Naval Spetsnaz
Морской спецназ
Morskoy spetsnaz
Russian Marine Commandos logo patch
Country Russia
BranchRussian Naval Infantry
TypeMarine special forces
  • 480–800 OMRP
  • 650–780 PDSS
Part of
Viktor Leonov

The Russian commando frogmen (Russian: Морской спецназ, romanizedMorskoy spetsnaz), informally called "commando frogmen" in civilian media, are a Russian Naval Spetsnaz unit under operational subordination to the Main Intelligence Directorate (GRU). It is the special forces unit of the Russian Naval Infantry and is composed of highly trained and elite marines within the Naval Infantry. By virtue of belonging to the Russian Naval Infantry, frogmen fall under the Coastal Troops of the Russian Navy service arm. The Russian Navy proper does not field any special forces or special operations units. Russian FSB special forces Alpha Group and Vympel also have frogman units in their respective naval components.[2]


Pre war and WWII

On 22 October 1938, during wargaming between units of the Russian Pacific Fleet in Vladivostok, a group of Soviet military divers exited a Shchuka-class submarine (hull number 112) through a torpedo tube. They succeeded in infiltrating the naval base, where they completed certain acts of sabotage. These combat divers were equipped with oxygen rebreathers, dry suits, handguns and grenades. This did not lead to a permanent combat diver unit being set up, but it was the beginning of the history of Soviet combat divers.[3]

The Soviet Union started frogman operations during World War II. The first unit of combat divers (or RON team), was formed in Leningrad in 1941. The most prominent of the new recruits was Viktor Leonov, who joined the Soviet Navy in 1937. He was assigned to a submarine training detachment and then transferred to a repair station in the Northern Fleet at Polyarnyy.[4] Leonov had trained as a scuba diver, after which he joined 4th Special Volunteer Detachment, where he proved his daring and leadership skills conducting numerous clandestine operations and twice being awarded the title of Hero of the Soviet Union.[citation needed] Soviet combat divers were quite successful during World War Two. They performed a variety of missions numbering well over 200 operations.[5] These operations consisted of more than just combat operations and demolitions. There were many rescue missions which also included female divers recovering weapons and other military equipment from sunken cargo ships.[6] Other operations also included making minor repairs of ships that were afloat and clearing approaches to wharf facilities at the sites of fords across the Volga river.[6] There were also operations which involved recovering the dead that were present on sunken ships or in the Volga river.[7]

In 1953, according to directives of the Main Headquarters of the Naval Forces of the USSR, they started to establish completely secret Detached Naval Reconnaissance Points (OMRPs). In the beginning they were named Naval Reconnaissance Divisions of the Special Intelligence, purposed for high risk special operations.[8]

The mission of the Naval SPETSNAZ was to conduct what the Soviets call Special Reconnaissance (Spetsialnaya Razvedka). During the Cold War, each Soviet fleet would have a brigade of "naval assault pioneers" with a wartime strength of up to 1,300 men and capable of deploying about 100 teams. Naval special forces were organized into spetsnaz brigades consisting of five spetsnaz detachments (battalions), a signal company, support units, and a headquarters company containing highly skilled professional soldiers and frogmen responsible for carrying out reconnaissance, assassinations, kidnappings, rescue missions and contact with agents behind enemy lines. The organization of a naval special purpose brigade reflects its emphasis on sea infiltration, with up to three frogman battalions, one parachute battalion, and a minisubmarine battalion, as well as the signal company, headquarters company, and support elements.[9]

In 1967, the Anti-diversionary forces and means, or 'PDSS', began development in the Soviet Black Sea Fleet. PDSS is a complex of special measures developed by the Soviet Navy to counter possible attacks by frogmen. PDSS includes specially trained units (teams) of the Soviet Navy, frogman and anti-frogman training and special weapons and tactics. According to some historians, Soviet Naval Commanders decided to form PDSS after the Lionel Crabb incident.[2]

Post breakup of the USSR

Naval spetsnaz frogman

Most Soviet Naval spetsnaz units were transferred to the newly formed Russian Navy and subsequently downsized. At least one unit, the 17th Naval Special Purpose Brigade, was transferred to the Ukrainian Navy and was reorganized as the 1464th Marine Reconnaissance point. Shortly after, the 1464th MRP was again reorganized as the 7th Special Purpose Brigade of the Ukrainian Navy, after about two-thirds of the unit's personnel swore an oath to Ukraine. In 2003, the unit became the 73rd Naval Center of Special Operations.[10]

Russian naval spetsnaz, have been less visible in the wake of the USSR's dissolution. By the end of the 1990s there was only one full-strength naval spetsnaz brigade, at Ocharkov on the Black Sea. However, in 1998 the Russian Navy's commander in chief, Admiral Vladimir Kuroyedov, reaffirmed that naval special-operations units remain assigned to the Russian Baltic, Northern, Pacific, and Black Sea fleets. Although the admiral provided few specifics on the size and capabilities of the units, he did indicate that they were elite, that they were equipped with special weapons (including small submarines), and that they were comparable to U.S. Navy SEALS or the Israeli Navy's Shayetet 13 counterparts, stating that these units have no special name beyond their "combat swimmer" or "naval spetsnaz" designations.[9]

Units and structure

Naval Special Reconnaissance (OMRP)

The first Naval Special Reconnaissance unit, the 42nd OMRP is composed of reconnaissance divers that fall under operational subordination to the Main Intelligence Directorate (GRU). There are currently four OMRPs in Russia, one for each fleet: Northern Fleet, Baltic Fleet, Black Sea Fleet and Pacific Fleet with each consisting of approximately 120–200 personnel.[2]

Combat against Underwater Incursion Forces and Devices (PDSS)

PDSS are special purpose (spetsnaz) unit of the Russian Naval Infantry, trained to conduct land and sea operations behind enemy lines, and to conduct underwater combat, mining and clearance diving. These units include combat swimmers tasked to protect ships and other fleet assets from enemy frogmen and foreign special forces. The precise composition, activities and location of the unit are strictly classified.

Combat swimmers of the 313th PDSS conduct land operations.
Combat swimmer from the 311th PDSS in Kamchatka (2017).

Every PDSS unit has approximately 50–60 combat swimmers.[12]



Russian frogmen issued APS Underwater Assault Rifle
Russian frogmen issued SPP-1 Underwater Pistol

Russian frogmen use this equipment among others:

Known operations

World War II

Viktor Leonov helped lay the foundation of modern day naval operations for Soviet Union and Russia.

Soviet combat divers were quite successful during World War Two. They performed a variety of missions numbering well over 200 operations.[5] Some of the operations were:

Cold War

Russian Federation

Russian commando frogman from a special detachment for combating underwater sabotage forces and means (PDSS) of the Caspian flotilla during exercises


See also


  1. ^ a b staff (15 December 2016). "Подводный планшет для спецназа разработан в России [Underwater tablet for special forces developed in Russia]". Военно-промышленный курьер [Military-Industrial Courier]. Retrieved 23 June 2017.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j staff (29 January 2009). "Delfin". ShadowSpear: Russian Special Operations. Retrieved 23 June 2017.
  3. ^ "Водолазы особого назначения".
  4. ^ Leonov, Viktor (April 2011). Blood on the Shores. Ballantine Books. ISBN 978-0804107327.
  5. ^ a b c Borovikov p.35
  6. ^ a b Borovikov p.75
  7. ^ Borovikov p.77
  8. ^ "Dum spiro spero. The most secret Spetsnaz of the GRU: combat divers of the Special Intelligence of the Navy".
  9. ^ a b "Naval Spetsnaz [Spetsialnaya Razvedha]".
  10. ^ "". Retrieved Sep 3, 2022.
  11. ^ John Pike. "Naval Spetsnaz [Spetsialnaya Razvedka]". Retrieved 31 July 2015.
  12. ^ "Dum spiro spero. The most secret Spetsnaz of the GRU: combat divers of the Special Intelligence of the Navy".
  13. ^ Borovikov pp.76,77
  14. ^ Borovikov pp.30,33
  15. ^ Borovikov p.36
  16. ^ Borovikov pp.66,67,68
  17. ^ a b Borovikov p.68
  18. ^ Borovikov p.74
  19. ^ Borovikov p.48
  20. ^ Borovikov p.48,49,50
  21. ^ a b Borovikov p.32
  22. ^ a b Borovikov p.80
  23. ^ a b c d Borovikov p.81
  24. ^ Borovikov p.52-57
  25. ^ Borovikov pp.45,46,47
  26. ^ Borovikov pp.122-132
  27. ^ "Welcome to my website". Retrieved Sep 3, 2022.
  28. ^ a b "Billy's Bio".

Works consulted

frogmen entering water
early Russian frogman's breathing set
early Russian frogmen standing waist deep in water
early Russian frogman
early Russian frogman