Communications Systems

Introduction

Communications troops are a vital cog in any Soviet formation, from Army to Company. The increased mobility of Motor Rifle Divisions over traditional infantry formations has forced changes and technological advances in the science and practice of military signals operations. Communications troops must understand that any failure in communications equipment or procedure may result in catastrophic loss of personnel and material, and may ultimately lead to failure to achieve military objectives. Therefore, communications troops must be properly trained, and utmost care must be exercised in setup, maintenance, and operation of communications equipment to ensure victory on the battlefield!

Knowing the critical nature of their assignments, communications troops must dedicate themselves to perfection in studying and implementing every bit of information provided to them. What follows is merely an introduction to communications equipment and operation, but it is enough to enable personnel to provide battalion, company, platoon, and section elements with the support they require to complete their objectives.


Figure 1 Historical photo of East Bloc troops operating R-105D. Note simultaneous use of headset and handset. Operator's notepad is ready for preparing and copying traffic.

All military communications are fundamentally the same: an operator transmits a message through a communication channel which is received by (hopefully) a friendly operator on the other end of the network. At the simplest level, a commanding officer's clerk could be considered an operator, a mounted messenger may be the means of communication, and a mortar section may be the intended receiver of the message. Likewise, all communications are subject to interference or interception- the courier's message may become confused, and the courier may be captured or killed before reaching his destination.

Common methods of military communication include physical signals such as light signals, semaphore flags, flares or smoke rockets, and signal panels. When these methods are not practical, runners serve as a means of communication. Wired systems, such as telegraph and telephone, provide instant long-distance communication. Wireless systems, or radios, allow long-range and highly mobile communication.

Each of these methods of communication have inherent advantages and disadvantages. Signal flares are easily seen by the enemy. Runners may be wounded or killed in a combat environment. Verbal messages may be confused. Telephone equipment may be damaged by enemy fire. Radio equipment may be of limited use, or be rendered ineffective altogether, by geography, atmospheric conditions, or the use of atomic weapons. Enemy forces can intercept wireless transmissions, and can even discover the precise location of a radio transmitter through triangulation.

Details of wired communications systems

East Bloc Communications - General Information

East Bloc armies generally use wired systems whenever possible. Wired communications minimize the threats of interference and interception. Atmospheric and environmental conditions will not influence wired signals- a properly maintained wire line will almost never be subject to interference. Short of the enemy physically contacting and tampering with telephone wires in some fashion, wired communications cannot be disrupted or intercepted. Finally, wired systems are generally simpler to operate, troubleshoot, and maintain than wireless systems. For these reasons, wired systems are employed whenever possible.

Wireless systems do, however, play an important role in East Bloc armies' communications. In situations where wired systems or runners are not practical due to movement, distance, or operational urgency, wireless systems must be used. For platoon-to-company and company-to-battalion wireless communications, several radio transceiver complexes are available.


Figure 2. Diagram of Soviet telephone network, Battle of Stalingrad, 15 September 1942.

Though more technically complex than wired communication networks, wireless networks can be quickly implemented to provide instantaneous, highly mobile communications.

Wireless communications utilize individual radio sets which, when combined, form communications networks. Separate networks in East Bloc armies are compartmentalized- they execute separate functions. Generally, these functions are divided by branch- infantry, armor, artillery, air defense, NBC alert, and ground-to-air communication. All networks are coordinated at the battalion level. East Bloc radio networks never communicate directly with one another.

Within East Bloc armies, based on the Soviet model, there is a strong emphasis on command and control. All communications go through the chain of command. Radio communications flow between immediate commanders and their immediate subordinates. Platoon commanders communicate only with company commanders, and company commanders with battalion commanders.

For example, a forward deployed platoon might request artillery support, but they would not do so by accessing the artillery network. The platoon commander would inform his company commander, who would then request indirect fire support from battalion. It would then be up to the battalion commander to order a fire mission for artillery units under his command.

The East Bloc communications model helps maintain command and control by routing all communications to the battalion level. The battalion commander alone prioritizes requests and allocates assets according to his operational plan and judgment. Because of this, communication is slower in the East Bloc communications model than it would be if company grade officers were allowed to directly contact other units. Requests must flow up the chain of command, and, if approved, subordinate units receive orders to fulfill requests. The system's strength lies in its filtering unnecessary information and requests and providing commanders along the chain of command the information they require. It provides a concise channel for dissemination of information and orders from headquarters to subordinate units.

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