October 12, 2023

Institute for the Study of War:  Russian Order of Battle (a special report)

Institute for the Study of War

This report contains two sections: an introductory essay on the regular Russian ground forces; and a fully sourced order of battle (ORBAT) of Russia’s regular ground forces down to the brigade and regiment echelon (with select independent battalions), including the army, ground forces controlled by the the navy, Airborne (VDV) units, and GRU Spetsnaz formations.

The following essay is intended as an introduction to the regular Russian ground forces for security studies professionals, policymakers, and journalists who are not necessarily Russia specialists. This report covers the federal-level structure of Russia’s armed services and General Staff; Russia’s personnel system; general characteristics of Russian ground capabilities; Russian organizational structure from the Military District to the brigade/regiment level; and a brief discussion of the Battalion Tactical Group (BTG). This report draws on the sources in the accompanying annotated bibliography and the authors’ study of the Russian armed forces, supplemented where necessary with footnotes exploring exceptions and adding further context.

This order of battle of the Russian regular ground forces is ISW’s assessment of the on-paper structure of the regular Russian ground forces as of January 2023. It covers the Army, ground forces of the Navy, VDV, and GRU Spetsnaz down to the regiment and brigade level. It does not cover the Aerospace (VKS) forces (including air and air defense armies); Navy surface warfare and submarine assets; or the strategic rocket forces. We have excluded the 1st and 2nd Army Corps (the armed forces of the Donetsk People’s Republic [DNR] and Luhansk People’s Republic [LNR], informally run by the Southern Military District [SMD] since 2014 and formally acknowledged as such in December 2022) and the 3rd Army Corps (a new formation of volunteer units created under the Western Military District [WMD] in June 2022) from this regular forces ORBAT. While these formations are part of the Russian Army on paper, we assess that they are closer in organization and purpose to irregular formations such as PMCs, Rosgvardia, BARS Combat Reserve units, and other forces. We will assess the structure and capabilities of these three Corps in our forthcoming irregular Russian ground forces ORBAT and the capstone forecasting report in this series.

This ORBAT is intended to provide an updated open source baseline of the Russian ground forces and is intentionally backdated to January 2023. Existing open source ORBATs of the Russian ground forces are missing several units, do not provide individual sourcing for each unit, and largely leverage the now defunct mikavkaz.com. This report does not address Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu’s intended force changes announced in January 2023, including the reintroduction of the Leningrad and Moscow Military Districts and the intended formation of 12 new maneuver divisions. It also does not attempt to assess the actual strength of highly degraded Russian units. While the Russian military is in the process of establishing these new formations and in some cases already deploying them to Ukraine, we elected to provide a fully sourced baseline to  support future ISW reports and as an open source baseline for practitioners other researchers.

All units are listed with their formal title, в/ч number (“voyskovaya chast” or “military unit,” a unique five-digit numerical code assigned to each administrative entity in the Russian armed forces), and permanent basing location, when confirmable. Units that we assess likely exist but whose existence we cannot confirm are listed in [brackets]. The authors developed this ORBAT by using strictly open sources to confirm the existence and permanent basing locations of Russian regular ground forces units. The authors focused on all maneuver and combat support units at the regiment and brigade level and above, with the exception of a few significant battalion-level units. The majority of units are multi-sourced with data identifying their name and basing location. The authors endeavored to include two reliable sources since 2021 per listed unit, but this standard was not tenable for many combat support elements and units from less well-resourced military districts, in which case the sourcing standard was amended to allow for sourcing since 2013. Leveraged sources include news articles from both local and state outlets; government press releases; blogs and commentary pages run by military enthusiasts or veterans of given units; social media outlets (such as Odnoklassniki [OK] and VKontaktke [VK]); address registration pages; local government bulletins; and various message boards. A small number of units, primarily combat support elements, only include one source due to limited data meeting these standards confirming their basing. All sources used for each individual unit are available in the endnotes of the text ORBAT later in this report.For full report:  https://www.understandingwar.org/backgrounder/russian-regular-ground-forces-order-battle-russian-military-101

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