Air University Review, November-December 1986

Education and Training
of Soviet Air Forces Officers

Dr. William F. Scott
Harriet Fast Scott

THE total number of Soviet officers, their pay scales, and the size of student bodies in military schools are considered military secrets. Even a sketchy career profile of an active-duty senior officer is seldom found in the Soviet press.

One unexpected fallout from the Chernobyl nuclear disaster was information about a Soviet Air Forces general, published in Krasnaya Zvezda (Red Star), the daily Ministry of Defense newspaper. "In the Hour of Trial"1 was the headline. Under the rubric "Military Character," a special military correspondent published his interview with General Major of Aviation (one-star rank) Nikolay Timofeyevich Antoshkin, chief of staff of Kiev Military District Air Forces.

The interview appeared six weeks after the 25 April explosion ripped off the roof of the building housing the Chernobyl nuclear plant. The Soviets, after not even mentioning the accident n the press until 30 April, slowly began to publish "success" stories. The first picture appeared in Krasnaya Zvezda only on 15 May, three weeks later. Antoshkin’s story was one of a flood of PR stories published to stem the "fallout that resulted from the initial Soviet attempt to cover up the real fallout from the radioactive cloud that spread over Europe.

BORN in 1942, Nikolay Timofeyevich Antoshkin was one of eight children. In the "Great Patriotic War," as the Soviets call that portion of World War II in which they participated, his father was severely wounded. Young Nikolay was commissioned as an Air Force officer upon graduation from the Orenburg Higher Military Aviation School for Pilots, named for I. S. Poibin. Of the thirteen Air Force schools for pilots, Orenburg is one of the best known. Yuriy Gagarin, the world's first man in space, was an alumnus. Antoshkin graduated near the top of his class.

Lieutenant Antoshkin’s first assignment as an officer was in the Belorussian Military District. As a new pilot, he was tested in both airplanes and helicopters. In 1969, at the age of twenty-seven, he was posted to the Far Eastern Military District. While stationed there, he applied to and subsequently passed the entrance examinations to attend the Gagarin Military Air Academy near Moscow. Three years later, he graduated with distinction.

His next assignment was to the Odessa Military District as a squadron commander. Two years later, he was assigned to the Turkestan Military District to command an air regiment. According to the Krasnaya Zvezda write-up, each unit Antoshkin commanded became "outstanding." His abilities were noticed and soon he was selected to attend the Military Academy of the General Staff. This selection was a sure indication that he was being considered for even higher advancement. Officers, generally colonels in rank, come from all the Soviet services—Strategic Rocket Forces, Ground Forces, Troops of Air Defense, Air Forces, and Navy. Each previously has completed the three-year academy of his particular branch or service. The length of this senior-level academy is a mere two years. Colonel Antoshkin again was an honor graduate.

In 1984, Antoshkin, age forty-two, was promoted to general. And suddenly, it was 26 April 1986. With his son Sergey, daughter Lena, and his wife, Nikolay Antoshkin was eating dinner when the phone rang. He was told to report immediately to the commanding general of the Kiev Military District. General Lieutenant of Aviation N. P. Kryukov, commander of the district’s aviation units, was already there. Antoshkin was ordered to go to Pripyat, near Chernobyl, and take charge of the helicopters that were to dump tons of sand directly on top of the burning reactor. The rest of the interview described this action. From 27 April to 2 May, 5000 tons of sand and other material were dropped "down the throat" of the smoldering reactors before the fire was contained.

This brief sketch of Antoshkin's career highlighted the minimum professional training and education requirements for an officer making general or admiral—first the four or five years at a "higher military school," three years at a service or branch academy, and another two years at the Military Academy of the General Staff. In addition to this professional education and training, an officer probably will attend one or more "courses," which could last for an entire year.

THE Soviet Union did not reach its military superpower status with military equipment and manpower alone. A highly trained professional group of officers was required to recommend the weapon systems needed and to help formulate the military doctrine and strategy that have placed Soviet military power and presence from Central America to the Indian Ocean. These officers were educated and trained in a professional military school system that is more than double that of any other nation.

Much is written in our press about the quantity and quality of Soviet weapons, and comparisons are made with those of our own. Some attention also is given to Soviet military organization and concepts and to numbers of military personnel. Less interest is paid to the Soviet officer corps.

Some indication of a nation’s scientific and technical capability can be determined by an examination of its educational establishment, in particular its universities. In like manner, an indication of the competence of an officer corps can be gained by examining the schools in which they obtain their professional education and training. The Soviet military school system that supports those officers is as important to the Soviet military buildup as are the MiG-29 Fulcrums and the SS-25s.

A Problem of Making Comparisons

The U.S. Air Force equates to far more than just the Soviet Air Forces. The Strategic Rocket Forces, part of the Troops of Air Defense, and portions of the troops of the Tyl (Rear Services), Building and Construction Troops, Chemical Defense Troops, Signal Troops, and Engineering Troops must also be considered. Any examination of the Soviet officer counterparts of the USAF officer must take these Soviet services and troops into account.

There are other differences. The Soviet Armed Forces are a cadre force in which a large number of professional officers—supported by a lesser number of warrant officers and extended-duty sergeants—prepare the manpower of the nation for military duties through compulsory military service. Every six months between 800,000 to 900,000 eighteen-year-old youths report for military service and two years later (or three years later, if sailors) are "discharged into the reserves," each receiving a new uniform as he returns to his home. They will remain in the reserves, subject to call-up at any time, until they reach age fifty. Approximately three-quarters of a million officers are required to train and command this constantly changing military force.

To provide the initial inputs into this massive officer cadre, the Soviet Union has approximately 135 "higher military schools," which serve the same purpose as the three U.S. academies at West Point, Colorado Springs, and Annapolis. Graduates are commissioned as officers and at the same time receive a "higher education" degree.

For additional professional education and training of officers, there are seventeen military academies. These stand somewhere between our command and staff colleges and war colleges, insofar as rank of students is concerned. A major difference is that the course length of these academies is three years, with but few exceptions. At Zhukovskiy Military Air Engineering Academy, the course length is five years. At Vorshilov General Staff Academy, the course is two years, but there is one catch. Before being accepted at this academy, the officer first must have completed one of the three-year academies. The course of study at the nearest U.S. counterpart schools is one academic year.

In addition to these seventeen academies, there are numerous other training facilities for officers. At some, the course length is twelve months.

Soviet Youth and Military Training

A nation's officers are products of the social order. In a nation where military might is not a major issue, the armed forces receive little attention. This is not the case in the Soviet Union. There are few days when Soviet television does not show scenes from the Great Patriotic War. From early childhood, Soviet youth are taught the glories of the Soviet Armed Forces. As Pioneers, the nationwide organization of youth ages eight to fifteen, both boys and girls receive rudimentary military training. In the summer, between twelve and sixteen million Soviet Pioneers participate in Zarnitsa, their major military-sport game.2 Part of the game requires wearing gas masks while crossing "contaminated" areas. The Komsomol (Young Communist League) sponsors another game, Orlenok, for boys and girls ages fifteen to seventeen.3 This is a more advanced exercise, which features small-arms firing and civil defense work. Four to eight million youth participate in this game each year.

From ages fifteen to seventeen, young people are required to take 140 hours of "beginning military training," which covers basically the same areas that a U.S. recruit receives in the first few weeks after induction. Males also are supposed to attend two periods of summer camp. At age seventeen, males are given an additional year of "specialist" training by DOSAAF. Sometimes this is as simple as driver's education but may go as far as soloing in a trainer aircraft. While this training is spotty, all male youth have received some military training by the time they reach eighteen years of age.

Komsomol organizations and other groups in the Soviet Union are charged with identifying youth who show an aptitude for military service and encouraging them to seek entry into one of the Soviet military or higher military schools, roughly the counterparts of the U.S. military academies.

The Higher Military Schools

The higher military schools accept civilians and servicemen between ages seventeen and twenty, extended duty servicemen to age twenty-three and warrant officers to age twenty-five.4 Certain of the higher military engineering schools accept officers for special courses. Civilian applicants for these schools must have completed their secondary (eleven-year) education. Entrance is by competitive examination, with a few exceptions.

Applicants are permitted to take the examination only for one specific school. Authorities would like to have a minimum of two servicemen, or four civilians, compete for each vacancy. For youth on active military duty, troop cadre agencies select candidates to take the examination. For civilian youth, the local military commissariat makes the initial selection, with a selection committee making the final choice.

Special preparatory training is recommended for those taking the entrance examinations. For those on active military duty, special classes of study are held at officers' clubs (dom ofitserov). This facility also is open to civilian youth in the vicinity. For those living near a higher military school, special two-year "patriotic courses" are conducted to assist those preparing to take the examinations. The Orenburg School, for example, ran a "Young Cosmonauts" program for boys to persuade them to become officers.

Officers in the U.S. Air Force come from a variety of sources: the Air Force Academy, ROTC, OTS, and flying schools. The Soviet officer counterparts come primarily from the Soviet higher military school system. Full identification of the schools may give a better appreciation of the scale of officer education and training than merely listing the number of schools in the various categories. Soviet approximate equivalents of the U.S. Air Force Academy are Strategic Rocket Forces, Soviet Air Forces, and Troops of Air Defense. Strategic Rocket Forces has four higher military schools. (See Table I.) In the U.S. Air Force, those Air Force Academy graduates who elect to become pilots may attend one of the six Air Force flying schools. In the Soviet Union, thirteen flying training schools (listed in Table II) under the administrative control of the Air Forces provide pilots for both the Air Forces, Navy, and possibly for a few pilots for the Troops of Air Defense as well. Course length at these schools is four years. Soviet navigators are training in two schools. (See Table III.) The Air Forces have seven higher military aviation-engineer schools, all with five-year courses. (See Table IV.) There is an Air Forces signals school. (See Table V.) There are seven Air Forces military technical schools, which are only three years in length. (See Table VI.) Graduates are commissioned as aviation-technical officers and are awarded a diploma, not a degree.

Prior to 1981, the Troops of Air Defense had three flying training schools. Two of these were transferred to the Air Forces. The one remaining flying school for PVO is Stavropol' Higher Military Aviation School for Pilots and Navigators (named for Marshal of Aviation V. A. Sudets).

Radioelectronic schools of the Troops of Air Defense (listed in Table VII) have six higher military schools for "Zenith Rockets" (ground-to-air missiles), plus another five schools which were transferred from troops air defense of the Ground Forces in 1981. The Cherepovets Higher Military Engineering School for Radioelectronics and Kiev Higher Engineering Radiotechnical School of Air Defense have five-year courses.

Table I. Strategic Rocket Forces

Kar'kov Higher Military Command and Engineering
School of the Rocket Troops
--Named for Marshal of the Soviet Union N.I. Krylov
Perm' Higher Military Command and Engineering
School of the Rocket Troops

--Named for Marshal of the Soviet Union V.I. Chuykov

Rostov Higher Military Command and Engineering
School of the Rocket Troops
--Named for Chief Marshal of the Artillery M.I. Nedelin
Serpukhov Higher Military Command and Engineering
School of the Rocket Troops

--Named for Lenin's Komsomol

Table II. Soviet Air Forces

Armavir Higher Military Aviaton School for Pilots
--Named for Chief Marshal of Aviation P. S. Kutakhov
Balashov Higher Military Aviation School for Pilots

--Named for Chief Marshal of Aviation A. A. Novikov

Barnaul Higher Military Aviation School for Pilots

--Named for Chief Marshal of Aviation K. A. Vershinin

Borisoglebsk Higher Military Aviation School for Pilots

--Named for V. P. Chkalov

Chernigov Higher Military Aviation School for Pilots

--Named for Lenin's Komsomol

Kacha Higher Military Aviation School for Pilots

--Named for A. E. Myasnikov

Khar'kov Higher Military Aviation Schools for Pilots

--Named for S. I. Gritsevets

Orenburg Higher Military Aviation School for Pilots

--Named for I. S. Polbin

Saratov Higher Military Aviation School for Pilots
Syzran' Higher Military Aviation School for Pilots

--Named for Sixtieth Anniversary of the U.S.S.R.

Tambov Higher Military Aviation School for Pilots

--Named for M.M. Raskova

Yeysk Higher Military Aviation School for Pilots

--Named for Cosmonaut V. M. Komarov

Ufa Higher Military Aviation School for Pilots

Table III. Soviet Higher Military
Schools for Navigators

Chelyabinsk Higher Military Aviation School for Navigators

--Named for the Fiftieth Jubilee of the Komsomol

Voroshilovgrad Higher Military Aviation School for Navigators

Table IV. Soviet Air Forces Higher
Military Aviation-Engineer Schools

Daugavpils Higher Military Aviation Engineering School

--Named for Yan Fabritsius

Irkutsk Higher Military Aviation Engineering School

--Named for the Fiftieth Jubilee of the Komsomol

Kiev Higher Military Aviation Engineering Schoool
Khar'kov Higher Military Aviation Engineering School
Riga Higher Military Aviation Engineering School

--Named for Ya. Alksnis

Tambov Higher Military Aviation Engineering School

--Named for F. E. Dzerzhinskiy

Voronezh Higher Military Aviation Engineering School

Table V. Soviet Air Forces Signals School

Khar'kov Higher Military Aviaiton School of Radio-electronics

--Named for Lenin's Komsomol

Table VI. Soviet Air Forces
Military Technical Schools

Achinski Military Aviator-Technical School

--Named for the Sixtieth Anniversary of the Komsomol

Kaliningrad Military Aviation-Technical School
Kirov Military Aviation-Technical School
Perm' Military Aviation-Technical School

--Named for Lenin's Komsomol

Vasil'kov Military Aviation-Technical School

--Named for the Fiftieth Jubilee of Lenin's Komsomol

Lomonosov Military Aviation-Technical School

Table VII. Soviet Higher Military Schools
(Troops of Air Defense)

Krasnoyarsk Higher Command School of Radio-
electronices for Air Defense
Vil'nius Higher Command School of Radio-
electronics for Air Defense
Pushkin Higher School of Radioelectronics for Air Defense
Zhitomir Higher School of Radioelectronics for Air Defense
--Named for Lenin's Komsomol
Cherepovets Higher Military Engineering School of Radio-
Kiev Higher Engineering Radiotechincal School of Air Defense

--Named for Marshal of Aviation A. I. Pokryshkin

The Military Academies

In order to attain the rank of colonel or higher, a Soviet officer must first attend the appropriate service or branch academy. (Those officers who are to make general or marshal must attend the Academy of the General Staff.) Since entrance to these academies is primarily by competitive examination, the officer should begin studying for the examinations after only three to four years’ service. Senior officers recommend that the prospective student put in more than 2000 hours of preparatory work, which would be in addition to normal duties!

Officers graduating from a higher military school with a gold medal may be admitted to an academy by passing only one examination with a "good" mark. Commanders of units that have been given "good" or "excellent" ratings may be selected by merely passing the entrance examination. These modifications to the competitive examination process give a selection board considerable leeway.

Examinations are both written and oral, but all are in the Russian language. This makes it more difficult for an officer from a non-Slavic group, whose native language is not Russian, to gain admittance. At the Gagarin Military Air Academy, written entry examinations are required for Russian language and literature, with oral tests for mathematics and physics.5

Three tries for the entrance examinations are permitted. Reserve officers who have volunteered to become regular officers or who have had two or three years of active duty have the same rights as regular officers to take the examination.

As USAF officers may receive credit for certain schools by correspondence, Soviet officers may do the same for a military academy (except the Academy of the General Staff). Once permission is given to take the correspondence course, the officer must be freed of after-hour duties in order to study. He is also authorized time off from regular duties to prepare for and to take the required examination.

It is expected that an officer seeking admission to an academy will be either a member or a candidate member of the Communist Party. A part of a Soviet officer's effectiveness report is made by the unit's political officer. Due attention to party affairs is one of the points noted. There are many assignments throughout the Soviet Armed Forces that can only be filled by academy graduates. It is unlikely that an individual without party credentials would be permitted to assume these nomenklatura positions, that is, positions on a special list, subject to party approval.

The academy attended will depend on the officer's branch and service. The approximate Soviet counterparts of the United States' Air War College and other courses of the Air University are the following.

The Gagarin Military Air Academy is located at Monino, northeast of Moscow, in an area closed to foreigners. Almost all the senior officers in the Soviet Air Forces will have attended this academy. It is charged with the preparation of " command cadres of various aviation specialties and is a scientific center for working out problems of operational art of the Air Forces and tactics of branches and types of aviation."6 Part of the course involves developing new techniques in the operational use of the aircraft.

The Gagarin Military Air Academy boasts that more than 70 percent of academy graduates are distinguished pilots of the U.S.S.R. and distinguished navigators of the U.S.S.R. This academy has played a major role in the development of the Soviet Air Forces. In the 1960s, when the "third generation"7 of Soviet aircraft first appeared, the academy was directed to study how the new equipment could best be utilized. Basic air tactics, combined with the theories of combat effectiveness and decisionmaking, were made a separate discipline. Specialized studies were made of tactics for each type of aircraft. In addition to providing the basic three-year course for Soviet officers, the academy also offers courses to prepare the teaching staffs of the various higher military aviation schools. Faculty members also write many of the textbooks used throughout the Soviet Air Forces.8

Much attention is given to correspondence courses. This program is exactly the same as for full-time students. One-third of the study time must be spent at the academy at special sessions while the other two-thirds is done independently wherever the officers are serving.9 This means that even for officers taking the course by correspondence, at least one year must be spent at the academy. Soviet officers insist that, for career and promotion purposes, completing the academy by correspondence counts as much as being a full-time student. The present head of the Soviet Air Forces, Marshal of Aviation A. N. Yefimov, completed the course in this manner.

On the instructional staff of the Gagarin Military Air Academy are 13 doctors of science, 233 candidates of science (a degree somewhat higher than the master's degree in the United States), 10 professors, and 170 associate professors and senior researchers. (The total would only be about 250 since most professors are doctors of science and most associate professors are candidates of science). Its library has more than 500,000 books. The academy is qualified to award both the advanced degree of candidate of sciences and doctor of sciences.10 (This degree has no exact equivalent in the United States. Individuals receiving it are required to be a recognized authority in their field and to have defended a dissertation.)

The academy is a leading scientific center of the Soviet Air Forces.

Not a single problem, not a single complex theme connected with the combat use of aviation is decided without the active participation of the scientific strength of the academy. In most cases, it acts as the leading performer of complex research in the sphere of tactics and operational art of the Air Forces.11

Research tasks are assigned by the Minister of Defense, the General Staff, the CINC Air Forces, or the Main Staff of the Air Forces. Joint research is conducted with the Zhukovskiy Military Air Engineering Academy, the Voroshilov Military Academy of the General Staff, the Zhukov Air Defense Academy, the Frunze Military Academy, the Malinovskiy Tank Academy, and similar bodies. Between 1975 and 1980, "the Gagarin Academy participated in more than fifty scientific conferences and about sixty exercises."12

During the summer months, both faculty members and students go to the field to participate in maneuvers and exercises. Rated personnel are assigned on temporary duty to flying units or flying schools.

The present head of the academy, Marshal of Aviation N. M. Skomorokhov, graduated from the Academy of the General Staff with a gold medal, earned the degree of doctor of military science, was an ace in World War II (forty-six kills), and was twice awarded the gold star of "Hero of the Soviet Union."

More information is available on the Gagarin Military Air Academy than on the other approximate equivalents of Air University components. It is reasonable to assume that many of the conditions at the other academies, such as award of advance degrees, are the same.

The Zhukovskiy Military Air Engineering Academy is located in Moscow, on Leningrad Prospekt immediately across from Central Airfield. Course length is five years. In addition to being an institution of higher learning, it also is a scientific center for working out problems in the areas of aviation technology, its technical exploitation, and combat utilization.

The Zhukov Military Command Academy of Air Defense is located on the banks of the Volga River in Kalinin, a city between Moscow and Leningrad. In addition to its educational and training tasks, this academy is a research center for studying problems of operational art and tactics, as well as command, communications, and control (C3) on air defense matters.

The Govorov Military Engineering-Radiotechnical Academy of Air Defense is located in Khar'kov. As any tourist to the Soviet Union can note, the nation appears blanketed with radars and communications facilities. This academy prepares officers of the Troops of Air Defense in these two areas. Faculty members engage in research, and their technical publications are known throughout the Soviet Union.

The Dzerzhinskiy Rocket Forces Academy is located next to the Rossiya Hotel on the embankment near the Kremlin. Formerly the Artillery Academy of the Red Army, it was moved from Leningrad to Moscow in 1958, the year before the Strategic Rocket Forces were formed. Officers in command positions in the Strategic Rocket Forces would seek admission to this academy. All information about this academy is highly classified. Its two major faculties are "command" and "engineering."

A rigorous schedule is maintained at all the academies. Classes start at 0800 and continue until 1400. A two-hour lunchtime follows, but there is little time for relaxation or study. Officers eat in a cafeteria where they stand in long lines. At 1600 students return to classrooms. Lecture notes must be entered into notebooks, and practically all material is considered classified. At 2000 they leave classrooms. During the summer months they, together with their instructors, take part in field exercises and maneuvers.

All of the academies at this level are three years, except for the Zhukovskiy Military Air Engineering Academy, which is five years. Many officers enter in the grade of captain and are majors when they graduate.

After completing the academy, officers later may attend the "Higher Courses for Air Forces Officers" or the "Central Radiotechnical Officers' Courses of Troops of Air Defense." These courses are usually for one year. There probably are classified higher courses for officers in the Strategic Rocket Forces.

The Voroshilov Academy of the General Staff is located in Moscow, on Khol'zunova Pereulok, Dom 14, not far from the Frunze Military Academy. The "best and the brightest" officers of all the Soviet Armed Forces are selected to attend this senior and most prestigious of all the Soviet academies. Most are colonels or newly promoted generals. Officers selected for this academy first will have attended the appropriate service or branch academy. Graduates who are not already generals or admirals usually are promoted to this rank a short time after completing the course. Length of the academy is only two years, in contrast to the three years for the branch and service academies.

Three of the primary kafedras (departments) are the kafedra of strategy, kafedra of operational art, and kafedra of history of wars and military art.13 All three are headed by general lieutenants. Faculty members may be of one-star rank. Before admittance to this academy, it is expected that the students will have a sound basis of military history, to include the writings of strategists such as Clausewitz and Suvorov. Students receive operational-strategic training by studying strategic actions in theaters of military actions (TVDs), not just in theory (about one-sixth of the time is given to lectures) but also through war games and exercises on maps to which is given more than one-third of their time. Nearly half their time remains for independent work.

The armed forces of "capitalist" nations receive considerable attention. At least one general officer lectures on this subject. Graduates go into nomenklatura slots that can be filled only by those who have completed the Voroshilov Academy. Generals and admirals may return to the academy for refresher courses, some of which last one year.

The Soviet military academies are much more than institutions of higher learning. They also are the Soviet military think tanks and research centers. They do the type of research and studies for the Ministry of Defense that the Pentagon would contract out to research institutes such as Rand, the Hudson Institute, or one of the dozens of other groups.

The importance of the academies can be seen by the rank and prestige of their personnel. By Soviet law, heads of the academies are of the same rank as commanders of military districts. Their promotions appear just as frequent. The most important academies are headed by marshals, admirals of the fleet, or four-star "generals of the army." Regulations stipulate that department heads at the military academies are equivalent to division commanders, and they are promoted to the appropriate rank.

More than seventy generals, admirals, and marshals have been identified as serving at the Academy of the General Staff at one time, which comes directly under the General Staff. More than thirty generals have been on the faculty of the Frunze Military Academy. Numbers of generals and marshals at the Gagarin Air Academy are unknown, but in all probability they are in excess of what might be expected.

Soviet strategists may serve for years at one academy. For example, many of the contributors to Marshal V. D. Sokolovskiy's Military Strategy were on the General Staff or the faculty of the Academy of the General Staff. The first edition of this work appeared in 1962 and the third in1968.14The contributors listed were the same, except for one who had died. In 1966, the Tactics, written by faculty members of the Frunze Military Academy, appeared as one of the "Officers' Library" series of books. A second edition of this same work appeared in 1984, eighteen years later, also in another "Officers' Library" series, written by the same authors, all of whom were still at Frunze.

General David Jones, former Chief of Staff, USAF, and later Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, stated that "if Clausewitz were alive today and living in the United States, he would have retired as a colonel and then would have gone to work in a think tank.15 The system is very different in the Soviet Armed Forces. In the Soviet Union, a Clausewitz would be a general or marshal, serving either in the General Staff or as department head in one of the academies.

Practically all of the significant Soviet books and articles on military matters are written by members of the Military Science Administration of the General Staff or by faculty members of the military academies.

Soviet Academies
and the Military Role of Space

A photograph in the Soviet book, Voyenno-Vozdushnaya Akademiya imeni Yu. A. Gagarina (the Military Air Academy named for Yu. A. Gagarin) demonstrated an interesting relationship. In the front row were Marshal of Aviation I. N. Koshedub (a leading World War II ace); Marshal of Aviation A. N. Yefimov, at that time deputy CINC Air Forces; Colonel V. V. Tereshkova, first female cosmonaut; and Chief Marshal of Aviation of the Soviet Air Forces P. S. Kutakhov, CINC Air Forces, now deceased. In the rear row were General Lieutenant of Aviation G. T. Beregovoy, cosmonaut and chief of the Gagarin Center for Cosmonaut Training; Marshal of Aviation N. M. Skomorokhov, Commandant, Gagarin Military Air Academy; and cosmonaut General Lieutenant of Aviation V. A. Shatalov, Director of Training of Soviet Cosmonauts.16

The connection of the chiefs of the Soviet cosmonaut program to the Gagarin Military Air Academy and the CINC, Soviet Air Forces, should warrant serious study in the United States.

At least fifteen of the Soviet cosmonauts have completed the Gagarin Military Air Academy.17 Some have completed the course by correspondence, but even this method required at least one year "in-house" attendance. Military strategists and tacticians, both faculty and students, can work with the cosmonauts studying the role of man in military spacecraft.

Another thirteen cosmonauts have attended the five-year Zhukovskiy Military Air Engineering Academy. The cosmonauts taking this course could be expected to work with scientists and engineers for the "military utilization" of manned spacecraft as well.

Lieutenant General Richard C. Henry, a previous commander of the USAF Space Division, once stated that the best way to discover the military application of man in space is to place a manned space station in orbit. The Soviets have been doing precisely that for well over a decade, keeping men in orbit for months at a time. General Henry might have added that follow-on steps also would be necessary. The experience gained in manned space flight would need to be related to military requirements. Cosmonauts attending the three-year Gagarin Air Academy or the five-year Zhukovskiy Military Air Engineering Academy are placed in the ideal Soviet environment to do just that.

The Kremlin leadership attempts to convince foreigners that their space program is "for peaceful purposes only," directed by the Academy of Sciences. Facts tell a different story. Approximately 80 percent of Soviet space launches have been for military needs. Details of this program are among the Kremlin's most closely guarded secrets. All evidence suggests that the military academies are playing their traditional role in "working out problems of operational art and tactics" for the military use of space. At the Academy of the General Staff, it should be expected that they also have studied the role of space in military strategy.

Soviet cosmonauts are an integral part of the Air Forces. All remain on active duty. Three are general lieutenants of aviation (two stars), seven are general majors of aviation (one star), and at least twenty-two are colonels. They are on a fast promotion track.

Much of the use of unmanned space vehicles in a defense role may be worked out in two of the military academies of the Troops of Air Defense. The Zhukov Military Command Academy of Air Defense is charged with "working out recommendations for building a modern air defense." This includes antimissile and antispace defense. As a previous commandant of this academy, Marshal of Aviation Georgiy V. Zimin, doctor of military science, noted in 1976:

Now victory or defeat in war will depend on how well the state will be able to reliably protect important objectives on their own territory from destruction by strikes from the air and from out of space.18

The Govorov Military Engineering Radiotechnical Academy is a major think tank for determining types and locations of radars and related means of identifying and tracking both missiles and spacecraft. Close ties are maintained between the academy's faculty and the Academy of Sciences.

Self-Study Requirements

The Soviets do not have the up-or-out system for officers. A captain, for example, may remain in that grade until age forty. But those who do get to the top are expected to have a sound understanding of military fundamentals, from military strategy to tactics. Much of this is learned in the classroom. At the same time, the officer will not likely reach the classroom unless he has taken advantage of the available professional military journals and books.

In the 1960s an "Officers' Library" series was produced by Voyenizdat, the Ministry of Defense Publishing House. Its purpose was for the "self-study" of officers. Books in the series, based on Marxist-Leninist philosophy, were not objective in any sense. Nevertheless, as military textbooks for explaining a concept of war, they were unmatched by anything written by active-duty military officers in the United States. Another "Officers' Library" series was introduced in 1980.

Officers are expected to read the professional journals of their particular service. For the Air Forces, this is Aviatsiya i Kosmonavtika (Aviation and Cosmonautics); for the Troops of Air Defense Vestnik Protivovozdushnoi Oborony (Herald of Air Defense). Voyenno-Istoricheskii Zhurnal (Military History Journal) is read throughout the Soviet Armed Forces and is perhaps the best written of the military publications. Voyennaya Mysl' (Military Thought) is the restricted journal of the Soviet General Staff.

In certain cases, active debates and differences of opinion are permitted in Soviet military journals, and at times may be encouraged. For example, in the 1960s, Voyennaya Mysl' carried an article by a general officer on the tactical use of nuclear weapons. A number of readers disagreed with his conclusions and their views were published. One of those dissenting was a colonel. Voyenniy Vesinik (Military Herald), the Soviet Ground Forces' journal, at times calls for different points of view and debates on specified themes. However, it should be recognized that no open debates or differences of opinion are permitted on matters such as military doctrine, which is determined by the party leadership, or on military strategy, which is common to all of the Soviet services.

The Unknown Equation

In the United States, the focus is on weapon systems. In comparison to the leadership of the Soviet Armed Forces, the Pentagon pays little attention to the professional military education and training of its officers. Emphasis at our military academies is on science and engineering. Only lip service is given to teaching military history, strategy, operational art, and related military subjects. For further academic training, officers are sent to civilian universities to study subjects ranging from business management to nuclear physics. When national security issues are studied, the professors are most likely to be individuals whose knowledge of war is purely theoretical.

Even if the study of war were the primary subject taught at the Air War College and the Air Command and Staff College, only a bare start could be made. One year simply is insufficient for the topics that need to be covered. At present, military subjects must compete with a variety of other courses, from personal finances to community relations.

On occasion, efforts are made to make the U.S. war colleges as centers of military thought and to develop new military concepts. Some progress has been achieved. The Army Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, now is experimenting with a two-year course. In general, however, within the U.S. Armed Forces, serious top-level support is lacking for increased professional military education of officers or for use of the war colleges as military intellectual centers.

Should studies be needed on matters of military strategy or operational art, the civilian hierarchy in the Pentagon would most likely go to a "think tank" or perhaps to some civilian considered by them to be a military strategist. As General Jones implied, there is little requirement within the U.S. military services for an officer interested in military concepts such as strategy.

Ironically, the individuals in the United States today most qualified and concerned with military strategy may be such persons as Senators John Warner and Sam Nunn, key staff members on committees such as the Armed Forces Committee, and members of groups such as the Committee on the Present Danger.

In the 1930s, much of the "thinking" in the Army Air Corps was done at the Air Tactical School at Maxwell Field, Alabama. There was some effort in the postwar period to revive this practice. Instead, however, civilian institutes were established to chart the future development of the Air Force, to include matters of strategy and force development. Alumni of the "think tanks" now occupy many of the military decisionmaking positions in the Pentagon and throughout the U.S. government.

In the Soviet Armed Forces, the purely military "thinking" is done by military personnel. Their professional military education has not made all their officers military geniuses. But Soviet colonels will have received a minimum of three years in a branch or service academy and Soviet generals and senior colonels another two years at the Academy of the General Staff. This education, with its emphasis on Marxism-Leninism, may leave much to be desired. However, it is this leadership that now controls the world's largest military force. To judge their concepts and understanding of war, one need only read books such as Marshal Sokolovskiy's Military Strategy, General Colonel Reznichenko's Tactics, or some of the declassified editions of Military Thought, the official journal of the Soviet General Staff.

In an effort to prevent the Soviet Union from achieving a position of military superiority, within the past few years the United States has spent hundreds of billions of dollars on new weapon systems. While these systems are necessary, a primary aspect of the danger is being overlooked. The Soviet Union not only is building up its weapon stockpiles, it also is paying increased attention to the professional education and training of its officer corps. Courses are being lengthened, and the study of war continues to be emphasized. The United States has not given equivalent attention to its military leadership.

These differences in professional education between U.S. officers and their Soviet counterparts should be of concern. In the final analysis, this could be the determining factor in the military balance between the two nations.

McLean, Virginia


1. "In the Hour of Trial," Krasnaya Zvezda, 7 June 1986, p. 3.

2. Krasnaya Zvezda, 24 June 1983. Also see Sovetskaya Voyennaya Entsiklopediya (Soviet Military Encyclopedia), vol. 3 (Moscow: Voyenizdat, 1977), p. 409.

3. Ibid., vol. 6, 1978, p. 115. Also see, L. Pesterev, "It Is Not a Vacation in ‘Orlenok’," Voyennyye Znaniya #4, April 1975.

4. I.A. Kamkov and V.M. Konoplyanik, Voyennyye Akademii i Uchilishcha (Military Academies and Schools) (Moscow: Voyenizdat, 1972), p. 46.

5. A.G. Gornyy, editor, Spravochnik po Zakonodatel’stvu Dlya Ofitserov Sovetskoy Armii i Flota (Handbook on Legislation for Officers of the Soviet Army and Navy) (Moscow: Voyenizdat, 1976), p. 205.

6. N.M. Skomorokhov, "The Military Air Academy Named for Yu. A. Gagarin," Sovetskaya Voyennaya Entsiklopediya, vol. 2, p. 199. Emphasis added.

7. N.M. Skomorokhov, Voyenno-Vozdushnaya Akademiya imeni Yu. A. Gagarina (The Military Air Academy named for Yu. A. Gagarin) (Moscow: Voyenizdat, 1984), p. 161.

8. Ibid., p. 170.

9. Ibid., p. 173.

10. Ibid., p. 178.

11. Ibid., p. 176.

12. Ibid., p. 177.

13. Compiled from V.G. Kulikov, editor, Akademiya General’-nogo Shtaba (Academy of the General Staff) (Moscow: Voyenizdat, 1976).

14. See V.D. Sokolovskiy, editor, Soviet Military Strategy, third edition, with commentary by Harriet Fast Scott (New York: Crane, Russak and Company, 1975), pp. xxiv-vii.

15. Told by General David Jones during a reception hosted by Air Force magazine on 2 March 1982.

16. N.M. Skomorokhov, p. 128. (Note: Pages containing photographs are not numbered. The photograph referenced is on the page following p. 128.

17. Compiled from Aviatsiya i Kosmonavtika (Aviation and Cosmonautics), March 1985, pp. 42-43, Voyenno-Vozdushnaya Akademiya imeni Yu. A. Gagarina and other files.

18. G.V. Zimin, Razvitiye Protivovozdushnoy Oborony (Development of Antiair Defense) (Moscow: Voyenizdat, 1976). p. 191).


William F. Scott (USMA; M.A., Georgetown University; PhD., George Washington University) is a consultant to the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency and to a number of research institutions. Before his retirement in 1972 from the U.S. Air Force, he served in a variety of flying and staff assignments. Dr Scott spent four years in the U.S.S. R. as a senior air attaché and air and defense attaché.

. . . Harriet Fast Scott is a member of the General Advisory Committee on Arms Control and Disarmament and a consultant on Soviet military affairs to several major research organizations. The Scotts are joint authors of The Armed Forces of the USSR (1984), The Soviet Control Structure (1983), and The Soviet Art of War (1982). They maintain one of the largest private libraries in the United States of Soviet military writings.


The conclusions and opinions expressed in this document are those of the author cultivated in the freedom of expression, academic environment of Air University. They do not reflect the official position of the U.S. Government, Department of Defense, the United States Air Force or the Air University.

Home Page | Feedback? Email the Editor