Red Assault

Soviet Airborne Forces, 1930-1941

Vladimir Kotelnikov

Red Assault investigates the Red Army Command in the 1930s using the memoirs of pioneer military paratroopers and documents discovered in archives and museum collections.
Date Published :
April 2019
Publisher :
Helion and Company
Illustration :
400 b/w photos & illustrations
Format Available    QuantityPrice
Binding. : Paperback
ISBN : 9781912390793
Pages : 344
Dimensions : 9.75 X 7 inches
Stock Status : Available
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In the 1930s Red Army Command maintained what was often an offensive doctrine. The plan was to fight a bloodless victory on foreign ground. An offensive by the Worker's and Peasant's Red Army was to unfold as per the classic Blitzkrieg - it was with good reason that some of the higher ranking commanders had studied at the German General Headquarters Academy. Furthermore all the technical achievements of the period were taken into account. The assault would begin with air strikes from strategic aviation: armadas of huge bombers would attack key targets deep inside enemy territory. At the same time enormous numbers of airborne troops would be dropped behind enemy lines, armed with a range of equipment. These airborne troops would capture bridges, and roads, and take communications, and transport links out of action. Heralded by a powerful artillery attack, supported by tactical aviation the tanks, armored vehicles, and trucks carrying motorized infantry would advance.

There was a basis for such optimistic forecasts. Since the Soviets were in possession of such a quantitative, and qualitative advantage (and this was certainly the case) they were definitely able to advance. In the USSR aviation was undergoing development ahead of schedule, as were armored tank technology, airborne assault troops, and chemical weapons. If the Soviets had tanks, aircraft, and chemical weapons, albeit in small quantities, any potential enemies would possess them too. The airborne assault troops however were a distinctly Soviet innovation. In this respect it was the Soviets that held an unquestionable advantage. It was here that the first groups of airborne paratroopers were dropped, and the first tanks and guns were dropped from the skies. The Red Army was conducting mass airborne assault operations during the course of exercises when no other nation on Earth had airborne assault troops.

In other field’s Soviet military science and technology in many cases copied existing Western achievements. Licenses were obtained, or examples of foreign materiel were simply copied. As far as the airborne troops were concerned the Soviet military, and the designers were in unchartered territory, having come up with a number of innovative solutions, which were later adopted by the armed forces of other nations.

In this book the armament, equipment, and military hardware developed for airborne troops is described, both in terms of the actual technology, and the clearly fantastical, which only reflected the unrestrained imagination of the designers. A significant amount of attention is devoted to the aircraft, from which it was planned airborne troops would be dropped. The exercises that saw airborne troop drops are described, as well as the role airborne troops played in actual operations in the period up to 1941.

This book has been written on the basis of a number of documents that the author has discovered in the archives, and in museum collections. This work draws upon the memoirs of the pioneer military paratroopers in the USSR, some of which have never been published before.

About The Author

Vladimir Kotelnikov was born in Moscow on 9 December 1951. He graduated from the Moscow Aviation Institute (University) in 1975 and was engaged in research and development in the area of high-temperature strength. Vladimir defended the academic degree of the Candidate of Science in 1981 and read lectures on aircraft piston engine design at the Moscow Aviation Institute. Since the 1980s Kotelnikov has conducted archive research on the history of Russian aviation of the inter-war and Second World War periods. In addition, he paid specific attention to the history of foreign aircraft testing and operations in Russia. As the result of his work he published several hundred articles and dozens of books in Russia, Ukraine, Poland, United Kingdom, France, Germany, Spain, and the United States, among them Lend-Lease and Soviet Aviation, Americans in Russia, Russian Piston Aero Engines, Early Russian Jet Engines, Air War Over Khalkhin Gol, Le Petlyakov Pe-2 and others. Being an aviation historian, he received a diploma as a professor of the Academy of Aviation and Aeronautics Science and currently acts as a consultant on piston aero engine design to Russian aviation museums as well as to different aircraft restoration groups. From 2003 Vladimir held the post of an editor of the Aviakollektsiya aviation history journal, published in Moscow. He passed away in 2022.


"When coupled with Soviet offensive doctrine and the development of operational art, the creation of airborne forces presents a fascinating case study of how militaries develop new concepts to solve their operational and strategic culture. In that vein, Red Assault can serve as a model and provide case studies for examining military innovation."

- Journal of Slavic Military Studies

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