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Ready to decisively repulse both on and under the surface of water

Saint-Petersburg, July 2006. The Great Eight Summit is in full swing. The Baltic Sea is choppy. Close to the shore its roughness is not so evident, but closer to the horizon line, where the faint outlines of guard boats are barely visible even with the help of high-power binoculars, tele-and photo cameras, the sea is heaving with almost two-meter-high waves.

The leaders of the world’s leading industrialized powers, representative government delegations, and numerous groups of accredited journalists are arriving at fixed hour at the sea port of the Northern capital and coming on boards of the high-speed hydrofoil vessels to be taken by the Gulf of Finland to the Constantine’s Palace where the key events of this respected international forum are scheduled to take place.

None of them was actually aware of the fact that at this very moment, at the depth, near the wharf walls, under the bottoms of the “meteors” and amidst the unfriendly leaden-coloured waves the sailors of the Internal Forces were performing their duty…

The history of the naval units of the Ministry of Home Affairs’ Internal Forces is not so long-standing, it only numbers some thirty years. But what an impressive step forward in their qualitative development has been made over this period of time, how much has been achieved and accomplished, how many deeds have been added to their credit!

At the very first stages of their formation, naval units consisted of guard ships groups and special divers groups which were an integral part of military units responsible for protecting the key state objects, namely, strategic bridges along the Baikal-Amur Railroad and Far Eastern Railroad. At present, the number of strategic objects controlled by sailors and divers of the Russia’s Internal Forces has significantly increased. Nowadays, they are to protect nuclear and chemical industry enterprises,the country’s atomic-powered fleet basing locations, nuclear power plants, etc. And no entry to them from water areas, either on or under the surface of water, was allowed by the soldiers of law and order!

Apart from guarding key state objects, which are protected by Internal Forces and other units of Ministry of Home Affairs, from both surface and underwater subversive acts, sailors take part in emergency rescue operations caused by accidents of both natural and anthropogenic nature as well as conduct special diving operations, including search ones.

FOR YOUR INFORMATION

Over the last 5 years in the course of special operations conducted by naval units of the Ministry of Home Affairs’ Internal Forces, over 3,5 thousand floating vessels and more than 5 thousand trespassers (among them 32 divers) have been detained.

During eight months of 2007 alone, naval units of the Ministry of Home Affairs’ Internal Forces have caught 164 trespassers and 47 vessels at the water areas of key state objects.

Russian divers have examined 369 objects, 1 224 496 square meters of the ground with total 4 077 hours spent under water.

They have conducted 83 raid operations on public order protection at the water areas with the most valuable natural resources in the course of which 270 vessels have been examined, 109 detained and 333 illegal fishing gears confiscated.

The guard ships have sailed over 30 990 miles (66 402 km) with no navigation accidents, ships wreck and devices failure through the personnel’ fault or negligence.


There are plenty of examples to that. Unfortunately, few of us know that Internal Forces’ divers at different periods of time rescued people from ships being wrecked in the Gulf of Finland and Kola Bay, Lake Baikal, Volga River, Yenisei River and Ural River. Year after year, together with Ministry for Emergency Situations’ units, they come to the aid of citizens of the riverside settlements every time the Ussuri, Tunguska and other Far Eastern full-flowing rivers overflow their banks. It was competent and prompt actions by the divers of the Internal Forces’ 1st naval unit, who found and remedied a seriously-damaged bridge footing in a timely manner, that prevented the railway bridges across Khor and Kia Rivers from collapsing.

In the course of time, the main operational activity of the Interior troops was more of a law-enforcement kind, while recently they have become one of the key instruments for terrorism counteraction. In accordance with the new requirements and emerging challenges, their structure is being reorganized; the process of re-armament and technical re-equipment is continuing. The Interior troops’ naval units feel all those changes on their own back, perhaps, like no one else does.

Apart from four naval units, they have divisions, companies and separate squads of guard boats, special platoons and groups of divers – swimmers. In terms of organizational structure these subdivisions are parts of not only key state objects protection units. They also have been made introduced in special motorized military units and special-purpose units as well.

And this is not accidental: together with their colleagues from Ministry of Home Affairs and Federal Security Service special forces have been actively participating in various anti-terror operations. They have acquired all necessary experience to act highly-professionally in city, forest and mountain area operations. But what if, say, a hostage taking on water takes place? The troops must have well-prepared and trained specialists capable of coming to the aid of people in such conditions.

Since we have started to talk about underwater part of Ministry of Home Affairs’ naval units activity, it will be relevant to say that the history of the present-day divers units with Ministry of Home Affairs can be traced back to the time of Interior Forces’ special divers subdivisions formation. And if we “dive” even deeper into our history we can discover one interesting fact, namely, that the formation and establishment of the first Russian divers service as such – the famous Expedition of Special Underwater Operations – was organized under the auspices of People’s Commissariat of Home Affairs. So, not sinning against the truth, one can say with every reason that it was the Ministry of Home Affairs that was the main source of manpower and skilled personnel and the forefather of all the military diving services that exist in the Russian Federation today.

Nowadays, there are over five hundred divers with different levels of professional skills in the Ministry of Home Affairs, the majority of whom are members of the Interior Forces. Therefore, it is quite natural that the entire divers’ training system, their technical equipment and scientific-research and experimental-development work in the field of diving are focused, first and foremost, on diving service of Interior Forces.

FOR YOUR INFORMATION

The set of special diving equipment AQUA, which is used by Interior Forces’ special divers subdivisions, is intended for divers’ concealed underwater movement at the depth of about 40 meters. It has a diving closed-cycle breather IDA-2005, underwater navigation equipment, devices for underwater sonar communication with land and other divers, secret surface surveillance devices. It allows self-contained operation from 36 minutes (at the depth of 40 meters) to 4 hours (at the depth of 7 meters).

High technological level and professional skills of the Interior Forces’ specialists can be proved by the fact that during the last several years in the training naval unit located in Severobaikalsk, in close cooperation with Russia’s leading manufacturers and suppliers of diving equipment, development and tests of the most up-to-date diving equipment samples have been conducted. This joint activity has successfully resulted in developing and putting into service the closed-cycle breather IDA-2005, Ingalit and Topol devices, for which the development engineers and designers were awarded the State Prize in the field of science and technology.

One has every reason to say that the Interior Forces’ training naval unit is the country’s best training school for divers. In terms of its technological level and cutting-edge diving equipment, it has no match. And it is not accidental that annually training and re-training is conducted at its bases of divers and doctors-physiologists from Head Office for Organized Crime Counteraction and Chief administrative department for public order protection with the Ministry of Home Affairs, Federal Security Forces’ Frontier troops, Prosecutor General’s Office, Ministry of Emergency Situations’ Chief customs committee and rescue units, i.e., from almost all Russian defence and law-enforcement departments.

The uniqueness of it lies in the fact that, at present, this unit is Russia’s only military training unit which has obtained state certification and accreditation to act as an institution of professional education.

The highest level of professionalism is the guarantee of the fact the missions undertaken by Interior Forces’ naval units together with their colleagues will be accomplished in the best possible way. Sailors have been taking part in securing public order during large-scale anti-terrorist operation both on Russian territory and internationally. Moreover, they have been constantly honing their skills during interdepartmental maneuvers and tactical exercises of all kinds (in the result of which they, by the way, have not once been considered the defeated party) meant to train and master underwater subversive acts counteractions.

The law on “Internal Forces of the Russian Ministry of Home Affairs” and a number of government regulations have charged naval units with participating in special activities on national biological resources protection which are carried out in close cooperation with law enforcement agencies, Fishing Control and Prosecutor’s Office inspectors as well as representatives of various ecological organizations.

It goes without question that such an immense amount of work can not be fulfilled without cutting-edge equipment. Over the recent years Interior Forces’ naval units have added to their armament high-speed boats of series Mustang, Redan and Triumph, air-cushion crafts Mars and Khivus, high-speed armoured boats Strizh and Kasatka as well as hydrofoil ships of project Sokol. At present, Russian shipbuilders are conducting experimental development of counter-sabotage patrol boats Frigate and Berkut for our law-enforcement units which exceed their foreign analogues and, in terms of some technical characteristics, are world’s unique and unparalleled at all.

FOR YOUR INFORMATION

The air-cushion boat Mars-700 can operate in water reservoirs with wave height of 0.8 m, in plant-filled shallow waters, watered areas of land as a result of overflows, during ice drift, sludge and snow cover of different firmness. The boat is capable of surmounting 0.3-meter-high obstacles as well as abrupt slopes of 8 degrees when reaching land. It can take onboard up to seven passengers, has a cruising range of 1 000 km, can pick up speed of 70 km/h on water and 90 km/h on snow.

The high-speed patrol boat Frigate with displacement of 16.7 t is intended for diving and counter-sabotage operations conduction, patrolling and key state objects protection. The crew is three divers, can take onboard up to 8 swimmers with armament and equipment. It can pick up speed of up to 50 km/h; cruising range without refueling is 370 km. It was put into service with Interior Forces’ naval units in the second part of 2007.


The Interior Forces’ naval units’ further development is going to be made in several key directions. In accordance with the Headquarters’ strategic plans, the current year will see the formation of naval units in all the Interior Forces’ districts. And there is a whole number of reasons to that.

More than ten years have passed from the day the Russian government’s regulation was published which determined the regions and areas of water where the troops were to participate in the public order protection activities. Since that time the number of naval units and subdivisions has significantly increased and so has the number of their basing sites. These all mean that it is high time to expand the list of their operation regions by legislative action.

Another important reason for that is the fact that Russian power engineering specialists’ proposal on entering a number of hydroelectric power stations on the list of key state objects have been submitted for government’s consideration. And if it is adopted, the troops will be charged with their protection as well, which in its turn will definitely lead to formation of new naval units.

But this is not the whole story. Russian industry has planned to build eleven floating nuclear power plants till the year 2015. The launching of the first such plant is scheduled for the current year. So, who is going to be charged with “floating reactors” protection? No doubt, the Interior Forces! However, small subdivisions won’t manage it alone. It means that our law enforcement troops have to be reinforced by new naval units.

In addition to that, not only new combat but also new transport naval units are planned to be formed in the Interior Forces’ districts, which will be equipped with all the necessary military equipment for long-distance personnel and military impedimenta transfer. It is common knowledge that shipment by sea or waterage is the most economically-rational, paying and cost-efficient way of shipment. According to some calculations, amphibious warfare ships and cargo vessels with a crew of ten-fifteen men will pay off construction and maintenance costs in 4-5 years.

Divers are raising the level of their professional

Not long ago the Interior Forces’ training naval base situated near Baikal hosted a training-methodological muster of demolition underwater swimmers.

An annual divers’ training has become some kind of tradition with not only Interior Forces’ servicemen participating in it but also special divers of almost all the Russian law enforcement departments and agencies. After all, it is on land that people are divided by departmental interests, whereas under water they are engaged all together in fulfilling the most difficult and challenging missions in order to secure safety of key state objects, buildings, transportation links and lines of communication, to prevent acts of sabotage, to maintain public order and protect Russian natural resources in our water areas.

During Baikal training the servicemen not only master cooperation and coordination of actions between departmental diving groups but also conduct joint counter-terrorism trainings, study the latest diving equipment models and advanced devices for diving adopted by Russian Ministry of Home Affairs’ Interior Forces’ naval units.

The choice of Baikal as a place for divers’ training is not accidental since it is here that the only Internal Forces’ training unit preparing professional divers is actually based. Not only does it have superb study and training facilities but also it is the base where highly-professional divers serve who have won fame and good reputation not only within the Interior Forces. For the majority of the officers who now attend such training this base was the starting point of their service, the place where they learnt the basics of the military diving art and conducted their first diving. Nowadays, however, they come here as group supervisors and mentors bringing their own subordinates to master their skills. In present-day world diving service is in great demand like never before and it has an even more important role to play. Little wonder that the Ministry of Home Affairs’ officers have started to study the theory of diving to head for Baikal to put their knowledge into practice and hone their diving skills.

Military diving as a specific branch of military service requires total, exceptional dedication and devotion, high professionalism as well as an ability to be part of the team. And the last but not the least, apart from theoretical and practical knowledge, such musters give divers a perfect opportunity to get to know each other, communicate and exchange their experience and opinions. As for the youth, this is a rare opportunity to see the people who have already become living legends of diving and acquire the basics of the diving art at first hand, so to say. Of course, two weeks is not enough to become a professional. Despite that, it takes each participant the whole year to prepare properly for this muster. And if a piece of advice, consultation or help is needed, they can always turn to their teachers – Chief of the Diving Service with the Ministry of Home Affairs’ Interior Forces Captain Nickolay Tchebotarev; Training Diving Unit Commander Deputy Captain Second Rank Alexander Gorkovenkov and other professionals.

During that training, theoretical and practical lessons were conducted on explosives, blasting devices, diving equipment and underwater blasting methods. These kinds of tasks are very difficult, therefore, even the most highly-trained and experienced specialists must prove the level of professional skills annually as well as get certified for blasting operations conduction both on land and underwater. There is a specially-equipped blasting ground on the base premises where they conduct underwater blasting operations; near Baikal specialists from different cities of Russia practice submersion and, of course, take examinations.

Some of the participants proved the high level of their professional skills, while seven of them were given diving cards for the first time.

- We have been organizing such training-methodological musters at this base for eleven years already. And the choice of this place is not accidental. Here, under the command of Captain Igor Pukharev, serve well-trained and highly-experienced professionals. This base has superb training facilities because we try to equip it with al the latest diving equipment in order to ensure the high level of Interior Forces divers’ training. This year has presented us with a perfect opportunity to spend more time with each participant, - says the supervisor of the muster Captain Nickolay Tchebotarev,- In diving every little detail is important and the exchange of experience and know-how that usually takes place during such musters is an indispensable thing. We drill specialists from related divisions in diving and they, in their turn, share their own experience with us, for example, methods of homemade explosives destruction. Such exchange of experience is very important since we have to be ready to act efficiently and in close coordination in any situation. In my opinion, this muter has been a success. All the participants have not only proved their level of skills but also demonstrated their high professionalism and mastered new equipment. It means that the tasks with which the Ministry of Home Affairs Interior Forces’ naval units have been charged will be successfully fulfilled.

Source: The Red Star, authors: Igor SOFRONOV, Vitaliy DENISOV. Photo: Igor SOFRONOV