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airborne troops[′er‚bȯrn ′trüps]
a combat arm designed for combat operations in the enemy’s rear. The armed forces of all large countries have airborne troops. They include units of various sizes of parachute, armor, artillery, and self-propelled artillery troops, as well as special troops, such as engineers and signal communications troops. Personnel are trained in parachute jumping from aircraft and in special operational tactics. Airborne troops are capable of capturing and holding important regions in the enemy’s interior, disrupting state and military administration, and destroying means of nuclear attack, bases, and other important objectives. They fulfill their missions in cooperation with units of various types of armed services and combat arms. Military transport aircraft are used for dropping airborne troops into the enemy’s rear zone. With the aid of airborne landing means, light armament, portable radio stations, ammunitions, and compact combat cargo are dropped together with the members of the airborne force. Tanks are delivered by aircraft to airfields in the enemy’s rear that have been captured by paratroopers.
The first Soviet airborne troops were formed in the early 1930’s. For the first time in military history a team of armed Red Army soldiers was dropped in the spring of 1929 into the city of Garm, which was besieged by the Basmachi; with the support of local residents this team routed a Basmachi band, which had invaded the territory of Tadzhikistan from across the border. On Aug. 2, 1930, during the military exercise of the Moscow Military District near Voronezh a small airborne landing subunit made a parachute landing. This date is considered as marking the birth of airborne troops. In 1932 the USSR Revolutionary Military Council adopted a resolution on the formation of airborne units in a number of military districts; this resolution began the mass deployment of airborne troops. The Red Army maneuvers of 1934 included 600 parachutists; in the 1935 maneuvers near Kiev and in Byelorussia, 3,000 parachutists were dropped from planes; 8,200 men with artillery, light tanks, and other combat materiel were also flown in. By the beginning of 1941, air-borne corps, each with more than 10,000 men, were formed from the existing airborne brigades. By this time the airborne troops constituted a combat arm. In addition to the practical mastery of the techniques involved in transferring large forces by air, the theory of the combat application of airborne troops was also being elaborated on; this theory found its expression in the Field Service Regulations of 1940.
In the first months of the Great Patriotic War (1941-45) the Soviet command utilized airborne landings near Kiev, in the Odessa region, on the Kerch Peninsula, and later in the Battle of Moscow. In January-February 1942 an airborne force that was part of the IV Airborne Corps was dropped in the Viaz’ma region. A large airborne force was dropped in September 1943 near the city of Cherkassy. In the war with imperialist Japan, airborne landings were utilized in the regions of Changchun, Mukden, and Dairen. The Soviet government valued greatly the mass heroism of the paratroopers. Tens of thousands of soldiers, sergeants, and officers of the airborne troops were awarded orders and medals, and the title of Hero of the Soviet Union was conferred on 126 men.
In World War II (1939-45) airborne troops were employed by fascist Germany in the invasion of Holland, Belgium, and Norway and in the capture of the island of Crete (1941); they were used by the British and US armies in the landing in Normandy, in the region of Arnhem, in the forcing of the Rhine, and in other operations. In the postwar period, air-borne troops were used by the US Army in 1951 in the war with Korea, by the British and French armies in the aggression against Egypt in 1956, and by the Israeli Army in the attack on the Arab countries in 1967.
REFERENCESLisov, I. I. Desantniki. Moscow, 1968.
Sofronov, G. P. Vozdushnye desanty vo vtoroi mirovoi voine. Moscow, 1962.
Hove, A. Vnimanie, parashiutisty! Moscow, 1957. (Translated from German.)
Andrukhov, I. I., M. R. Georgiev, and K. E. Efimov. Vozdushnodesantnye voiska NATO. Moscow, 1970.
P. F. PAVLENKO