Soviet Union Table of Contents
Despite its position as the second service in the armed forces hierarchy, the Ground Forces were the most politically influential Soviet service. Senior Ground Forces officers held all important posts within the Ministry of Defense as well as the General Staff. In 1989 the Ground Forces had 2 million men, organized into four combat arms and three supporting services.
Combat elements of the Ground Forces were organized into combined arms and tank armies. A combined arms army included three motorized rifle divisions and a tank division. A tank army had three tank divisions and one motorized rifle division. In the late 1980s, the Ground Forces began to field corps that were more than twice the size of a single division. In 1989 the Soviet Union had 150 motorized rifle and 52 tank divisions in three states of readiness (see Glossary). A motorized rifle division had 12,000 soldiers organized into three motorized rifle regiments, a tank regiment, an artillery regiment, an air defense regiment, surfaceto -surface missile and antitank battalions, and supporting chemical, engineer, signal, reconnaissance, and rear services companies. A typical tank division had 10,000 soldiers organized into three tank regiments and one motorized rifle regiment. In 1989 the Ground Forces also included eight brigades of air assault, or air-mobile, units that conducted helicopter landing operations.
The Motorized Rifle Troops have been mechanized infantry since 1957. The Soviet Union has fielded a new model of armored personnel carrier (APC) every decade since the late 1950s, and in 1967 it deployed the world's first infantry fighting vehicle (IFV). Similar to an APC, the tactically innovative IFV had much greater firepower, in the form of a 73mm main gun, an antitank missile launcher, a heavy machine gun, and firing ports that allowed troops to fire their individual weapons from inside the vehicle. In 1989 the Soviet Union had an inventory of over 65,000 APCs and IFVs, with the latter accounting for almost half of this inventory.
The Soviet Ground Forces viewed the tank as their primary weapon. In 1989 the Tank Troops had five types of main battle tanks, including the T-54/55, T-62, T-64, T-72, and T-80. The greater part of the total tank inventory of 53,000 consisted of older, although still highly potent, T-54/55 and T-62 tanks.
Data as of May 1989