sn weapon, unguided rockets, or antitank guided nissiles. This permits the force toood degree ofof employment in either combat or transport roles, but force capabilities probably would beby the introduction of high speed close support helicopters designed specifically for armed missions and carrying armament turrets and external stores attachments. s no evidence thatelicopter is being developed,rogram of this nature would be difficult to detect in its early stages,
Light aviation units which serve the ground forceside variety of roles such asartillery spotting, and liaison arc apparently being improved with the assignment of new helicopters and small utility aircraft. The number ofow assigned at the army level may be enough to serve alldivisionsommon front.
Some Soviet military authors have longthe assignment of helicopters at division level in larger numbers than the few lightwhich may now be available for liaison functions, and the Soviets may provide somedivisions with their own complement of to enable then to operateefficiently with less dependenceigJier headquarters- It has not been determined, however, whether anynow havenit.
Soviet Airlift During the Intervention In Czechoslovakia
Soviet airlift operations at the time of the intervention in Czechoslovakia inn insight into Soviet airlift capabilities and operational procedures.
As in the case of some TAK units, someransport units of VTA probably deployed to forward bases days or even weoks before the invasion.
Staging theo forwardfollows Soviet doctrines-placed the aircraft closer toand permitted them to carry heavier loads. It probably also served to disperse the aircraft for faster loading of troops and equipment and permitted expoditious launch of assault elements.
Following the probable pre-invasion deployment to staging bases, the prime measure which assured aairlift into Czechoslovakia was the preposi-tioning of ground control teams. umber of reports point to the arrivaloviet transports in Czechoslovakia aevaral hours before the arrival of the firstarrying troops from the USSR. umber of reports, including one by ar. en ployee of the Czechoslovak state airline who was on duty at the Prague/Ruzyne airfield at the time, these aircraft carried airfield technicians and civilian air controllers whose task was to taKu over air traffic control facilities at Prague in preparation for the arrival of the main airborne invasion force.
Airlift Into Czechoslovakia
A total ofrobably werein the invasion during the early morning houra onugust. Some transports probably were given fighter cover en route to Prague. The Soviets also employed electronic countermeasures in support of tho invasion.
f theanded in the Prague area, with others landinq in the Brno and Bratislava areas. Reports of paradrops of elements to secure some airfields for the main landing force have not generally been confirmed, but some elements won: probably prepared forontingency in the event the Czechoslovaks resisted the takeover.
The number of troops brought in by thesthough ategiment oftroops was reported to bc in the Prague area and one report indicates that some nonairborne elements were flown to Czechoslovakia as well. Operational planning probably ensured ihat the distances flown by thu assault transports from their staging bases to Czechoslovakia and then to recovery bases would pormit most if not all of the aircraft to carry their maximum payload00 pounds.
The number of airborne troops which could have been brought in depends on the amount and type of support equipment carried and what proportion of the force was prepared for an airdrop. If the entire force was prepared for an airdrop, hich flew into the Prague area during the early hours could have carriedOOaratroops and supporting equipment. Theof paratroops and other troops probably was considorably higher, however, since the majorequipment carried probably was largely limited to assault guns. hich flew into Czechoslovakia in the days following the initial landings probably brought in additional troops and equipment to augment the forca-
Ground sightings show that several Soviet units equipped with heavy and medium helicopters raoved into Czechoslovakia. Foreliable source reported that Kosice/Barca airfiold in the easternmost part of Czechoslovakia was occupied by parachutists dropped in the early hours ofugust byeavy helicopters and transport aircraft* Thehen occupied the airfield along with aof fighter aircraft. The same source further reported that afterugust Ml-Gs frequently flew in specialized construction material from the USSRoviet camp near Kosice.
Evaluation of the Airlift Operation
The Soviet: airlift was well executed andajor role in the intervention in Czechoslovakia. Th* speed with which the Soviets took overhinged on the ability of the airborne forces to quickly secure the main population centers and on the ability of the motorized rifle and tank divisions to expeditiously link up with theelements. The closeness of the elements of the Group of Soviet Forces in Germany whichand favorable advance routes combinedack of opposition permitted this quick link-up.
The airborne forces probably would not have succeeded as well had they been opposed while in the air and at the landing areas. Sizable elements would have had to be paradropped to secure for landing of thearrying support equipment such as 8Smm assault guns- Paradrops at night would probably have resulted in scattering the forceide area, hampering the process Df quickly regrouping for an assault.
The airborne force the Soviets would need to employ against ether Bast European countries would
- 27 -
vary in size according to differences in terrain, Lhe nature and number of routes for the link-up forces, the distance of the objectives from Soviet or allied borders, and the potential opposition. The intervention in Czechoslovakia showed that the Soviets are capable of quicklyarge assault force, at least when unopposed and when landings rather than airdrops are made. orce likesod in the initial lift into tho Praguethan one-fourth of those assigned to military transportlift several thousand paratroops if they are landed rather than airdropped and if much of theirequipment, vehicles in particular, is not included. The success ofrocedure would depend on Soviet ability to have these items brought in quickly by the link-up forces or by subsoquont support flights.
Military Transports and Helicopters
This Annex presents estimates of Soviet holdings of military transports and helicopters, by type and
mission,5 to date and projects forces
Current order of battle is based on analysis of sightings by attaches and other observers, classified Soviot and East European military articles, and open-source magazine and newspaper items.
Projections are based on current and anticipated trends in the force struature; the number and type of organizations to be supported; the anticipated availability of airbases, supporting facilities, aircraft, and trained crews; production programs and capacity; and likely attrition and retirement rates for current aircraft.
Total Soviet Military Transport Aircraft and Helicopters Number of Aircraft atnd Projections to
* 2 4
7 8 9
notes on page
Soviet Military Transport Aircraft in Military Transport Aviation Units,Number of Units and Aircraft atnd Projections to
(For intertheater and long range airlift)
Military Transport Aviation (VTA) Units
See notes on pages
Soviet Helicopters in Tactical Air Force Unit* Number of Unita and Helicopters atnd Projections to
See notes on pages SS-SG.
Soviet Military Transport Aircraft and Helicopters Used In General Support, Number of Aircraft atnd Projections to9
See notes on.
Soviet Helicopters and Very Light Utility Transports Assigned to Ground Forces, Number of Aircraft atnd Projections to
See notes on pones
Notes to the Tables
Table 3; This table includes all Soviet military aircraft and helicopters except those used in an' ASW role. These aircraft make up elements which are variously used for airlift, for general support of theater ground and air forces and other elements of the national government and Ministry of Defense, and for direct support of the ground forces. Aircraft are broken down by mission in Tables 4, S, 6, and 7.
Categories are based generally on the normal pay-load which the aircraft can carryull internal fuel load. Very light transports are differentiated from light transports on the basis of their smaller size and the fact that they carry fewer passengers, andthey are usedider variety of missions.
Very light transports include theolt, lod, andreek. Most light transports arerates andabs, but the category also theoke andoach. ill be assigned in increasing numbers over the next several years and theuff and possibly theill be introduced as well. Most mediums areubs, but include theamp, at,ookpot, amel, andoot. ewrustys may be assigned The heavy transport is theock.
The tight helicopter is Other light
helicopters, ight observationbe introduced in the early Seventies. Mostareounds, butips are being increasing numbers and there are
as Dell, Other mediums which probably oill be over the next several years include theormone and KA-Z6 Hoodlum. Most heavy helicopters areooks, but includearkes. Theomer may enter service by1Z.
Tablehis force supports the airDoi-ne troops and meets epecial and heavy airlift requirements of other
elements of the armed forces and nationaleu transport aircraft other thannd AH-2ZB assigned to this force are carried in Table fl.
The numbers of regiments are derived from an estiof SS medium or ZO heavy transports per regiment
lovvet Tactical Air Force helicopters are hose uhtch provide airlift for short range tactical .zona and logistics support of around and air
The number* of regiments are derived from ancfoeavy andoedium helicopters per regiment.
Table 6: Thin table includes transports and helicopters which perform general support functions for majorcf the armed forces. They are assigned to long Range Aviation, Tactical Air Forces, Air Defense, Naoal Aviation, Ministry of State Security, General Purpoee Transport, and special Soviet Air Force units.
Tablehis table includes those helicopters and very tight utility transports under the operational control of and permanently assigned mainly to army
and corps commanders. They are manned and maintained
by Tactial Air Force personnel.