Nobody, but us
|“|| Sir, Russian paratroopers are dropping on our right flank to keep us from getting to the Flammpanzers.|
- Kowalski, Secret Weapons
The Desantniki (Russian: Десантники) are the Soviet airborne troops. Their ability to be dropped via air, makes them very good to be raiding enemy supply lines. However, as they lack any rocket launcher weapon, they can be taken out by light tanks. Even though they are cheap in comparison to other factions' airborne units, they are outclassed by the cheaper and more powerfull Gvardiyas.
"Desant", a French word, can refer to a whole lot of things in Russia. A beach landing is a desant, even a squad unloading from an APC is a desant. But the Desant refers to the Airborne.
The Soviets did not underestimate the importance of "death from above". A group of Red Army volunteers were air-dropped against a border incursion in Middle Asia in 1929. An experimental unit was created in 1931.
By 1941 the Vosdushno-Desantnye Voiska were counting in tens of thousands. Their tactics called for dropping behind enemy lines and causing havok and confusion. If possible, the heavy bombers that were used to carry them would land and deploy vehicular support in the form of T-27 tankettes.
German air superiority and AA, as well as the slow TB-3 bombers used to transport, allowed the VDV to make one big drop in the War, during the Dnepr offensive. Furthermore, they were humiliated by the fact that the newly formed Naval Infantry proved superior in tactical drops. That did not keep them from having 126 Hero of the Soviet Union recipients.
But they were not going anywhere, and only got better during the Cold War. They borrowed the striped tel'nyashka shirts from the Navy and maroon berets from the British Paras, only to be replaced by blue to keep with the uniform pattern of the Air Force. The VDV is probably still the largest airborne force on the planet, and has the same standing as the United States Marine Corps - and independent branch of service for the best conscripts, with tough espirit de corps and the motto "Noone but us!" (Никто кроме нас!). It also has an impressive array of air-deployed infantry fighting vehicles and light artillery. Quite notably, members of GRU SpetsNaz often pose as VDV, especially since the unit was officially "black" before the 80s - and because many of them were indeed handpicked from VDV.
The Airborne, like all of their collegues, are limited by their method of deployment. Still, they carry a mix of Strelki and Gvardiya equipment - Mosin rifles, PPS sub-machine guns, grenades and hand-held explosives.