Russian Defense Minister, Sergey Shoigu, announced significant structural reforms to the Russian army that will raise the strength of the Russian Aerospace Forces by nine aviation regiments and add six army aviation brigades.
In addition to Russia’s five military districts, two new ones will be created due to the reforms, which Shoigu revealed on December 21, 2022.
The Russian Defense Minister stated that the country requires a 1.5 million-strong force to ensure the successful execution of missions to secure Russia’s security.
The current size of the Russian military is around 1 million soldiers, compared to China’s 2 million and the United States’s roughly 1.4 million. India has a total of over 1.4 million soldiers.
Three new operational commands will be established under the country’s Aerospace Forces, sometimes known colloquially as VKS (Rus. Vozdushno-kosmicheskiye sily).
Nine new aviation regiments—eight bomber regiments and one fighter regiment—will also be formed due to the restructuring.
Additionally, Shoigu said six army aviation brigades would be established, and each combined arms army and tank army would receive a brigade with 80 to 100 helicopters. Russia’s army aviation primarily employs attack and transport helicopters and functions independently of the VKS.
The Kremlin previously had believed the size of its troops to be sufficient, but that changed after aspirations for a speedy triumph over its neighbor were dashed by intense Ukrainian opposition.
In August 2022, Putin ordered the expansion of the Russian military to 1.15 million members starting on January 1. Additionally, he gave the order to call up 300,000 reservists in September to bolster his forces in Ukraine.
Putin claimed no need to pick up more people, but his mobilization order was open-ended, enabling the military to call up more reservists as needed. Additionally, Putin’s order prohibited the termination of voluntary soldier contracts.
Regiments of the VKS vary in size and number regularly. At the start of 2022, Moscow reportedly had three bomber regiments, six fighter regiments, five mixed regiments with fighter and ground attack units, four long-range bomber squadrons, and one expeditionary fighter squadron, according to the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) Military Balance report.
This implies that the restructuring will impact the VKS bomber force the most. Although it is unknown if the new regiments will be formed by purchasing new equipment or using current aircraft, VKS will now have eleven regiments rather than only three, which indicates a dramatic change.
A new army corps stationed in the northwest area of Karelia, close to Finland, is among the new military units and force formations that Shoigu described for western Russia.
The plans symbolized Russia’s reversion to the military structure of the Soviet era, which it had forsaken in the course of more recent military reorganization that led to the creation of smaller, more mobile units.
According to some Russian military analysts, such smaller units designed for use in local conflicts lacked the manpower and resources necessary for intense combat like that occurring in Ukraine.
Shoigu said that the current infantry, airborne, and marine brigades would be reorganized into divisions, the larger forces that Russia once possessed and that the United States and certain NATO partners currently possess. Additionally, he declared the formation of several new departments.
Furthermore, some air force units would be subordinated to groups of land forces as part of a proposed reform, allegedly to improve the coordination between them, which many observers claimed was lacking during the combat in Ukraine.
Russian President Vladimir Putin stressed the importance of using the lessons learned from the fighting to modernize the armed forces in a recently delivered speech to top military officers.
He emphasized the value of upgrading artillery tactics and communications specifically. Some Russian military bloggers criticized the lack of coordination between units and the length of time it took commanders to identify and clear targets for artillery and rocket attacks.
Putin also underlined the necessity of expanding drone use, pointing out that they had been crucial in the battle. The Russian president said that the military industries would expand their production of weapons to fulfill the needs of defense forces.