Ground Forces

Albania Table of Contents

The ground forces had about 35,000 men, or about threequarters of all armed forces personnel. Because the strength of the ground forces was sufficient to man only about two divisions, brigades of approximately 3,000 soldiers became the largest army formation. In 1991 four infantry brigades constituted the bulk of combat units in the ground forces. During the 1980s, Albania had reduced the number of infantry brigades from eight to four. It had shifted to fully manned units from its prior reliance on the mobilization of reserve soldiers to flesh out a larger number of units manned at a lower level. Each brigade had three infantry battalions and one lightly equipped artillery battalion. Armored forces consisted of one tank brigade. Artillery forces were increased from one to three regiments during the 1980s, and six battalions of coastal artillery were maintained at strategic points along the Adriatic Sea littoral.

Most equipment used by the ground forces was old, and its effectiveness was questionable. In addition, shortages of spare parts for Soviet and Chinese equipment reduced combat readiness. The infantry brigades lacked mechanization, operating only about 130 armored personnel carriers. They included Soviet BTR-40, BTR50 , BTR-152, and BRDM-1 vehicles produced in the 1950s and Chinese Type-531 armored vehicles. Armored forces were equipped with 200 Soviet-made T-34 and T-54 tanks. The T-34 was a World War II model, and the more recent T-54 was introduced during the late 1950s. Soviet and Chinese artillery in the ground forces inventory was towed rather than self-propelled. It included Soviet M-1937 and D-1 howitzers and Chinese Type-66 152mm guns, Chinese Type-59 130mm guns, Soviet M-1931/37 and M-1938 guns of 122mm, and Chinese Type-60 guns of 122mm. The ground forces also operated Chinese Type-63 107mm multiple rocket launchers and a large number of Soviet and Chinese mortars, recoilless rifles, and antitank guns. Organic air defense equipment for protecting ground forces units consisted of several types of Soviet towed antiaircraft guns, including the 23mm ZU-23-2, 37mm M-1939, 57mm S-60, and 85mm KS-12.

The lack of modern equipment was a major deficiency in the ground forces. The infantry lacked mobility and antitank guided missiles. Moreover, without mobile surface-to-air missiles or radar-controlled antiaircraft guns, army units would be vulnerable to attack by modern fighter-bombers or ground-attack aircraft. Yet the obsolescent weapons of the ground forces were suited to the relatively low technical skill of the country's soldiers as well as its rugged terrain. The tactical skill of the officers might make it possible to deploy this older equipment successfully for a short period in a static defensive posture. A defensive operation that prevented an enemy from rapidly neutralizing Albanian opposition would enable Albania to seek international diplomatic or military assistance against an aggressor. Alternatively, it would gain time and retain the military equipment needed to establish a long-term guerrilla force capable of resisting a better armed conventional occupation army. The logistical support required to resupply and maintain such a defense, however, was either lacking or nearly impossible to achieve over much of the terrain.

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Source: U.S. Library of Congress