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Prepared by:
Ali Jalali
John Sloan
Dastagiur Wardak
January 1989



A. General

The Initial Phase of War

The reconnaissance plans for the front and the armies are prepared during peacetime. The plan is then adjusted to the actual situation existing on the eve of war at the time the front receives the operational directive for the initial operation. This is especially the case for the fronts located in the border and forward areas, which are going to be in the first echelon at the outset of combat.

The reconnaissance plan includes the following general subject areas:


The most important basic consideration upon which all other aspects of the reconnaissance plan are based is the aim. A correct statement of the aim is something that the military academies pay a great deal of attention to in teaching students how to plan. The aim is different from the tasks of reconnaissance. Tasks are more detailed and specific. The aim is related to the overall operational mission of the front and army.


The proper specification of the tasks is also important. The tasks must be organized into a logical and appropriate distribution to the different troops and means and reconnaissance organs.

Preparation time

The necessary time for preparation of reconnaissance troops and means for future operations must be calculated and specified.

Areas and axes

The best locations for deployment of reconnaissance troops and the axes they will move along must be designated. There should be principal and alternate positions, areas and axes.


A reserve of reconnaissance troops and means is established for use in future contingency situations.


Coordination of different reconnaissance means is of vital importance.

Command and Control

The methods to be used for maintaining constant command and control of reconnaissance assets must be designated.


The methods for sending reconnaissance reports are indicated.


Other measures in support of accomplishing the reconnaissance tasks are indicated and assigned to appropriate forces.

B. Contents of the plan

The reconnaissance plan contains the following elements: Aim, tasks, targets, allocation of reconnaissance troops and means for each task, the methods of reconfirming targets for nuclear strikes, areas, directions of main reconnaissance effort, reserve troops and means, and methods of reporting. The method for detecting and determining the enemy main groups, nuclear, air, air defense and command elements and the like are also included in a description of what are the indicators for these items.

The plan is prepared in written form with a map annex. The written form is mostly a table which has several parts. The top section contains the title, the name of the headquarters and its location, the map and its scale and the approval section. Below this is a statement of the aim of the reconnaissance, then a statement of the area for the reconnaissance and the boundaries. The area for the main effort is designated. The table itself has several columns. The first column shows the reconnaissance tasks. These are organized in several sections, sequentially according to the time schedule for the operation.

The first part is for reconnaissance actions conducted before the initiation of hostilities. Within this there are sections for the following groups of tasks:

----- 1. enemy nuclear weapons
----- 2. enemy air and air defense troops
----- 3. enemy ground force groupings
----- 4. command posts and communications centers
----- 5. other items such as state of enemy training and weak points

Part two is for reconnaissance during the course of the operation. There are several subgroups such as: directly before the initial nuclear strike, reconfirmation of targets, during the initial nuclear strike, first day of operation, immediate missions, commitment of the second echelon, during the subsequent mission. The table also shows the total reconnaissance assets allocated for the entire operation and the reconnaissance reserve.

There are other vertical columns titled "Forces and means to conduct the tasks and their time of accomplishment". These columns include the following: agent reconnaissance, SPETZNAZ troops, air reconnaissance, radio and radio-technical reconnaissance, reconnaissance done by armies and combat arms and services support troops, GRU assets, adjacent forces, remarks.

Under these headings the units assigned to the various tasks are shown.

Since the front is the principal level for planning air reconnaissance the front will specify the following elements for aerial reconnaissance:
----- - tasks
----- - boundaries
----- - sectors
----- - number of air sorties for each task
----- - the most important reconnaissance targets
----- - the method and time for reporting.

If the plan is in written form there is a map annex. This shows the following:
----- - the boundaries of the armies and the front
----- - the known enemy groupings
----- - the suspected enemy groupings
----- - the main areas and directions for concentration of reconnaissance
----- - the deployment of reconnaissance troops and means
----- - the SPETZNAZ units
----- - the areas of action for agent reconnaissance
----- - the main direction and corridors for air reconnaissance
----- - the areas to be aerially photographed with the scale and vertical or oblique
----- - the airfields from which reconnaissance aircraft will operate
----- - the lines to which reconnaissance may operate prior to the start of the war

Each of the various reconnaissance means will have a different line to which it may operate. These lines are very significant and are established by higher headquarters, perhaps the general staff itself, since they are directly related to the deception plan. The restrictions on reconnaissance are set in order to prevent the enemy from discovering the intentions prior to the operation.

If the reconnaissance plan is prepared in map form with a written annex, then the following points are included in the written part:
----- - aim
----- - tasks of reconnaissance and their times
----- - distribution of troops and means in terms of these tasks
----- - days for the operation
----- - directions
----- - methods for reporting
----- - restrictions on reconnaissance prior to the start of operations
----- - reserve elements
----- - other points that cannot be shown on the map.

C. Preparing the Plan

In preparing the reconnaissance plan the items must be worked out bit by bit before the whole plan can be determined. The following is the sequence and priority for preparing the plan. First is to depict all available information on the enemy on the map, as well as the boundaries for the front and armies. Then show the directions and areas for special attention. Then show the reconnaissance means and their locations. Then prepare a list of the tasks, which will include both obtaining new and confirming old information. Then specify the information to be confirmed first followed by the new information. Then distribute the tasks to the troops and means and show the times. Then determine the areas in which to deploy the intelligence units and organs. Then determine which elements will be tasked to reconfirm immediately before the nuclear strikes the current locations of enemy targets. Then list the indications to be used and looked for when determining enemy units. Next establish the reconnaissance reserve. From the list of tasks the critical tasks are indicated for the following episodes: before the initial nuclear strike, during the nuclear strike, before the beginning of the ground attack, before the commitment of the second echelon, before the river crossing, and before the contact with the enemy reserve. The methods for activating reconnaissance elements are given, especially when the plan is prepared in peacetime for the initial stage of war, since the way in which wartime levels of reconnaissance will be activated must be given.

The plan is prepared by the chief of the reconnaissance department in conjunction with the chief of reconnaissance of the air army, the chief of reconnaissance for the combat and combat arms and the direct supervision and participation of the chief of staff.

In addition to the general reconnaissance plan there are plans for the employment of OSNAZ and detailed plans for SPETZNAZ in separate annexes. The detailed reconnaissance plan for the combat and combat support arms is included in the plan for combat employment of each of these arms and services. The artillery reconnaissance plan is in the artillery plan, the engineer reconnaissance in the engineer plan etc.

Apart from the subordinate operational means for reconnaissance the front also gets information from strategic reconnaissance conducted by higher level echelons and this is used in its planning as well. The front does not have cosmic reconnaissance itself. There are also other special reconnaissance means kept by the VGK such as patrol submarines, overseas operatives etc. Control and surveillance stations in space are not only used for space targets but also for ground targets as well. These elements can locate enemy strategic assets such as air bases, nuclear submarines, aircraft carriers, flights of strategic aircraft, ICBM silos, movements of ground units, airborne units, preparation of deployment areas in the depth, operational and strategic transportation activities, concentration areas for troops in the depth, etc.

The first priority targets for strategic reconnaissance are aircraft, rockets, and space weapons. Information on these is given directly to the air defense forces and channeled to the supreme headquarters and command posts and headquarters of front and higher authorities. Apart from these assets the front can also place requests for information on other sources.



A. Front Level

The front has the following organic reconnaissance assets.

Air army

There are reconnaissance elements in the air army. Normally there are two to four reconnaissance regiments of which one to two are operational and one to two are tactical. There are two to three squadrons of pilotless aircraft drones. In addition each aviation division has earmarked one squadron for reconnaissance purposes. The air army with five divisions normally has two fighter, two fighter bomber and one bomber divisions. With five air divisions there would be an additional five squadrons available for reconnaissance. The capabilities of the different aircraft vary. The operational reconnaissance aircraft are bomber types with ranges in the 1970's of up to 800 - 1000 km. The tactical reconnaissance aircraft are fighter types with ranges in the 1970's of up to 400 - 500 km. The range of reconnaissance aircraft is longer than the combat range of the same aircraft. Totally in the air army there were about 287 aircraft available for reconnaissance and 377 pilots trained for them. Of these 63 aircraft with 81 pilots were available for operational roles. Up to 15% of the total strength of the air reconnaissance assets or 500 to 700 reconnaissance sorties would be flown on the first day of the operation. The air army can sustain a sortie rate of 3 - 4 per day per aircraft initially and on subsequent days a lower number. The air army also has a radio reconnaissance regiment and a radio technical reconnaissance battalion.


The front has a SPETZNAZ battalion of three line companies, a communications company, supply platoon, battalion headquarters and special detachment. The battalion can form 35 - 40 teams of 7 -9 men each. These teams operate at a depth of 800 km.

The 2nd directorate of the front reconnaissance department controls agent reconnaissance. The armies and front have local agents in foreign areas whose activities are handled directly by the front headquarters. Each agent covers a specific area. They can establish several reconnaissance points. They conduct reconnaissance in peacetime as well as during war.

The front has a radio electronic reconnaissance regiment and a radio technical reconnaissance regiment (OSNAZ). These have two or three battalions each. The radio unit has interception, location and eavesdropping capability for high frequency radio. The radio technical unit intercepts and locates radars. The regiment is capable of conducting reconnaissance to a depth of several hundred km. In addition there is a aerial radio squadron and there are helicopter borne radio reconnaissance units.

The front has a type F and a type A REW battalion each of which has reconnaissance companies. These can locate the stations the battalion will jam. The information generated by these units is also passed to front headquarters.

The front has an information department which receives the information from the many reconnaissance means. it receives messages from other information departments in other headquarters.

There are other reconnaissance means as well. The combat and combat support and combat service support elements and units have reconnaissance elements. These include the artillery, engineers, chemical and air defense units. These elements use and create information received from their respective arms or services and pass it on to headquarters.

The front organizes a special detachment for deep reconnaissance in enemy rear areas. This can be created in the air assault units (brigades). The personnel in these units may be called redoviki. They are dropped by parachute in enemy rear areas for destruction missions or reporting on the situation. These troops may also train local partisans or sympathizers.

B. Army Level

The front has three to five or more armies. Each army has organic reconnaissance forces. In each army there are radio electronic and radio technical reconnaissance battalions. The radio electronic battalion has radio companies to intercept VHF and HF communications. The radio technical battalion has various radar detection units. These battalions operate in the tactical and immediate operational zones.

The army has a SPETZNAZ company. This unit has a supply platoon , communications platoon and headquarters. It can form four groups. Each group can detach two teams for a total of eight. They operate at a depth of 350 to 400 km.

The army receives from front a radio electronic warfare battalion type A. This unit has a reconnaissance company for locating radios to jam.

The army has helicopters which may be used for reconnaissance.

There are reconnaissance units in the combat support and service support arms and services such as the artillery, engineers and chemical . The artillery has a radar unit for locating enemy mortar and artillery by tracking projectiles. It has a sound battery and optic battery for flash ranging. The sound battery deploys on a 4 - 6 km front and can cover a 6 - 8 km wide area. It can range on sound to a depth of 18 km depending on the caliber of weapon. The optical battery has a range of 12 - 15 km in good visibility.

In the chemical units there are five reconnaissance and radiation detection platoons capable of detecting contamination. They cover the main routes of the army.

The army can request the use of the air reconnaissance assets from front. It routinely receives other reconnaissance information passed on by front.

C. Division Level

The division has a reconnaissance battalion of two companies. These are designed to conduct tactical reconnaissance. They each have 10 BRDM's. Previously there was a light tank company of PT-76. There is also a motorcycle company. The battalion has a radio and radio technical company (OSNAZ) with four platoons - three for radio and one for radar. Each platoon deploys several listening teams which operate in the tactical zone to a depth of 30 -40 km.

The division has a separate deep reconnaissance company (SPETZNAZ), which can detach nine deep reconnaissance patrols to conduct missions for observation, raids or ambushes. Each team consists of 5 - 7 men and is deployed 30 - 40 km deep. Each patrol operates in a 25 - 50 sq km area.

The division air defense regiment has reconnaissance radars. The division artillery, engineer and chemical units have reconnaissance elements.

D. At echelons above front

The general department reconnaissance of the general staff (GRU) has many other assets. Information is received into the information directorate of the GRU. This includes information from the cosmic reconnaissance directorate. Information received from agent reconnaissance is also used if relevant. The GRU has naval intelligence and that from adjacent fronts to pass on to the individual front. In general there are two types of intelligence information, one is routine and the other requested.

The GRU handles requests from front for strategic intelligence, including cosmic information. Whenever the GRU sees something interesting it automatically passes it along to the front. The front also asks for information on a frequent basis. The GRU also has a coordination role in organizing all the needs for information within a theater. The GRU is active both during the planning phase and later, during the course of the operation. Each front passes information to the GRU in the form of a daily intelligence summary.



A. Elements and Factors

Once the front, army and division reconnaissance assets have been assigned missions in the plan they carry these out by using various methods. There are four main intelligence elements for which reconnaissance is conducted. These are information about the enemy, the terrain, the area of operations and the weather. For the enemy the important factors are the strength, composition, location, intentions, fire system, command and control, nuclear delivery means, training and morale. For the terrain the important characteristics are the relief, surface texture and conditions, soil, vegetation, barriers, communications routes, and how the terrain affects the operation for forces on both sides. For the area of operation the characteristics of interest are the human and social factors such as the economic and political situation, the social situation, the culture, sensitivity, character, assets available for military use, administration, sanitary conditions, and the like. For the weather the items of interest are the meterological and climatic factors which influence combat.

B. Principles

All reconnaissance activities are conducted according to four principles; continuity, activeness, timeliness and accuracy. Continuity is important because combat is a process and if one loses the thread of what is going on during a break in coverage then it is difficult to pick up the thread and understand the situation when one comes back. Activeness means being persistent and employing all means and efforts to accomplish the tasks. Timeliness is critical because outdated information is worthless. Accuracy is very important, especially so for nuclear targeting. All reports should be confirmed by several different sources.

C. Methods

Troop reconnaissance employs certain methods. These are implemented at the tactical level but can also be implemented at the operational and strategic levels as well. They are ambush, observation, listening, kidnaping, reconnaissance in force, interrogation, questioning the locals, study of documents and raid. Eventually reconnaissance conducted for operational and strategic purposes deploys units which employ the same tactics in the accomplishment of their tasks. Therefore by a study of the low level methods one can understand the methods used to accomplish operational and strategic intelligence tasks.

Observation is one of the most basic of reconnaissance methods. It is conducted by every level of command and all arms and services. It employs the human eye as well as sophisticated equipment. Within the tactical zone an elaborate system of observation posts is established. The division observation system covers all division areas including the flanks and rear. For observation the division establishes two or three of its own observation posts manned by specially trained personnel. In addition each regiment including the artillery regiment establishes several posts. Each battalion has one or two posts. The individual companies and platoons each have one or two individual observers on duty at all times. And every squad has its individual observer. So within a division there are more than 100 individuals specially designated to conduct observation at all times. They each have an observation journal, in which they document all changes with the time and place. The journals are then given to the reconnaissance office of the unit for analysis.

At the operational level observation posts are located in important areas, even including enemy held areas. Some are established in peacetime to report what is happening. They can be attached to the GRU or to the front or army. Observation is the simplest method and is supplemented by listening.

Listening is also a simple method. It includes the listening done by the simple soldier and everything up to the most sophisticated electronic methods. At the tactical level listening is limited to the ear, the radio and the radio technical devices. At higher levels the more sophisticated technology includes devices on the ground, on or in the sea, in the air and in space. The range depends on the equipment. At the tactical level listening extends a few dozen meters, or further at night. Tactical radars have a range of a few km. Radars in aircraft and space may reach thousands of km.

The "poyezd" or attack to kidnap is conducted against individual targets. it is a surprise attack on a pre-determined, specified and carefully studied target with the objective of seizing prisoners of war, documents or equipment specimens for reconnaissance purposes.To conduct this kind of raid a special prepared unit composed of specially trained soldiers and NCO's will be tasked. It will generally be of squad or platoon strength. For the attack the group will be organized into three elements: 1.a squad or section for seizing the object. 2. a support squad or subgroup, 3. an obstacle squad or subgroup to open lanes to the objective.

The ambush has a similar purpose but the reconnaissance group conducting it establishes itself along a route frequented by the enemy to attack by surprise and seize people or documents. The ambush could also have a purpose of destruction of the enemies encountered. It is used to create panic in the enemy areas. The ambush team is composed of three elements: 1. the observation team. 2. the raiding team or squad. 3. the support squad or subgroup with heavier weapons.

The raid is conducted to seize or destroy individual objectives. These may be nuclear means, command posts, signal centers or even small garrisons. The essence of the raid is the surprise attack sometimes conducted in total insolation from friendly troops. At the tactical level the raid is conducted by a reconnaissance unit or a combined arms unit specially prepared for the mission. At the operational level the special purpose unit (SPETZNAZ) is used or an airborne or airmobile assault unit may be trained for the task. The area for the raid is studied in detail as the situation permits. If possible a rehearsal is conducted on a model of the target. The raiding party is divided into four elements: 1. attack group. 2. support group. 3. demolition group. 4. obstacle group.

When the forces are in direct close contact with the enemy the reconnaissance in force method is sometimes used. This is conducted to acquire information otherwise not possible to obtain. In the reconnaissance in force the troops attack the enemy on a wide front to provoke a reaction. This is used to locate enemy positions and weapons and other defensive dispositions. The method is conducted by a reenforced company or battalion with support from artillery and air. The target is limited to a one to two km area.

Interrogation of prisoners and refugees is conducted essentially at regiment and division level. It should be brief and aimed at the disclosure of the character of the enemy intentions and operations. Important subjects are the location of nuclear weapons and means and artillery and other powerful weapons. The information is immediately reported to the commander and chief of staff and after a brief interrogation the prisoners are evacuated. The information acquired from prisoners and refugees and the data received through questioning local inhabitants should be confirmed by other sources.



At the tactical level reconnaissance is accomplished by four elements: the reconnaissance group, the combat reconnaissance patrol, the patrol vehicle or aircraft, and the observation post.

The reconnaissance group is normally detached from division or regiment and sometimes by a battalion. These are not limited to the first echelon divisions. The second echelon division or OMG after its commitment will use these as well. The group strength is usually a platoon or reenforced company. It is assigned a reconnaissance direction or objective. It operates in a sector 4 - 5 km wide. The distance of the group from the main body will be 30 -40 km for the division group and 20 -25 km for the regimental group. These groups actually detached from their own main body further reconnaissance patrols which more 5 - 6 km from them. The mission of such a group is given personally by the chief of the reconnaissance directorate or the chief of staff and sometimes by the commander himself.

The instructions include the latest information on the enemy, the composition of the recon group, the direction toward its objective, what information is desired and when to report, the starting point, and the time to cross it, when the mission ends, how the group is to rejoin the main body, and the method for maintaining communication and delivering reports.

At the operational level reconnaissance is done by deep reconnaissance groups. They have the same kind of mission but stay longer in enemy territory. Their missions are more elaborate. The deep reconnaissance group may have the mission lasting several days and requiring changing locations several times.

The combat reconnaissance patrol is detached from the battalion or company during combat at a distance of 6 - 8 km in strength of up to a platoon.

The patrol vehicle is detached by any element and operates about .5 km from the parent element.

So from the lowest level to the highest the Soviet units move in a box of reconnaissance. The reconnaissance elements pass all information on to higher and adjacent headquarters. This is a very large system. If it is interrupted in one area it works in another due to the extensive duplication.