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Lessons of Syria: Russia Forming ‘Superlight’ Brigades Equipped With Technical Vehicles

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Lessons of Syria: Russia Forming 'Superlight' Brigades Equipped With Technical Vehicles

Russia’s Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu is organizing some “superlight” army brigades, the Russian Izvestia daily reported. The newly formed “superlight” brigades will use UAZ Patriot technical vehicles.

Izvestia said that the UAZ Patriot is supposed to carry up to seven soldiers, their weapons and gear and additional supplies including fuel and ammo.  The vehicle will be armed with a 12.7-mm Kord machine gun and a 30-mm AGS-30 automatic grenade launcher or Kornet anti-tank guided missile launcher or Konkurs anti-tank guided missile launcher. There will also be a variant armed with the 82-mm 2B14 Podnos mortar.

Lessons of Syria: Russia Forming 'Superlight' Brigades Equipped With Technical Vehicles

UAZ with mortar supplied to the Syrian army

The formation of the “superlight” brigades has begun and they will appear “soon” in the Southern and Central military districts, Izvestia’s military source revealed.

The “superlight” brigades will have less personnel and equipment than a common motorized rifle battalion. Mobility and maneuverability will be their advantage.

The decision to form such brigades is allegedy based on the Syrian combat experience. The aim of these “superlight” motorized rifle brigades is to slip around or through heavier forces to conduct raids in to the enemy’s rear.

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while i see the logic in the idea, I do not see the logic in that little truck? Maybe Tigr M? the VPK with a cargo bed? I would assume these little UAZ trucks are great in their own way, I would not see them as a first pick but a budget restrained choice.


Agreed. Those little trucks are cheap, cheap, cheap-at least compared to an APC or tank. Best used against an opponent without any sort of artillery or IEDs.

Marek Pejović

There’s a tell-tale sign on them!!!! they have DESERT CAMMO! Why desert cammo in Russia? so they will probably be equally expected to serve in Russia and in any allied countries of Russia.
it’s not only good idea from military perspective, but also from a financial one; having such a force would allow Russians to cheaply host effective military presence in “chronic low intensity conflict” areas, such as, dunno, Egypt; Russia’s newest ally.
and secondly, the potential of such superlight brigades has never been fully exploited – meaning, professional, trained fighters working in conjunction with air force and/or drones.


It’s just photo of Syrian UAS , Russian ones will be with normal for east Europe cammo

Gue Bjuen

yes you are right.
russia can’t adopt a US style of military. it has not the same resources and the future conflicts will be very similar to lybia and syria. so to prepare a force with a low and efficient cost is the right thing to do. israel and the US will never tolerate egypt’s current policy. so there is a huge danger of another new conflict but the US and it’s allies are mostly bankrupted to perform another operation in egypt.
you need to have efficient operation costs so you can still operate in a long term.
the more expensive the better the eqipment??? this can only work out if there is a limited
curroption in a country which the US has not been for years. to maximize the profit,
there has been a lot of BS going on in the US military.

Marek Pejović

that’s true, especially your statement about destabilizing Egypt. while Egypt is militarily strong enough to deal with any military threat, i think Russia’s biggest contribution there will be in providing help in assymetrical warfare: it’s anti-majdan knowledge and anti-terror intelligence. i disagree that USA &Co. are bankrupt, there’s still a lot of money to go (even if a slice of ARAMCO needs to go), but they are slowly going that way.
Russia might need these superlight brigades in order to maintain the perimeter around it’s new egyptian base, and to give it some on-ground striking capabilities.
Also, such forces could be an useful template not only for russia but also for developing a cheap, effective anti-militant strike force for vatious central-asian “stan” countres which are under threat of fundamentalism and have not as effective government and defense systems as Russia.
anyhow, this concept is promising, depending on .

Ryan Law

its about time armys started using light brigades its also a sign that war with a comparable powers on horizon light brigades have always been used to harry the enemy supply lines deep inside enemy territory, the choice of gas powered is interesting it might be a bad translation but i would of thought petrol powered would have made refueling from enemy territory easier. it may of just been a american translation i was reading though they call petrol gas there

Paul 'my' Dickovv

No read the caption these are desert camo for the Syrian army. Didn’t you read the caption.


im not getting it i guess. that truck looks like the size of a ranger or S10 maybe even. how are they getting 7 soldiers into it? it only has 5 lug nuts per wheel and is sagging from that mortar, but its a one ton? looks like no armor at all either. i wonder if these are a match for isis’ toyotas even? hopefully theres more to it than we know so far.


It’s a photo of the UAZ-type technical vehicle with mortar supplied to the Syrian army. No photos of UAZs that the Russians will use is aviable.

Ryan Law

same way isis fits 7 in a toyota 4-5 sit in back, these will be deployed into far eastern ukraine extra in event US invades russia by ground, they dont need armour because they are meant to take out bridges and supply trucks and if they get attacked it will be via bombs or missiles

Joseph Scott

Seems like a greatly overrated fad, that has underperformed considerably in American use. I recall 10th Mountain needed to borrow Malaysian APCs because their lightly armoured HMMVs weren’t adequate to circumstance. I can’t see how a light truck is in any way preferable to an AFV with equal speed, except to an accountant.

Gue Bjuen

look at syria and lybia. how many tanks and apcs were being destoryed. whatever future conflict, it is going to last long. and russian economy is not going to have a better situation than now. it will suffer more sanctions as russia will continue oposing israel+US policies.
to run a wide scale long term operation in such conditions, require an effcient cost of operations.trucks are cheap and easy to operate !! and that is the REASON.
russia should be prepared to operate simulaneously in multiple countries and this will only be possible with a effcient cost of operations.

Joseph Scott

I have to completely dispute your reasoning here. The losses in AFVs sustained by Libya and Syria, both equipped with older, lower quality export models, and both manned by rather low quality troops just isn’t comparable to Russia’s loss rate in like circumstances.

There are only two conflict possibilities: either a high end-conflict directly against the USA, or a series of low-intensity proxy wars much like we have seen.

A high intensity conventional conflict between the USA and Russia would sustain the kind of losses you are implying, but in those conditions, the point of the trucks is moot. In the first place, nobody really expects such a conflict too stay conventional, but if it did, such lightly armed formations would quickly be annihilated by artillery, air and mechanised forces, in the few weeks to months the combatants were able to sustain combat at all, before their munitions and spares were exhausted, economies in tatters and both were in any case refocused on the domestic issues, due to sudden shortages of domestic goods and casualty rates well beyond the tolerance of 21st Century industrial societies.

Looking at low intensity conflicts, however, it would be far more useful to examine the US and NATO AFV loss rates in Iraq and Afghanistan, which were hardly monumental or unsustainable. Russian AFV losses in Georgia were hardly difficult to bear either. If one accepts the premise the Russia deployed some mechanised battlegrounds to Ukraine to win the critical phase of the campaign, their losses there were quite tolerable too, judging by the evidence. In a low-intensity proxy conflict, Russia will likely be acting as a distant patron, and making little use of ground troops outside special operations personnel and artillery, as we see in Syria, but even if involved more directly, will certainly be facing opponents inferior in equipment, doctrine and training, and sustaining loss rates that reflect that.

What you seem to be ignoring is that making use of AFVs reduces personnel loss rates, and that is far, far more critical to Russia than replacing the vehicles. The whole reason Russia has avoided overtly using ground troops in Syria is because of the public’s disinterest in paying the blood sacrifice. Chechnya is still a very bad taste in the Russian public psyche. But people riding around in trucks are going to be shot and blasted to death quite rapidly compared to mechanised forces. Special operations troops only get away with driving around in trucks because of their very high standards of selection and training. They can afford to take the risk because their advantage in initiative and tactics over their enemies permits them to usually eliminate or evade the enemy before they can bring substantial firepower to bear. That will not be true for some ordinary motor riflemen.

Furthermore, the assumed operational and tactical mobility of such light forces doesn’t pan out in practice. In combat operations, the speed of troops is proportional to their immunity to enemy fire. Heavily armoured forces can manoeuvre decisively, whilst lightly armed troops quickly get pinned down and become unable to contribute meaningfully to operational decisions. That was true in WWII, true in Vietnam, despite a perception to the contrary, true in Panama, in Somalia, in Iraq and in Afghanistan. Every force that has deployed light found themselves wishing for some armour. That was the reason the whole Soviet Army, airborne included, was mechanised.

Lastly, absolutely nobody in the expert community expects Russia’s economy to go anywhere but up, sanctions or no. Whether you are asking Putin, Bloomberg or RAND, everybody sees their economy as recovering, with decent-to-good long-term prospects.

Gue Bjuen

you are giving examples of very short lasted wars. the nato and the US didn’t have to face a militia having military, financial, logistic, training, intelligence, equipments, ammo, weapons etc etc by powerful countries.
russia and it’s allies have to face such militias or terrorists.

you are not driving around in enemy territory with the trucks.
you won’t do that with mechanised forces either. look what happend to israel in the lebanon war. they lost 1/4 of their tanks in that war.
they were dealing with hezbollah which is not a conventional army. your tatics are like the israelis during the lebanon war. it was israel the country which enjoys mainstream media support worldwide.
they sure used a lot of air strikes and artilleries with a lot of “colatural damage.
russia and the US have to deal with conflicts in a very different maner.
they don’t have the world mainstream lying media on their side. they can’t afford collateral damages as the US and their allies are affording. this is why russia needs much more time than the US, to end a war like in syria. so to be prepared for further warfare like this, it is good to create military units which have efficient operation costs. russia already has high end conventional military and is still working on that, so what’s the issue to create an cost efficient long term anti militia military unit?
you are saying russian economy is not suffering from the sanctions. oh is that true? the truth would be, russia and their biggest economic partner the EU is suffering both. and by the way, sanctions over russia is limited. it is not the kind of sanctions like in iraq or now syria.
ok there are also positive things from these sanctions, like russia is more and more producing the goods they need by them selves. the sanctions gave russia sonething like a protective trade status, where they have gained to improve their productions in different industries.
but after all, isolation is not good. it will damage the potential for the future developments of russia. putin is trying to out manuver the sanctions and he really did a great job in that. but don’t tell me that russia is not suffering from the sanctions. how can you even say that??
russia needs to prepare price effective military units to operate in a long term conflicts because they won’t have much
stable economic enviroment.
it is not about how much fancy stuff you have,
but about how fancy you use it!!

Joseph Scott

Afghanistan is still going on, but even pretending the official draw-down of forces was ‘the end’ that is well over a decade. Significant operations in Iraq went on for 5 years.

Israel’s failure against Hezbollah resulted from overconfidence the the IAF’s ability to inflict casualties and suppress dug-in Hezbollah forces, and from insufficient infantry support of the armour. Infantry tended to stay holed up in AFVs, or creep along after the tanks, rather than performing proper scouting functions. Also, the IDF had never really encountered a well-trained enemy before. They expected the usual third-rate guerillas they had found in Hamas and the PLA. Hezbollah is also better trained than any insurgent force the CIA has ever succeeded in creating. Finally, IDF tank losses were extreme by the extreme’y casualty sensitive standards of Israel, but not actually that high. Israel committed 200+ tanks, not counting the even more numerous IFVs and APCs. Of those only 52 sustained any kind of damage, and only 22 were penetrated. Of that, only 5 were damaged beyond repair. If we assume that all penetrated tanks were temporarily put out of action, and thus mission-kills, as is typical, that is a 10-11% loss rate, against a well-trained enemy, in extremely well (and lengthily) prepared defensive positions. Furthermore, if the IDF hadn;t been that heavily mechanised, personnel losses would have been MUCH higher, as the IDF themselves noted in their analysis of AFV performance in the aftermath of the war.

Russia can’t afford high personnel casualties rates amongst lightly equipped troops. Raiding missions require genuine special operations trained elite troops, not line grunts. Hence, this idea is NOT cost-effective, but a complete waste.

No, I didn’t say Russia didn’t suffer from the sanctions, I said that everybody in the economics community sees them as recovering rapidly from the effects of such, and becoming increasingly immune to them. Go read Bloomberg’s article. Go read RAND’s report. They are easy to find.

Pave Way IV

If you’re going against small (numbers-wise) enemy forces without an air force and without significant artillery, then this concept makes perfect sense – especially considering they will be used in conjunction with Russia’s own air force, artillery and UAVs. You don’t send super-light infantry units into areas where APCs are needed – that’s the whole point. This sounds more like something Force Recon (U.S. Marines) would do – raiding, recon. The ‘maneuver’ part is much more important than the ability to slug it out with a well-armed enemy at 500m all day. A super-light infantry unit shouldn’t be traversing urban or heavily-defended territory, hence the need for armor is questionable. Ideally, they would never be within a km or two of enemy infantry except on a raid.

Joseph Scott

Well, you’ve highlighted my point: successfully conducting the type of raiding mission this points to requires a much higher standard of selection and training than is found in the ordinary infantry. Simply forming some ‘light’ motor rifle brigades won’t give you that. You need people with a much higher individual initiative, tactical training and ability to maintain themselves and survive with minimal support.

You bring up the USMC, which exemplifies that. Force Recon are considerably more qualified than the average Marine infantryman. Having been barracks neighbours with a number of them, I can tell you that the people who make it through Force Recon selection are considerably more decisive, confident people who can get even mundane non-combat tasks far quicker and more ably than the average infantry Marine, and that is exactly what you are going to need to operate like that.

To date, experiments to try to turn conventional infantry into raiding forces have failed pretty miserably. Looking all the way back to WWII, and the formation of the Army Rangers, they have had a long string of disasters and mishaps because just taking some guys with above-average PT scores and good disciplinary records, without really sifting those people for the right psychology isn’t adequate. Look again at the relative lack of initiative and bumbling of Rangers on Operation Gothic Serpent, which was a classic sort of get-in-and-out raiding mission. Setting aside the poor performance of the entire US command structure. which got them stuck in that mess, the task force would have taken much higher casualties, maybe even have been overrun entirely, were it not for the Delta operators who didn’t need to wait for someone to tell them what to do or give them permission to do it. Likewise, experience in the USMC to try and train regular infantry battalions to be ‘Special Operations capable” have been unimpressive.

You want to give the Spetznaz some new trucks? Great. (Although I think they already have better vehicles of this profile). But pretending you can through some motor rifles in pickups and pretend they are Spetznaz is a disaster waiting to happen.

Pave Way IV

I agree. The only clue in the announcement was that Russia’s Southern and Central Districts are getting this kind of brigade. If their actual (and only) intent is to ‘throw some motor rifles in pickups’, then it will be a disaster.

I’m curious about the choice of a brigade-sized unit. If this org chart for a Russian Motor Rifle Brigade is still accurate, I can’t see how the whole super-light concept fits in at the brigade level.

Joseph Scott

Yes, that part seemed pretty odd too me as well. I hope they mean to form something like Vostok battalion, but equipped with the trucks.


This concept is a reinvention of the Long Range Desert Group modus operandi of WW11 in Nth Africa.


It looks like a copy of the “Long Range Desert Group” of WW2 – which became the SAS – with updated gear.

I wonder why it took them so long to work it out?


Ryan Law

return of the light brigade :P about time

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