General Staff Chief, Army General Valeriy Gerasimov held a press conference with Russian news agencies on 14 September. The just-completed Kavkaz-2016 strategic exercise was the main, but not the only, topic.
Interfaks-AVN captured Gerasimov’s comments on one particular subject of interest.
Army General Gerasimov said:
“Contractees are substantially increasing the combat capability of sub-units and military units. In our districts, including the Southern Military District, battalion tactical groups [BTGs], which are fully manned by contract service soldiers, have been created. There are now 66 of such BTGs, at the end of 2016 there will be 96, next year 115, and the year after  125.”
Every BTG, Gerasimov noted for the media, has 700-800 men, and reinforced BTGs have 900. As a rule, each Russian regiment and brigade has two BTGs, he said.
What is a BTG?
A BTG is a motorized rifle or tank battalion of 2-4 companies with attached ATGM, artillery, reconnaissance, engineer, and rear support platoons making a fairly self-sufficient ground combat unit.
These were some brief but significant comments from Gerasimov. What do they tell us?
BTGs are supposed to be completely manned and fully combat ready. Gerasimov didn’t say that regiments and brigades typically have at least a third maneuver battalion which may not be completely manned or combat ready.
To simplify our math, let’s say Russia’s Ground Troops today comprise 36 maneuver (motorized rifle and tank) brigades. We’ll leave out the longstanding 2nd Motorized Rifle Division and 4th Tank Division, as well as the future 150th MRD.
Those 36 brigades equate to a nominal 108 (36 x 3) maneuver battalions. If there are 66 BTGs now, then two-thirds of the 108 are organized in essentially ready-to-fight packages.
Ninety-six would get close to 100 percent BTGs by the end of this year. But adding another 30 (66 + 30 = 96) in less than four months seems almost ridiculously difficult.
The 115 (96 + 19) and 125 (115 + 10) figures for 2017 and 2018 would be much easier.
Battalions composing current divisions (or new divisions and brigades in the process of forming up) certainly account for some number of BTGs above 108.
It’s unclear how many airborne (VDV) or naval infantry BTGs there might be. Gerasimov seemed to be talking strictly about Ground Troops. Between them, VDV and naval infantry might have 30+ battalions already organized into BTGs, or candidates to become BTGs. But we don’t know if or how they factor into Gerasimov’s current or future number of BTGs.
Gerasimov’s comments have value with regard to contract service. Sixty-six BTGs at 800 men each account for 52,800 professional enlisted. And 125 would be 100,000. Those numbers represent a fair portion of a Russian Army of 300,000 considering that there might be 60,000 officers, and there will always be conscripts.