“Russia stops deploying battalion tactical groups due to their ineffectiveness, says UK intelligence” – TTG

It is highly likely that Russia has completely stopped deploying its typical military formations, called “Battalion Tactical Groups” (BTGs), in the past three months, the United Kingdom Defence Intelligence reported on its update on the situation in Ukraine as of Nov. 29.

The BTG concept has been an important part of Russian military doctrine for the past 10 years or so. The BTGs were integrated with a wide range of sub-units, such as tank, reconnaissance and artillery units, that greatly differs from western military practices. However, during the large scale and high intensity war in Ukraine, several intrinsic weaknesses of the BTG were discovered, UK intelligence believes. Also, the number of the deployed BTGs were often insufficient for a successful assault. “Decentralized distribution of artillery has not allowed Russia to fully leverage its advantage in numbers of guns; and few BTG commanders have been empowered to flexibly exploit opportunities in the way the BTG model was designed to promote,” the intelligence report reads.


Comment: This is not surprising at all. The BTG seemed like a good idea. It was the equivalent of our battalion task forces formed by an armored battalion and a mech infantry battalion exchanging one or two companies to form two combined arms task forces. This task organization was in vogue when I was in C&GSC.

On paper, the BTG was supposed to have more artillery firepower than our battalion task forces. I thought it looked promising. It was talked about as the core of the Russian way of war back in February and March. Both of these combined arms units depend on one thing… skilled troops and leaders capable of thinking and acting on the move. The BTGs didn’t survive enemy contact at the beginning of this war. Now with largely untrained mobiks and a worse than decimated junior officer corps, not to mention a nonexistent NCO corps, the BTG is dead. In its place we have the zerg rush, as the gamer kids call it.

I think it will take the Russians years to correct all that’s wrong with their forces and forge the BTG into an effective war fighting unit. They got a hell of a lot of lessons to learn at all levels. It certainly won’t happen by next spring.


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30 Responses to “Russia stops deploying battalion tactical groups due to their ineffectiveness, says UK intelligence” – TTG

  1. KjHeart says:


    – hell-of-a-good article

    Thank you

    That diagram at the top of the page, showing the number and types of vehicles in a BTG, really helps a person like me. I can catch articles here and there about the numbers and types of vehicles captured and not have a context to compare to see the cost to the Russian Military… Yikes!

    I was also able to ask my teenage-gamer-military-history- enthusiast son about a Zerg Rush – he even knew the original game.

    Practical and kinetic life experiences only occasionally crossover effectively from gaming. If the R.M. is relying on tactics that resemble an old PC game – God help them.


    • Pat Lang says:

      Reminds me of a US Navy one star who took over current intel part of DIA. He could not grasp the idea of ground UNITS. He wanted every armored vehicle and artillery piece plotted on maps. He gave up after a while, but still made three stars.

      • Jimmy_W says:

        Maybe they should have pretended each armor company as a 14-gun destroyer, haha.

      • KjHeart says:

        Col. Lang

        Even I know that only ‘stationary objects’ can be plotted on a map.

        To hear that someone ‘with stars’ or ‘with ONE star’- that has had infinite opportunity to be educated to ‘know better’- wanted to plot movable objects on a map is unsettling enough to keep me up nights. This description does, however, underscore the adage ‘Promoted to the Maximum Level of Incompetence’


        • Pat Lang says:

          The navy plots movable ships. He was eventually Director of NSA. He had a hell of a time dealing with ground unit map symbols.

  2. Fourth and Long says:

    Everything you said plus six letters: M o r a l e.
    That’s what I heard from someone over there.
    Ok, maybe more than six: resolve, spirit, assurance, temper, espirit de corps, confidence, mettle, outlook ..

    Can’t be high on either side, I wouldn’t think. Have you had a chance to look at the ideas on vacated zones – presented by Helmer and copy-pasted at Unz?
    Frenzied and interesting comment section but most pertinent to me seemed one which said “combat capability” to implement it was lacking. This thing is reminding me of the American Civil War — the Union initially was really was up a creek without a canoe and took a good while to get rolling. I can’t think of any more apt analogies due to ignorance of military history. I found one though from Russian history which concerns a war in nearly the very same area as today’s fighting – The Tale of Igor’s Campaign:


    Which was adapted by Borodin into the form of an opera: Prince Igor

    Is it possible that being 20th and 21st century citizens we look too deeply into recent history such as the two world wars and overlook things possibly as relevant?

    Ukraine Armistice / How the UDZ of 2023 will separate the armies like the Korean DMZ of 1953:

    Putin’s Remedy: A Fragmented, Toothless Ukraine Separated by a 100 Kilometer-Wide No-Man’s-Land

  3. borko says:


    how much has the proliferation of drones affected these concepts ?

    Some Russian military bloggers see a silver lining in all this mess as it brought into public light all the dirt, corruption and inefficiencies.

    Still, on both sides, regular soldiers die needlessly in great numbers. The other day there was an incident with a battalion of mobiks that were simply unloaded by their “commanders” near the front, told them to fend for themselves and took off. Minimal or no training or equipment. They suffered a few hundred casualties practically overnight. The survivors recorded a video and put it on the internet and military bloggers picked it up and shared around.

    • Pat Lang says:

      I would like to see some independent sourcing on casualties for both sides.

    • TTG says:


      Drones have certainly come into their own. They’re used for C&C at the tactical level by both sides as well as for general reconnaissance and for artillery spotting/target designation. Then there’s the proliferation of loitering kamikaze drones. None of this should surprise us after our waging of drone wars for years across the Middle East. I just read of a Ukrainian drone operators school that just graduated another batch of 40 female drone pilots.

      I can see that silver lining, but that’s going to be one hell of a battle cleaning up all that systemic rot both in the Russian military and the horrendously kleptocratic system presided over by Putin. He’s built a police/security state that rivals anything created by his predecessors, but he has to take on the informal deal he made with the oligarchs to press for any reforms. He’ll have to challenge the entire basis for his regime.

      • JamesT says:


        So you are saying that Russians are no longer allowed to read ‘The Master and Margarita”?

      • borko says:


        Yes, quite the battle that will be, but the incentive to sort the mess out is strong.
        I suspect it is not only Ukraine that is fighting for its survival here, but also Russia.
        The Russian elites have built parts of the house on weak foundations and if they want to prevent it from coming down
        they’ll have to take a long look in the mirror and correct the problems.
        And when it comes to Russia, sorting out inner conflicts can be pretty extreme. I remember when Yeltsin brought tanks to fire at their White House in ’93.


        And this was a mild incident compared to the revolution and civil war. They are trying to improve but keep making some of the same mistakes hoping for a different result. There’s a name for that kind of behaviour.

        • Pat Lang says:

          You don’t “sort out” institutional and cultural problems like thse in a few months. It takes decades.

          • borko says:

            True, but they are not starting from scratch.
            Despite all the problems, an increasingly assertive civil society is beginning to emerge.
            Combined with social networks and an immediate need to fight a war and deal with sanctions, reforms shift into high gear. Or they will fail as a country.

            A threat of destruction is a powerful incentive for change. Ukraine proved as much by creating an army capable of stopping the Russians in just a few years.

  4. Pat Lang says:

    Will take years to fix? Not just org problem. The officers are militarily uneducated and lacking in very basic things like devotion to the welfare of their soldiers. This was the same in their war in Afghanistan and they have not improved.

    • TTG says:


      It does seem they tried to weasel their way around those very basic problems with clever technology and ivory tower strategizing about doctrine and such. The contrast between the state of the Russian military and the Ukrainian military is stark given that they started from the same Soviet military. It’s even more stark when considering the condition of the Ukrainian military in 2014.

      • Pat Lang says:

        Just so. The neglect of the welfare of the men was stark in Afghanistan and resulted in unnecessary losses and actual surrenders to the mujahideen.

      • Bill Roche says:

        The info you presented on the Russian Tactical Battalion Group is interesting. Two things strike me. First, it presents a lot of transportation. If Russian battalions are about 1000 men (? are they?) there would be a vehicle for every 8 men. I guess they are intended for speed/mobility. Just a “one timer” here but doesn’t speed/mobility imply/require independent thought? Officers can’t be in every vehicle (there are 140 of them) so lots of non comms running squads and sharing leadership w/platoon leaders means at least some independent thought. Second, what I am getting at is this… is the make up of the Russian Tactical Battalion the problem or is it the quality/training of the Russian soldiers; officers and non comms. The latter is a cultural/training item. It requires time to change. I would think several years w/a genuine commitment by senior leadership to “get that way”. Since the esteemed Col. MacGregor writes that a swelling army of “real” Russian troops is building b/h Byelorus and east of Donbas, the question is can the Ukrainians kill enough “mobiks” to cause the Russian public to say “enough”! I don’t think Russian culture has that sort of bone in the belly.

        • Pat Lang says:

          Macgregor is desperate not to be proved altogether wrong. How many times do I have to tell you that they have no career NCO corps.

        • TTG says:

          Bill Roche,

          As Colonel Lang pointed out, this is a serious shortcoming in Russian military culture and perhaps beyond that. The BTG may be a great idea theoretically, but the lack of competent and caring leadership makes that impossible. It will take decades to fix that problem.

          Ukraine began changing with the Orange Revolution of 2004-2005. It was a slow societal change that didn’t start changing the military culture until after Russia’s 2014 invasion. Without that societal change, I doubt the cultural change in the military would have happened.

  5. Jimmy_W says:

    One of the problems the Russian BTG system tries to solve, is the forward observation issue. Before, the MRR artillery battalion has to maintain communication with the vanguard or main effort to coordinate fires. So that is a long range for radio communication that might be unreliable. By pushing the batteries down to BTGs, the artillery commander and guns are closer to the front, and radio problems are less serious, hopefully.

    So if the Regiments are pulling back the artillery batteries, they still have the same communication problem in the offense. And the Regiments will still form vanguards in the offense anyway, which is basically an ad hoc proto-BTG. In that regard, the article seems less than it purports. [Unless they’re pulling back all artillery to division control, which would go against a 100-year trend.]

    The graphic above does not emphasize the mortars (82/120mm) in the BTG. (Granted, there does not seem to be a uniform allocation of mortars across the Russian Army.) The artillery commander generally controls the mortars along with everything else.

    • TTG says:


      That makes sense to me as a justification for the BTG concept. Still, it worked better in theory than in practice in this war.

      One of the changes wrought by drones is their use to spot and adjust artillery fire. This now seems to be the primary means to spot targets and adjust artillery fire for both sides. Ukrainian drones largely feed targeting data to more centralized fire control centers where it is determined what artillery unit will get what fire mission. Not sure how the Russians are doing it, but their drones seem to be more limited in use and more easily hampered by bad weather.

      I’m also surprised that 120mm mortar batteries never show up in these TO&E graphics for the BTG.

    • Jimmy_W says:

      “Drones” is not a complete solution to the radio problem. Yes, you now always have retransmission for FM radios (with drones), but you still have the jamming problem. There’s still so little reporting on jamming and everything else.

      Russia keeping artillery FO and JTAC as artillery battery/battalion commander function, vs Ukraine more Western-style infantry call-for-fire, probably accounts for the observations on drone-artillery employment and video footage tweets differences in this war. Russian artillery officers having tighter control of drone footage, and Russian propaganda being more centralized than Ukraine’s.

  6. scott s. says:

    So hoe does it compare to our creation of brigade combat teams that got rid of DISCOM and DivArty, only to see DivArty come back and now I guess sustainment brigades aligned to the Div?

    • TTG says:

      scott s,

      The BTG is comparable to our combined arms battalions, or battalion task forces as they were called back in my day. Our brigade combat teams are more akin to Russian and Ukrainian combat brigade organizations. Now that we’re thinking about wars against major adversaries, we’re rethinking division and corp-level units.

  7. Lars says:

    If the BTG is being discontinued, what will replace it? As has been pointed out, the problem is much deeper than that. It appears that the Russian military is in an ad hoc situation and it is questionable whether they have the system that will react ably to this situation.

    A bigger problem is that the political leadership is unable to make any meaningful changes, which will further damage the military efforts. It will be interesting to see what happens when reality hits home, as it may also become rather dangerous.

    • TTG says:


      At this point the Russians will stick with their original brigade and regiment units. With attrition they surely don’t resemble the prewar TO&E anyways.

    • Jimmy_W says:

      This is probably more about garrison training, by limiting combined-arms tasks and everyone just focus on specialist training vice coordination training. Less cross-functional meetings, essentially.

      Before Ukraine, Russia was talking about BTGs as permanent formations, akin to the American effort at Combined Arms Battalions (2x Inf Co + 2x Arm Co). The Russian artillery assignment is situation based, so the assignment was probably not permanent anyway, making the garrison BTG almost the same as American CAB. (And the artillery commander sometimes had same rank as maneuver commander.) American CABs also complain about garrison training issues, being difficult to coordinate both infantry and tank gunnery training within a Battalion. So this issue of weapon-system-training vs headquarters-employment-training is always an issue with both BTGs and CABs.

      Pre-BTG, Soviet MRRs and TRs always task organized to form a combined arms vanguard or main effort element within the Regiment. So they likely will go back to this tactical organization. Essentially, each Regiment will have 1 ad-hoc-BTG and 3 other under-strength battalions.

      Americans wanted brigades as floating HQs in the 80s and 90s, then went to BCTs as permanent formations, but they never had the brigade HQs completely floating. The Soviets and Russians always had the Regiments combined-arms. What happens to the Regiments and garrison-vs-field are more important topics.

  8. Whitewall says:

    “A bigger problem is that the political leadership is unable to make any meaningful changes”

    Political leadership, such as it is, knows they have been lied to for many years and looted as well. How can anyone trust what they are told by anyone currently in uniform or any high position?

  9. fredw says:

    “Political leadership, such as it is, knows they have been lied to …”

    That is the world that they, and all other political leaders live in. Their job is to influence the various players to get outcomes favorable to their country. To achieve such outcomes requires a certain amount of truth content in the discourse, but a politician complaining that he has been lied to??? That is just blame shifting, whining. It was his job to deal with that. He failed.

    But really that does not cause an inability to make meaningful changes. That is what happens when factions are too evenly balanced and each fights to protect its own domains without consideration for the whole. Inability to force or negotiate some degree of such consideration just means that the political leadership is “weak”, regardless of how they see or project themselves.

  10. Lars says:

    Thanks for the replies to my question. It appears that the Russian military is stuck in a policy that has been shown to not accomplish much other than getting a lot of their soldiers killed. Now I wonder if at some time the realization sets in that they are losing and will in all likelihood keep losing? Reaching further down in the barrel will not help.

    I am sure a lot of militarizes are studying this armed conflict to see what work and what doesn’t. I am equally sure that some will get it and others will not. I am not an expert, but it seems that one important lesson is to not start any wars unless you are 100% sure how it ends, which may be unattainable.

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