CHAPTER III - THEATER FORCES
The following text has been excerpted from Chapter III of Soviet Military Power 1983. This portion only contains information on missiles on the Soviet Western Theater.
In 1981, Soviet Military Power described Soviet theater forces by category. Soviet Military Power 1983
examines these forces as regionally deployed. For military purposes,
the Soviets have divided Eurasia into three theaters: Western,
Southern, and Far Eastern. Each theater has its own political and
economic significance that determines Soviet military goals and
objectives in the area and the strategy employed to achieve them.
The forces positioned for operations against NATO continue to be given
the highest priority in receiving the newest and most capable systems.
For example, since 1981 the Soviets have produced 4,500 tanks,
including the T-80 deployed to forces opposite NATO. At the same time
they have introduced new ground-attack aircraft and armored fighting
vehicles into Afghanistan and are modernizing their forces in the Far
East. This strengthening of forces is intended to enable the Soviets to
achieve their political/military objectives as rapidly as possible with
the most modern and capable theater forces, either through intimidation
or direct military action.
A Renewed Concept for Combined Arms Combat: Capitalizing on
their improved and modernized forces, the Soviets have reintroduced the
World War II Mobile Group concept in the form of Operational Maneuver
Groups(OMGs). OMGs are task-organized, self-sustaining, tank-heavy
raiding forces constituting division- and corps-size formations at army
andfront levels, respectively. Organized for commitment from the
outset, OMGs would be expected to penetrate the enemy rear areas
quickly and independently of the main body of forces.
The Soviets believe that successful OMG operations could severely
disrupt the NATO rear area, thereby increasing the likelihood of
maintaining a rapid advance without early resort to nuclear warfare.
Operationally, the OMG would facilitate commitment of reinforcements by
securing terrain over which additional Soviet forces must pass while
hindering NATO's efforts to reinforce its forces. Additionally,
although the OMG concept has been developed for conventional offensive
operations, it is also well-suited for exploitation of nuclear strikes.
The Western Theater encompasses all of Europe. Because it
contains those nations that possess a substantial portion of the
world's wealth, technology, industrial capacity, and military power, it
is the focal point of Soviet strategic planning. The Soviet goal in the
Western Theater is to weaken the Atlantic Alliance to the point that it
is no longer a viable military entity. In wartime, the primary Soviet
objective would be to seize the initiative quickly and defeat NATO
forces before they could be substantially mobilized or reinforced. To
manage military operations against NATO, the Soviets subdivide the
Western Theater into several Theaters of Military Operations (TVDs) -
continental, oceanic and intercontinental - in which designated forces
operate to achieve specific military objectives derived from political
The Southern Theater encompasses Southwest Asia, to include the
Arabian Peninsula. In this theater, Syria, Iraq, Iran and Afghanistan
are of particular importance because of their proximity to the Soviet
border and their location near Persian Gulf oil reserves. Moscow's
long-range aim in the region is to establish itself as the dominant
power at the expense of the West. To further this aim, the Soviets'
policy is to modernize and strengthen their military capabilities,
promote dependence upon the USSR, expand ties with sympathetic
pro-Soviet elements, orchestrate anti-Western propaganda and obtain
access to strategic port and air facilities in the nations of the
Indian Ocean basin.
The Far Eastern Theater encompasses China, Japan,
Korea and Southeast Asia. The Soviets'
political goals are to improve relations with the
PRC at the expense of US/PRC ties, to prevent
Japan from increasing its contribution to Western security, to unify
Korea under communist rule, and to expand Soviet influence in Southeast
Asia. In the event of war, the Soviets would strive to control western
and northeastern China, to preclude Japanese participation in a war in
Asia and to defeat US and South Korean forces in Korea.
THE WESTERN THEATER
forces in the Western Theater are those that pose the most direct
threat to NATO and encompass all forces located primarily in the
Western USSR and Eastern Europe. Soviet forces from other areas of the
USSR can, of course, be shifted to combat against NATO.
The following review of the Soviet force modernization program for the
Western Theater will show that the Soviets are balancing their
conventional and nuclear forces to be able to fight a range of
Soviet Intermediate-Range Nuclear Force(INF) Missiles: The
Soviets will employ these systems to achieve strategic objectives
within the theater. Since late 1977, the nuclear striking power of the
Soviet Long-Range INF missiles has more than doubled, even though the
total number of launchers has decreased. This marked increase in force
capability is due to deployment of the SS-20 missile with its three,
multiple, independently target able reentry vehicles (MIRVs). Today's
LRINF missiles, consisting of 248 older SS-4 and SS-5 launchers, and
more than 330 mobile SS-20s, can deliver an initial salvo of some 1,250
nuclear warheads. Of the total number of launchers, more than
two-thirds are presently located within range of NATO, and nearly
one-fourth of them have been deployed since 1981. The accuracy and
reaction time of the SS-20 provide a marked improvement over the older
systems. In addition, the mobility of the SS-20 greatly enhances
survivability. Furthermore, each SS-20 unit is assessed to be equipped
with refire missiles - one per launcher - and each refire missile also
carries three warheads. Ground Forces: The full impact of improvements to Soviet
ground forces opposite NATO must be viewed in the context of the total
ground forces available. Out of the total of over 190 active divisions
in the Soviet force, 94 are located opposite the Central and Northern
regions of NATO. Another twenty divisions are located in the
Transcaucasus and North Caucasus Military Districts; these divisions
could likely be committed against Turkey or South west Asia. Some 16
additional divisions that can be allocated to combat operations in
Europe constitute the Strategic Reserve and are centrally located. The
six Warsaw Pact Allies of the Soviet Union have a total of 55 active
divisions. In 1982, the NATO Allies in their force comparison counted a
total of 173 USSR/Warsaw Pact divisions which could be mobilized
against NATO. Today, that number has risen.
Since 1978, the Soviets have made major
quantitative and qualitative advances in their
ground forces. While technological improvements to hardware continue unabated through
out the Soviet force, priority is given to the
forces opposite NATO, enabling them to conduct rapid offensive operations, characterized
by shock action, massive firepower and high
mobility. These recent improvements in Western Theater ground forces are highlighted in
the areas of surface-to-air, surface-to-surface
missiles, tanks, artillery and helicopters.
Surface-to-Surface Missiles: Complementing
the formidable array of intermediate and medium range systems, the
Soviets are continuing to upgrade their tactical nuclear-capable
surface to-surface missile force.
- The SS-21 is replacing the FROG-7
in the Western Theater. The SS-21 has a
range of about 120 kilometers, 50 kilometers greater than the FROG-7,
and it is more accurate, thus enabling greater targeting flexibility
and deeper strikes.
- The SCUD, normally deployed in brigades at army and front
level, is being replaced by the SS-23; a tactical surface-to-surface
missile with improved accuracy and a range of 500 kilometers, versus
the SCUD's 300 kilometers.
- Soviet SS-12/SCALEBOARD missiles, with a range of about 900 kilometers, are expected to be replaced by the SS-22 of
similar range but greater accuracy.
Tactical Air Defense: The Soviets have developed a massive,
layered air defense for their ground forces to provide air superiority
over the battlefield. They have integrated frontal aviation, radio
electronic combat, SAMs and associated radars and anti-aircraft
artillery into an unparalleled tactical air defense system. Soviet
tactical SAMs - SA-4, SA-6, SA-8, SA-9, SA-11, and SA-13 - shown on
page 31 are mobile and are a functional part of ground force units at
several levels of command. The ZSU-23-4supplements the SAMs and
interceptors described below. These defenses will continue to be
modernized in the future. Of particular note is the development of a
new SAM with enhanced low-altitude capabilities and with the potential
to defend against tactical ballistic missiles.