Tank desant
Tank desant is a military combined arms
Combined arms
Combined arms is an approach to warfare which seeks to integrate different branches of a military to achieve mutually complementary effects...

Military tactics
Military tactics, the science and art of organizing an army or an air force, are the techniques for using weapons or military units in combination for engaging and defeating an enemy in battle. Changes in philosophy and technology over time have been reflected in changes to military tactics. In...

, where infantry
Infantrymen are soldiers who are specifically trained for the role of fighting on foot to engage the enemy face to face and have historically borne the brunt of the casualties of combat in wars. As the oldest branch of combat arms, they are the backbone of armies...

 soldiers ride into an attack on tank
A tank is a tracked, armoured fighting vehicle designed for front-line combat which combines operational mobility, tactical offensive, and defensive capabilities...

s, then dismount to fight on foot in the final phase of the assault. Desant (from the , to disembark) is a Russian general term for airborne or parachute drops, and naval infantry amphibious landings operations.

The tactic was used as an expedience by the Soviet Red Army
Red Army
The Workers' and Peasants' Red Army started out as the Soviet Union's revolutionary communist combat groups during the Russian Civil War of 1918-1922. It grew into the national army of the Soviet Union. By the 1930s the Red Army was among the largest armies in history.The "Red Army" name refers to...

 during World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

. Tank desant troops were infantry, trained in the tactic in order to offer small arms support in suppression of enemy anti-tank weapons
Anti-tank warfare
Anti-tank warfare was created by the need to seek technology and tactics to destroy tanks and their supporting infantry during the First World War...

, or enemy infantry using anti-tank grenades. After the Second World War the T-55
The T-54 and T-55 tanks were a series of main battle tanks designed in the Soviet Union. The first T-54 prototype appeared in March 1945, just before the end of the Second World War. The T-54 entered full production in 1947 and became the main tank for armored units of the Soviet Army, armies of...

 and T-62
The T-62 is a Soviet main battle tank, a further development of the T-55. Its 115 mm gun was the first smoothbore tank gun in use.The T-62 was produced between 1961 and 1975. It became a standard tank in the Soviet arsenal, partly replacing the T-55, although that tank continued to be...

 tanks were built with hand-holds for this purpose. In the northern winter, similar tactics were used by Soviet infantry riding the skids of aerosan
An aerosani is a type of propeller-driven snowmobile, running on skis, used for communications, mail deliveries, medical aid, emergency recovery and border patrolling in northern Russia, as well as for recreation...

s, or towed behind them on skis
Ski warfare
Ski warfare, the use of ski-equipped troops in war, is first recorded by the Danish historian Saxo Grammaticus in the 13th century. The speed and distance that ski troops are able to cover is comparable to that of light cavalry.-History:...



The idea of employing tank desants is, as with the more conventional airborne and amphibious operations, to achieve fundamental goals of manoeuvre theory - "surprise, leverage, simultaneity and interchangeability."

The use of tank desant was only prescribed within the initial 1 km of the forward edge of combat area's depth, with only the simplest of tactical mission objectives being given to troops that would necessarily operate in difficult circumstances.

Riding on tanks during actual combat is very dangerous; soldiers are very vulnerable to machine gun and high explosive fire, and the high silhouette of most tanks would draw enemy fire. Smoke and covering fire may be used to reduce the hazards, but this tactic is mostly used by forces with a shortage of motor transport or armoured personnel carriers, as it enables troops to move about the battlefield faster than on foot.

Usually the allocation of infantry troops, including their heavy weapons, was made well before the execution of the mission to allow troops familiarisation and training with the tank troops, and affixing of any support platforms for the heavy weapons to allow firing on the move, as well as ropes to provide troops with hand-holds during the movement. The allocation depended on the class of the tank, and was in general applied as:
  • Heavy tank, 10-12 soldiers
  • Medium tank, 8-10 soldiers
  • Light tank, 5-6 soldiers

Tank desant would be used in such a way as to ensure surprise, approaching during a snow storm, mist, or employing either smoke grenade
Smoke grenade
Smoke grenades are canister-type grenades used as ground-to-ground or ground-to-air signaling devices, target or landing zone marking devices, or as screening devices for unit movements. Smoke grenades are normally considered non-lethal, although incorrect use may cause death...

s or a smoke screen prepared by sapper
A sapper, pioneer or combat engineer is a combatant soldier who performs a wide variety of combat engineering duties, typically including, but not limited to, bridge-building, laying or clearing minefields, demolitions, field defences, general construction and building, as well as road and airfield...

s or laid down by artillery
Originally applied to any group of infantry primarily armed with projectile weapons, artillery has over time become limited in meaning to refer only to those engines of war that operate by projection of munitions far beyond the range of effect of personal weapons...


Today, tank desant is considered a wasteful and human-costly improvisation, which in the opinion of some writers was adopted by the Red Army because they failed to appreciate the problem of tank–infantry co-operation. However, this is not supported by historical analysis, and there is evidence that tank desant was used as early as 1937 during the Spanish Civil War
Spanish Civil War
The Spanish Civil WarAlso known as The Crusade among Nationalists, the Fourth Carlist War among Carlists, and The Rebellion or Uprising among Republicans. was a major conflict fought in Spain from 17 July 1936 to 1 April 1939...

. On the 13 October, the 1st independent tank regiment (Republican Army), using BT-5 tanks, attached to the 15th International Brigade during the Aragon Front advance in the area of the Fuentes de Ebro
Fuentes de Ebro
Fuentes de Ebro is a municipality in the province of Zaragoza, Aragon, Spain. According to the 2005 census , the municipality has a population of 4,086 inhabitants....

 conducted a tank-desant mission with the attached 24th Spanish infantry battalion (24ta de Voluntarios, commanded by Captain Aquilla), but lack of coordination and communication between the Soviet crews that had just completed a 630 km march, and their Spanish infantry resulted in 16 tanks being either destroyed or disabled (some salvaged) and 37 tank crews becoming casualties. Analysis of Red Army's doctrine developed during the 1930s and documented in the 1936 Field Manual shows that the cavalry arm was expected to perform in the role of the supporting dismounted infantry
Mounted infantry
Mounted infantry were soldiers who rode horses instead of marching, but actually fought on foot . The original dragoons were essentially mounted infantry...

, and this was repeatedly displayed during the operations on the Eastern Front
Eastern Front (World War II)
The Eastern Front of World War II was a theatre of World War II between the European Axis powers and co-belligerent Finland against the Soviet Union, Poland, and some other Allies which encompassed Northern, Southern and Eastern Europe from 22 June 1941 to 9 May 1945...

 through use of the Cavalry mechanized group
Cavalry Mechanized Group
A cavalry-mechanized group was a type of military formation used in the Red Army during World War II against Germany and Japan.- Organization :...

s. The idea of using infantry tank desant was however retained in the 1942 Field Instructions for the infantry (battalion)

Almost universal mechanization has rendered this tactic mostly obsolete among the more advanced armed forces
Armed forces
The armed forces of a country are its government-sponsored defense, fighting forces, and organizations. They exist to further the foreign and domestic policies of their governing body, and to defend that body and the nation it represents from external aggressors. In some countries paramilitary...

, with infantry riding special-purpose armoured personnel carriers or infantry fighting vehicle
Infantry fighting vehicle
An infantry fighting vehicle , also known as a mechanized infantry combat vehicle , is a type of armoured fighting vehicle used to carry infantry into battle and provide fire support for them...

s into battle. The uses of explosive reactive armor, which creates a danger zone around an armoured vehicle by detonating an explosive charge when the tank suffers a serious hit, and gas turbine
Gas turbine
A gas turbine, also called a combustion turbine, is a type of internal combustion engine. It has an upstream rotating compressor coupled to a downstream turbine, and a combustion chamber in-between....

 engines, with extremely hot exhaust, makes tank desant a dangerous and undesirable alternative.

Riding armoured vehicles

Other military forces, including U.S. troops
United States Army
The United States Army is the main branch of the United States Armed Forces responsible for land-based military operations. It is the largest and oldest established branch of the U.S. military, and is one of seven U.S. uniformed services...

 in Vietnam
Vietnam War
The Vietnam War was a Cold War-era military conflict that occurred in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia from 1 November 1955 to the fall of Saigon on 30 April 1975. This war followed the First Indochina War and was fought between North Vietnam, supported by its communist allies, and the government of...

, Soviets
Red Army
The Workers' and Peasants' Red Army started out as the Soviet Union's revolutionary communist combat groups during the Russian Civil War of 1918-1922. It grew into the national army of the Soviet Union. By the 1930s the Red Army was among the largest armies in history.The "Red Army" name refers to...

 in Afghanistan
Soviet war in Afghanistan
The Soviet war in Afghanistan was a nine-year conflict involving the Soviet Union, supporting the Marxist-Leninist government of the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan against the Afghan Mujahideen and foreign "Arab–Afghan" volunteers...

, and Russians
Russian Ground Forces
The Russian Ground Forces are the land forces of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation, formed from parts of the collapsing Soviet Army in 1992. The formation of these forces posed economic challenges after the collapse of the Soviet Union, and required reforms to professionalize the force...

 in Chechnya
First Chechen War
The First Chechen War, also known as the War in Chechnya, was a conflict between the Russian Federation and the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria, fought from December 1994 to August 1996...

 have chosen to ride atop their carriers while on patrol or routine movement, rather than inside them.

In contrast to the offensive Soviet tank desant tactics of the Second World War, these were troops who wanted to be able to quickly move from their vehicles in case of ambush (which often turned their transports into death traps). Fearing land mine
Land mine
A land mine is usually a weight-triggered explosive device which is intended to damage a target—either human or inanimate—by means of a blast and/or fragment impact....

s and rocket-propelled grenades widely used by guerrillas
Guerrilla warfare
Guerrilla warfare is a form of irregular warfare and refers to conflicts in which a small group of combatants including, but not limited to, armed civilians use military tactics, such as ambushes, sabotage, raids, the element of surprise, and extraordinary mobility to harass a larger and...

, these servicemen refused to stay inside the personnel carriers—contravening normal standing orders for several reasons:
  • The infantrymen on the outside represented more eyes and rifles at the ready to locate and fire upon a small force or single ambusher.
  • Explosive concussion inside the personnel compartment, caused by a rocket-propelled grenade or land mine hitting the armour, was said to be more dangerous than enemy fire on the personnel mounted outside. Many of these soldiers wore body armour
    Bulletproof vest
    A ballistic vest, bulletproof vest or bullet-resistant vest is an item of personal armor that helps absorb the impact from firearm-fired projectiles and shrapnel from explosions, and is worn on the torso...

    , which reduced their fear of small arms
    A firearm is a weapon that launches one, or many, projectile at high velocity through confined burning of a propellant. This subsonic burning process is technically known as deflagration, as opposed to supersonic combustion known as a detonation. In older firearms, the propellant was typically...

     fire. Spall liners have only recently become common.
  • Wounded soldiers trapped inside were very unlikely to be extracted safely until after the battle, especially if the vehicle was on fire.

Soviet troops also adopted the tactic of riding the roofs of their BTR
A Bronyetransportyor or BTR , literally "armoured transporter" is any of a series of Soviet or post-Soviet military armoured personnel carriers, made for transporting Bronies....

s (armoured personnel carriers), BMP
-In computing:* BMP file format, the file name extension for the Bitmap image file format.* Basic Multilingual Plane, related to the Unicode character set.* Beep Media Player, a multimedia player.-Biology:...

s, BMDs
The BMD-1 is a Soviet airborne amphibious tracked infantry fighting vehicle, which was introduced in 1969 and first seen by the West in 1970. BMD stands for Boyevaya Mashina Desanta . It can be dropped by parachute and although it resembles the BMP-1 it is in fact much smaller...

 and, rarely, tanks. During the Second Chechen War
Second Chechen War
The Second Chechen War, in a later phase better known as the War in the North Caucasus, was launched by the Russian Federation starting 26 August 1999, in response to the Invasion of Dagestan by the Islamic International Peacekeeping Brigade ....

 and other local conflicts of post-Soviet era, the units of the Russian Army and law enforcement acquired the tactic, making it a routine. However, riding outside the vehicles is still prohibited by Russian army doctrine, so it is not used during training and maneuver
Maneuver, manoeuvre may be a synonym for strategy or tactic. It is the manipulation of a situation in order to gain some advantage.- Military or naval movement :* Military exercise...

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