Soviet Union Table of Contents
The Chemical Troops, Engineer Troops, and Signal Troops were independent branches that provided support to all the military services, but principally to the Ground Forces. The chiefs of these services reported directly to the minister of defense. Units of the Chemical Troops, Engineer Troops, and Signal Troops responded to the in-branch chief regarding administrative and technical matters but were operationally subordinate to the commander of the formation to which they were attached. Chemical Troops, Engineer Troops, and Signal Troops were organized into battalions and companies within armies and divisions.
The general mission of the supporting troops was to facilitate the advance of the Ground Forces and to eliminate obstacles blocking their path. The Signal Troops operated tactical radio and wire communications networks and intercepted enemy signals for combat intelligence purposes. They also operated strategic underground cable, microwave, and satellite communications systems. The Engineer Troops were principally combat engineers. They operated the self-propelled bridging vehicles and amphibious ferries that tanks and armored vehicles depend on to cross deep rivers. In wartime the Engineer Troops would also clear mines, antivehicle obstacles, and battlefield debris for the Ground Forces.
The mission of the Chemical Troops was to defend the armed forces against the effects of "weapons of mass destruction"-- nuclear, biological, and chemical (NBC) weapons. With 50,000 soldiers in 1989, the Chemical Troops constituted the world's largest NBC defense force. The Chemical Troops would perform NBC reconnaissance; mark contaminated areas; and decontaminate personnel, weapons, and terrain during wartime. They operated 30,000 armored combat vehicles equipped for NBC reconnaissance and truck-mounted systems equipped to spray decontaminating solutions on the surface areas of tanks, combat vehicles, and aircraft. The Chemical Troops demonstrated the use of helicopters for NBC defense during the large-scale radiation cleanup operation after the Chernobyl' nuclear reactor accident in April 1986. In 1989 the Chemical Troops did not operate offensive delivery systems. Yet the strength of Soviet chemical defense provided an offensive potential by enhancing the ability of Soviet forces to fight on contaminated battlefields. Thus, supported by the Chemical Troops, Soviet forces were better prepared than any other in the world for NBC operations.
Data as of May 1989