Soviet Fighting Positions

Their construction and implementation

"Every infantryman in the Soviet Army carries with him a small spade. When he is given the order to halt he immediately lies flat and starts to dig a hole in the ground beside him. In three minutes he will have dug a little trench 15 centimetres deep, in which he can lie stretched out flat, so that bullets can whistle harmlessly over his head. The earth he has dug out forms a breastwork in front and at the side to act as an additional cover. If a tank drives over such a trench the soldier has a 50% chance that it will do him no harm. At any moment the soldier may be ordered to advance again and, shouting at the top of his voice, will rush ahead. If he is not ordered to advance, he digs in deeper and deeper. At first his trench can be used for firing in the lying position. Later it becomes a trench from which to fire in the kneeling position, and later still, when it is 110 centimetres deep,it can be used for firing in the standing position. The earth that has been dug out protects the soldier from bullets and fragments. He makes an embrasure in this breastwork into which he positions the barrel of his gun."

"In the absence of any further commands he continues to work on his trench. He camouflages it. He starts to dig a trench to connect with his comrades to the left of him. He always digs from right to left, and in a few hours the unit has a trench linking all the riflemen's trenches together. The unit's trenches are linked with the trenches of other units. Dug-outs are built and communication trenches are added at the rear. The trenches are made deeper, covered over, camouflaged and reinforced. Then, suddenly, the order to advance comes again. The soldier emerges, shouting and swearing as loudly as he can."

"He knows how to dig the earth efficiently. He builds his fortress exactly as it should be. The spade is not just an instrument for digging: it can also be used for measuring. It is 50 centimetres long. Two spade lengths are a metre. The blade is 15 centimetres wide and 18 centimetres long. With these measurements in mind the soldier can measure anything he wishes."

"The infantry spade does not have a folding handle, and this is a very important feature. It has to be a single monolithic object. All three of its edges are as sharp as a knife."

"The spade is not only a tool and a measure. It is also a guarantee of the steadfastness of the infantry in the most difficult situations. If the infantry have a few hours to dig themselves in, it could take years to get them out of their holes and trenches, whatever modern weapons are used against them."

As you can tell from the above passage from Victor Suvarov, the saperka is one of the most important tools in the Soviet infantryman's arsenal. It is an essential part of his life. It is irreplaceable to him. One could say it is as important as his rifle in a sense. Without either, the Soviet infantryman is useless. Keep them clean and sharp. They will serve you a lifetime! Sharp saperkas will allow you to use it as an axe in the field, as a knife if need be to cut things, it can be used to hammer with (the flat side). A sharp saperka digs better than a dull one! Caution: Too sharp will cause harm without care! Remember to always turn the edge of the saperka with a file once you've sharpened it. This will allow you to keep it easily/safely in your belt carrier.

Primary Fighting Positions

Orientation

Generally these are oriented lengthwise with a man "pointing" towards his firing sector in the position. This type of position is sometimes thought of as a "shell scrape" where the earth is typically 'scraped' out, allowing the troop to lower his profile with the ground.

Size

60cm wide (one shovel length plus the blade width (give or take 5cm). and 2m long (4 shovel lengths)

When?

Performed when contact is imminent or expected. Performed whenever you have been halted and your leaders tell you to dig in.

How?

Refer to figure 165. (above). Drop to a prone position with your rifle facing the direction your assigned sector is located. (In case of attack your rifle is already at the ready.) Lay your rifle on the ground to your right. Remove your saperka and begin digging your position starting at the area located at your head/chest first. Pile dirt primarily to your front and left. It should form a mound 30cm (two shovel blade length's) high to the left and 10cm (a little less than one shovel blade length) directly ahead. You should allow a space directly to your front cut out of the earth for your weapon. The primary fighting position will vary in depth. It should be roughly 30cm (two shovel blade's lengths) deep for your body and only 20cm in the front portion to allow for your elbows/chest to rest upwards and access your rifle. - See the plan at the lower right of figure 165 for details/measurements. Primary Fighting Positions are generally dug by one person.

Camouflage

Use local foliage (tree branches/leaves/grass/limbs/logs) to hide your position if able. The less the enemy can see of you, the better! Be sure though that you can see your firing sector!

Secondary (Prepared) Fighting Positions

Orientation:

Generally oriented lengthwise facing so that one man per position is "pointing" towards his sector. Basically, this is an improvement upon or evolution of the primary position. (Suvarov begins to make sense now...) This position is designed to allow the soldier to transition to a kneeling firing position (shown directly to the left) and later as he keeps digging to a standing firing position.

Size

50cm (one shovel length's) wide x 180cm-200cm (roughly 4 shovel length's) long x 110cm deep (roughly 2 1/2's shovel length's)

When?

Performed when contact is expected but not imminent. Performed whenever you have been deployed to an area with the mission of holding/securing the area and are expected to be there for some time.

How?

Pile dirt in the direction that your firing sector has been given first. Dirt should be piled 40-50cm high (1 shovel length) to the left and 30cm (2 shovel blade lengths) high in the front/right. You will also notice that there is a 20cm open area around the position between the mounded dirt and the hole. This will keep dirt from falling in and filling your position.

Camouflage:

Use local foliage and fallen logs to both camoflage your hole. You can also use your poncho (platch-palatka) to cover the hole and save some warmth in the cold or protect yourself from rain/snow.

Fortified Positions

Orientation:

These positions range in use and function. They can serve as command posts or barracks for troops. They can also serve as observation posts or forward operations posts. Their function will dictate their level of construction.

Size:

Various.

When?

Depending on the type of security needed. Forward Position, Listening or Observation Post or Garrison, the fortified position will be erected in a variety of ways as determined by leadership. It may incorporate sandbags and overhead cover, it may be more or less elaborate depending on the situation.

How?

Begin as you would any other position, by piling dirt up facing your firing/security sector and cutting "holes" in the wall for seeing. If instructed, you will fortify the cover of the position with limbs or canvas (platsch-palatka) or other items. You should be prepared to be in this position for some time, thus you should take care to dig these positions as deep and as large as you can, to accommodate both yourself and your section mates. This position very well could be your home for a few days.

Camouflage:

This position will be more elaborate than any others. You will set it up to be "covered" with limbs/logs to as to protect you and others in it from artillery as well as camouflaged to hide its position.

Sources:

"Inside the Soviet Army." - Viktor Suvarov 1982, MacMillan Publishing

Various Russian Ground Forces Field Manuals (for figures/images).

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