The Soviet Spetsnaz is usually presented as a legendary unit. It would only make sense, if such guys were to wear some very special and cool uniforms. But, reality is often disappointing. Apart from having some special pieces of equipment, soviet Spetsnaz would, in most cases, be wearing almost exact the same uniform as everyone else in the Soviet Army. Let's dig into the reasons for such an untypical situation.
Parade uniform of the Soviet Spetsnaz GRU
Soviet Spetsnaz never had its own badges, patches, emblems or even uniform regulations. The idea was to blend in with the rest of the military men who were around them. So, in theory, they would be wearing all the uniforms of the nearest regiment.
In practice, this was not practiced too often. There is a notable exception of the East German garrison - GSVG, where the Spetsnaz wore signals insignia. The rest of the Spetsnaz units were dressed in Airborne uniform, which very quickly became the standard for them.
So in terms of the parade uniform, both Soviet Spetsnaz soldiers and officers were virtually indistinguishable from their colleagues from the VDV. When you look at the photos, the only easy way to find the difference between the two is to look for the Guards badge. The thing is, that while the absolute majority of the actual Airborne units were, in fact, Guards, the Spetsnaz units were not.
Apart from that, there were no other noticeable differences between the two. They wore the same half wool office like M69 parade suits, caps, shirts and boots. With exactly the same insignia. If you want to know more about the Airborne uniform, particularly in Afghanistan, check out our book about this.
Everyday uniform of the Soviet Spetsnaz GRU
In terms of everyday uniform, the situation was not all that different as with the parade uniform. As many of you know, Soviet Airborne troops had unique touch to the regular M69 uniform. They had open collar jackets and stripped shirt which was visible through the open collar. They also wore blue berets instead of pilot caps, well, at least for show off.
So, following this same logic, members of Soviet Spetsnaz, who also had a lot of paratrooper practice, were wearing the same uniform, headgear and boots as the members of airborne regiments.
The officers of the Soviet Spetsnaz wore the half wool M69 uniform or cotton tropical version, while soldiers wore regular cotton M69 or again, tropical version of it. Later on, when TTsKo Butan camouflage was introduced, Spetsnaz was among the first ones to get it in big numbers.
Field uniform of the Soviet Spetsnaz GRU
Now, finally, the field uniform is something that was different from the rest of the forces. But in comes with a twist, as always.
The basic field uniform, as per the book, was the regular M69 which was worn on daily bases as everyday uniform. Later on in the 1980s this was substitute with the M88 Butan camouflage. Apart from that, overalls were used. Jumpsuits were used for parashooting training and KLMK overalls were used for summer tactical exercises.
But I know that you are here for something else.
Mabuta - the field uniform of the Soviet Spetsnaz GRU
Mabuta - the legendary costume of the Soviet Spetsnaz. It has a number of myths behind it, with my personal favorite's being that it was made from the Egyptian silk. Well, more often you will read that it was made from the Egyptian cotton, which makes more sense but still is not true.
In reality this was designed as another jumpsuit, which would be more useful for the Spetsnaz forces. It was made in two separate pieces - jacket and trousers, both of which had bigger number of pockets then regular M69 or overalls.
There were two generations of Mabuta, which are almost identical to each other, with one main visible difference - first generation had open buttons on the pockets. Overall this was a pretty good uniform for its time and place. Additional pockets were very useful for the end user, and it even had a designated pocket for the parachute straps knife. This uniform cut was very appreciated by the Spetsnaz soldiers, as it was way more useful than regular M69 uniform. However, after the mass introduction of Afghanka suit, the Mabuta started to get out of favour. There were two main reasons - lack of arm pockets, but more importantly, the position of the hip pockets. With something in them it was very uncomfortable to move in the prone position.
The uniform was used in Afghanistan in big numbers, but mainly the 2nd generation version. This was simply because of the fact that majority of the Spetsnaz units were deployed to Afghanistan in the second part of the war. There are hundreds if not thousands of Mabuta suit been used in Afghanistan, with the absolute majority of these photos coming from the Spetsnaz units. Unlike many other pieces of weaponry and equipment, the Mabuta generally stayed where it belonged to and the exceptions were very rare.