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Monday, May 9th 2016, 4:24pm

Baltic States - Land Forces Review and Update

Executive Summary
As of the latest information, the Latvian Army is organized into four triangular infantry divisions, two of which are active and two of which are part of the reserve. However, the manpower assigned to these divisions is rather small (8,000 men), and reflects Latvia's lack of combat experience. Throughout 1947 and 1948, I intend to conduct an overhaul of the Latvian ground forces in terms of both structure and equippage.

As stated elsewhere, the last written information on the Latvian Army indicates that it is composed of two active and two reserve infantry divisions, each with three infantry regiments plus supporting arms. However, these infantry divisions have low manpower, with only 8,070 men in all ranks. Additionally, although an armored battalion is listed as existing, it's not shown as part of the order of battle.

With Russian assistance and input, the Latvian senior staff has determined to reconstruct the entire organizational structure in order to make better use of their existing manpower, which is set at a total of 21,000 men in Army's active-duty formations. (This equates to one active duty soldier for every one hundred Latvian citizens - relatively high, but reasonable.)

The divisional table of organization and equipment is completely reformatted in order to give the unit a higher degree of firepower and capability. Additionally, a new unit, the Mechanized Brigade, is set up. This unit incorporates a whole new set of elements into the Latvian Army's fighting capabilities, being a combined arms unit composed of infantry (mounted in wheeled carriers), light armour, self-propelled artillery, and mechanized engineers.

Finally, a battalion of rangers (Bataljona Mežzinis) is formed. This unit is an elite light infantry formation, trained for raiding and isolated operations behind enemy lines or in heavily-forested areas. Their level of equipment is mostly composed of small arms, with the largest being 60mm mortars.


Latvian Infantry Division, 1947
-- Division HQ
-- 3 rifle regiments (regimental HQ, 3x rifle battalions, 1x AT company, 1x towed heavy mortar company)
-- 1 divisional reconnaissance battalion (battalion HQ, 3x recon companies, 1x regimental train)
-- 1 artillery brigade (brigade HQ, 3x motorized artillery battalions, 1x motorized AA battalion)
-- 1 communication battalion
-- 1 logistics battalion (battalion HQ, 1x vehicle repair company, 2x motor transport companies)
-- 1 divisional medical group (group HQ, 2x casualty clearing sections, 2x infirmary groups, 1x field hospital)
Total: 13,065 men


Latvian Mechanized Brigade, 1947
-- Brigade HQ
-- 3 mechanized rifle battalions (battalion HQ, 3x mechanized rifle companies, 1x light tank company, 1x mortar platoon)
-- 1 medium tank company
-- 1 self-Propelled artillery battalion (battalion HQ, 3x SPG batteries, 1x supply battery, 1x SP AA gun battery)
-- 1 mechanized engineering company
-- 1 logistics battalion (battalion HQ, 1x vehicle repair company, 1x motor transport company)
-- 1 brigade medical group (group HQ, 2x casualty clearing sections, 2x infirmary groups, 1x field hospital)
Total: 4,146 men

Together, these two units make up the main combat power of the Latvian Army in the field.

In order to adjust to the new manpower requirements, one of the two active infantry divisions is disbanded, and the reserve forces are re-shuffled. Therefore, final Latvian Army organization looks like this:


Latvian Army, 1947
Active Formations
-- 1 rifle division
-- 1 mechanized rifle brigade
-- 1 light infantry battalion
-- 3 military police companies
-- 1 air defense battalion
-- 4 coast defense artillery companies [1]
-- 3 border guards battalions [2]

Zemessardze (ZS - Latvian National Guard)
-- 12 rifle battalions
-- 2 artillery battalions
-- 1 engineering battalion
-- 1 air defense battalion
-- 3 logistics battalions
-- Aizsargi [3]

-- Note [1]: Organizationally part of the Army, operationally part of the Navy.
-- Note [2]: Paramilitary force reporting to the Minister of the Interior
-- Note [3]: "Guards Organization" - a volunteer paramilitary force reporting to the commanding officer of the National Guard; it includes youth and women's branches. The Aizsargi is not factored into any manpower calculations.

-- Active Duty formations: 20,983 men
-- National Guard: 14,222 men
-- Aizsargi: N/A

The Latvian Army's small arms were well-defined prior to 1941, and will not be changed as of this writing; they continue to use bolt-action Mosin-Nagant rifles, Degtyaryov DP-27 machine guns, Suomi KP-31 SMGs, and Luger 9mm pistols.

The only part of the vehicle park which was defined were the tanks, with a set of thirty Atlantean AT-37/57 medium tanks purchased and delivered between the late 1930s and early 1940s. These tanks are now obsolescent due to their 57mm gun, and replacements must be found.

To fill out the rest of the vehicle park, I propose the following set of acquisitions occurred over the past six years.

Field Utility Car: Between 1942 and 1946, Latvia purchased quantities of the militarized Skoda Superb, similar to those being acquired by Yugoslavia. The Superb serves as the Latvian Army's jeep equivalent. Purchases completed in December of 1946. 1,451 vehicles required.

-- Light: 927 light trucks are required. In the mid to late 1930s and as late as 1941, moderate quantities of Opel 3200 light trucks, as well as surplus German Army Büssing-NAG G31 and Magirus M206s, were acquired from the secondhand market, although these vehicles now have high mileage and wear. Due to declining parts stocks, they require replacement. As of May 1947, the Latvian Army is looking at the Mercedes-Benz "Unimog" to replace all vehicles of this type.
-- Medium: 1,439 medium trucks (of the 2.5t cargo category) are required for the Army's use. Starting in 1943, Russian-built AMO-150 and AMO-151 trucks were ordered to replace a mix of obsolete Ford, Renault, and Steyr commercial cargo trucks then in use. Five hundred vehicles were delivered every year between 1943 and 1946. Due to a shortfall in modern light trucks, an extra two hundred AMO trucks were ordered for the Latvian Army in 1946, with deliveries to take place over the course of 1947. Other vehicles have also been purchased by the Latvian Navy and Latvian Air Force.
-- Heavy: 198 heavy trucks are required. Between 1943 and 1945, two hundred examples of the Skoda 6ST 4-ton 6x6 Cargo Truck were purchased for the Army's use.

Artillery and Tractors:
-- Eighty-four artillery tractors are required to tow the 122mm howitzers and 85mm AA guns assigned to the Infantry Division. Ninety-six Latil M7Z1 6x6 artillery tractors, extensively refurbished, were acquired secondhand from French stockpiles in 1943, with plans to replace them in the 1950 budget year.
-- Thirty-six M1938 122mm howitzers are acquired from Russia in order to equip the artillery group of the Latvian Rifle Division. These pieces are fully modern, with split trails, rubber tyres, and towing packages for motor transport. Twenty-four older Great War era howitzers, largely "war-capture" German leFH-16s, remain in service with the two National Guard artillery battalions. These older guns are planned for eventual replacement in 1951.
-- Forty-five lightly-used surplus Russian 76mm Divisional Guns M1942 are delivered (as defense assistance) in 1947 in order to supplement existing stocks of 76mm divisional gun M1936 (F-22); twenty-four of the latter will be retained for service with the National Guard. These guns are distributed to 'anti-tank' units, but despite this designation are expected to provide general artillery support whenever required.

Armoured Vehicles:
-- Light Tanks: Forty-four light tanks (thirty-six regular vehicles and eight in the command tank setup) are required for the light tank companies in the Mechanized Brigade. In May 1947, the Latvian Army will evaluate the Ardeltwerk Leichtepanzer and the AMX Char-6D2 Bruyere for purchase later in the year.
-- Medium Tanks: Fourteen medium tanks are required for the medium tank company in the Mechanized Brigade. The Latvian Army is primarily interested in the German Standarpanzer Panther.
-- Self-Propelled Howitzer: Twelve self-propelled howitzers are sought. The Latvian Army is interested in the AMX-105 AM, a 105mm howitzer on a Char-6 chassis.
-- Scout Vehicle: The Russian BTR-40 is currently planned for acquisition and use by reconnaissance and some mechanized formations. 156 are required in order to fully-equip all formations.
-- Engineering Vehicles: The Latvian Army will convert eighteen of their old Atlantean AT-36/57 medium tanks. Nine will be equipped as armoured engineering vehicles (with a dozer blade, trench-making equipment, and demolition gun), three as bridge carriers, and six as armoured recovery vehicles (with heavy-duty winches and a light crane). The twelve remaining AT-36 tanks will be stored (either for spare parts or for future projects).
-- Infantry Carrier: 153 vehicles are required to satisfy the needs of the Mechanized Brigade. Russian BTR-152 infantry carriers, which share a chassis and a large quantity of mechanical parts with the Latvian Army's AMO-150 trucks, will be purchased, with one hundred to be delivered in the last half of 1947 and another sixty-five to be delivered in the first half of 1948.


Monday, May 9th 2016, 4:53pm

This seems a reasonable force level and the equipment mix is interesting to say the least. Germany would favorably look on any equipment orders placed by Latvia.


Monday, May 9th 2016, 5:14pm

This seems a reasonable force level and the equipment mix is interesting to say the least.

I didn't want either Latvia or Lithuania to start looking like "Russia Junior" or "Germany Junior" - so I tried to go out and buy the most logical equipment for the situation. Latvia gets a little more Russian equipment (since their close ties with Russia are a matter of record), but they're still demonstrating independence in purchasing. :)