The number of professional servicemen in the Russian Airborne Forces is expected to reach 20,000 in the next five or seven years, more than double the current 9,500 troops, the airborne troops chief commander, Colonel General Vladimir Shamanov, has said.
The Russian Airborne Forces currently have some 35,000 servicemen, and less than 30 percent of them are professionals, Shamanov said in an interview with RIA Novosti ahead of Airborne Forces Day celebrations in Russia on Thursday.
The number of professional servicemen in airborne units across Russia differs significantly. Shamanov noted that, in the Tula and Ryazan regions in central Russia, professionals comprise no more than 15-20 percent of total airborne unit numbers, while one airborne unit in the Volga region of Ulyanovsk is 60 percent comprised of professional servicemen.
The most professional of Russia’s airborne units – where only 10 percent of the soldiers and sergeants are conscripts – is an artillery regiment stationed in the city of Kostroma, some 350 kilometers from Moscow, Shamanov added.
He also added that the number of “quick reaction” battalions in the Airborne Forces would grow. Russia now has only five such battalions which consist mainly of professional servicemen.
The expected boost will come as part of government plans to increase the number of professionals in Russia’s 1-million armed forces, which currently rely mainly on conscription and employ only 186,000 professional servicemen. By 2017, the figure is planned to rise to 425,000.