Deep Battle, my draft rules for Operational level wargaming, includes the “airborne” troop type. I have Fallschirmjäger but not Soviet paratroopers. So I thought I’d have a quick poke around and see what I can do. This post covers the Soviet Airborne Forces or VDV (Vozdushno-desantnye voyska SSSR) of World War 2, including their uniform, painting guide, and which figures to buy in 15mm.
Uniform and painting guide
Generally the Soviet paratroopers wore normal Soviet uniforms but there were some common deviations. My source is “An Illustrated Encyclopedia of Uniforms of World War II” (North, 2020).
Peaked Service Caps: Peaked services caps the original headgear and the paras retained them where they could as a visible distinction to other troops. These had dark blue crowns with light blue piping, light blue bands, and a black peak. Although the other ranks wear the side cap, the officer in the photo above wears the peaked service cap.
Side Caps: Where the peaked cap wasn’t available they wore the side cap. Initially these were dark blue with light blue piping. Later they wore khaki side caps, some of which had light blue piping.
Helmets: They were issued standard green infantry helmets but didn’t like wearing them because they viewed their blue Peaked Service Caps as a mark of prestige.
Leather flying helmets: A minority of paratroopers were issued leather flying helmets when flying in a plane. But these were abandoned for other headgear once they landed.
Camouflage: As elite troops some were issued camouflage suits. The two most common schemes were the MKK and the “leaf pattern” (Camopedia: USSR). The MKK was the first and longest lasting camouflage scheme; this had large reddish-brown amoeba shapes on a light green or khaki background. Mollo (1973) shows a one piece camouflage suit with black amoeba. The “leaf pattern” camouflage, officially letniy kamuflyazh (summer camouflage), had dark leaves & twigs on a grey/brown (Khaki) or green field. There were others but those were the most common.
Tunics: Khaki with light blue collar patches piped black or gold. Officers had light blue piping on tunic collars and cuffs. The 1943 shoulder boards were khaki with light blue piping.
Breeches: Khaki. Officers wore blue breeches with a light blue seam.
The Soviet paratroopers had the usual mix of weapons. In a battalion you would have found: pistols, rifles, sub-machine guns, anti-tank rifles, light machine guns, heavy machine guns, 50mm mortars, and 82mm mortars. Sub-machineguns were issued on about a 1:3 ratio to rifles.
Unusually, the March-April 1941 TO&E converted the 3rd platoon of each rifle company into an assault platoon. Each assault platoon had included 24 backpack flames throwers!
The TO&E was updated again in September 1941. The rifle platoons went back to being rifle platoons. The battalions gained a flame thrower platoon and pioneer platoon.
In October 1943 the rifles were deleted from the TO&E and were entirely replaced by PPSh sub-machine guns.
15mm Wargaming figures
You could just buy any Soviet infantry. But the ideal would be figures with Camouflage and the peaked service cap and/or side caps. Tricky but not impossible. I found three possible ranges in 15mm: Quality Castings, Peter Pig and Flames of War. You’ll need to decide if this is a rifle formation or post 1943 submachine gun formation and buy accordingly. I’m sure between these possibilities you can field Soviet airborne in 15mm.
Old Glory 15s – Quality Castings – Russians has their NKVD range. This has five packs. There are no photos but I know NKVD wore tunics, breeches, boots and a peaked service cap – which is a pretty good for paras. Being NKVD they won’t have camo.
NKVD AT RIFLES
NKVD INFANTRY ADVANCING
NKVD INFANTRY SKIRMISHING
NKVD MAXIM MGS
Peter Pig – WW2 – Russian offers scouts that can be used for paratroopers. The two piece camouflage suit works for paras. Also notice the “Political officers” with peaked caps. These would be great to mix in with other figures, just as normal paras, but showing pride in their distinctive uniform.
600. Scouts advancing SMGs
601. Scouts kneeling SMG
602. Scout officers pistol
603. Scouts NCO
604. Scouts grenades
605. Political officers (ie they have peaked hats)
606. Scouts LMGs
607. Scouts dead
608. Scouts rifles advancing
609. Scouts with SMG lying down
610. Scouts with LMG lying down
611. Scouts 50mm mortar
612. Scouts communications / Radio team and messenger
613. Scouts PTRD AT rifles.
Flames of War
Flames of War used to have Scouts in a one piece camo suit with side cap. Unfortunately, this is out of production.
SU707 Soviet Scout Platoon
Mollo, A. (1973). Army Uniforms of Since 1939. Book Club Associates.
North, J. (2020). An Illustrated Encyclopedia of Uniforms of World War II: An expert guide to the uniforms of Britain, America, Germany, USSR and Japan, together with other Axis and Allied forces. Lorenz Books