The Russian Marines operate assault ships, which deliver the ‘Black Death (as the Marines are called)’ to the battlefield. These vessels have landing ramps at the bow and stern. Troops and military hardware are loaded onto the vessel via the stern ramp in port, while the forward ramp is used to disembark troops and equipment directly into the water, or even onto land given a suitable shore (the bow is ballasted down for this reason). The craft are able to land troops and equipment in a force four gale.

Source: RIA Novosti

A large assault ship is able to take an augmented battalion of marines as well as 80 military vehicles - on average a company of marines and 12 armoured vehicles. The Zubr (bison in Russian) assault hovercraft is capable of covering 1,000 miles at the same speed as a car and landing up to 360 troops (or 10 Armoured Personnel Carriers, or 3 T-80 tanks and 80 troops) on almost any shore. The vessel can provide covering fire with salvos from jet-propelled flamethrowers as well as from six-barrel artillery systems. The vessel and troops are protected from air attacks by four Igla anti-aircraft rocket systems.

The Zubr is the world’s largest hovercraft and one of the fastest. On tests it accelerated to 70 knots (130 km/h), but this is not its top speed.

The Zubr assault hovercraft. Source: RIA Novosti

The ship is powered by propulsion propellers turned by gas turbines with a combined output of 36,000 h.p. Four turbochargers, with a combined output of 24,000 h.p., lift the ship above the surface of the water. A pilot controls the vessel with an aircraft style wheel.

The floating Vena

Owing to the idiosyncrasies of their operations all the armoured equipment the Russian Marine’s posses are able to float. In truth the BMP-3F (fleet), which was tested and gained approval did not enter production. The Baumann MGTU (Moskovskiy Gosudarstvenniy Tekhnicheskiy Universitet – Moscow State Technical University) won a competition to carry out research to create a future combat vehicle for the Marines. This vehicle was to meet the requirements of the new concept of landing soldiers and equipment ‘beyond the horizon’: troops and equipment disembark from the vessel around 15-40 km from the shore. In connection with this the vehicle was to posses excellent seafaring qualities.

BMP-3. Source: Itar-Tass

“In fact this was to act as a fast launch at sea and an armoured personnel carrier on land,” explained the Chief Designer of the Scientific-Production Centre for Special Mechanical Engineering at the Baumann University, Sergey Popov. “The main problem was that Marines had never had a combat vehicle of their own, and as a result there was no clear understanding of how this vehicle was to look. Producing a similar vehicle from a land-based variant could not be relied upon.”

Source: RIA Novosti

The marines are still using the standard BMP-3. This vehicle’s excellent firepower in the shape of a 100-mm gun as well as a launch assembly for guided rockets, a 30-mm automatic gun and a machine gun, goes hand in hand with its poor seafaring qualities. After 30 minutes in the water the electrical equipment on the BMP begins to fail. The Vena floating self-propelled howitzer provides additional firepower for the Marines. Control of the 120-mm gun is automated, and a computer fitted with a navigation system to map the terrain calculates the firing data. The Vena’s high explosive round can be compared to 152-155-mm munitions.

Incidentally the hero of Stalingrad sniper Vasiliy Zaitsev was a marine, a Master Sergeant first class from the Pacific Fleet. By the end of 1942 Zaitsev had personally killed 242 Brownshirts including 11 snipers as well as German ace and head of the sniper school Heinz Thorvald who was sent to Stalingrad to hunt him down. Soviet snipers trained by Zaitsev killed 1,106 fascist soldiers.

The deadliest weapons in the marine’s arsenal are the marines themselves.  According to an unwritten internal statute a marine needs to be ready for combat in any one of three environments: on land, at sea or in the air. The marines are the smallest of all the branches of the armed forces. The total number of subdivisions from each of the Russian navies does not exceed 12,500 men. Moreover a company of marines is equal to a standard regiment. In order to underline the elite nature of this unit the marines have their own uniform: a black beret, black dress coat, sailor’s shirt, regular fit trousers and boots.

The principal objective for the marines is to establish a bridgehead on land. Furthermore the ‘black death’ are often called upon to carry out the most challenging combat missions far from shore. For example during the storming of Grozny in 1995 a battalion of marines from the Northern Fleet were detailed with taking Dudayev’s palace. The first Russian flag to appear on the palace frontispiece was Lieutenant Igor Borisevich’s sailor’s shirt.

First published in Russian in Rossiyskaya Gazeta

"Where we are - there is victory!" - Russian Marines. Source: TV Channel Zvezda/YouTube