The Soviet Union maintained a massive dual-purpose presence in Eastern Europe throughout the Cold War, although the big nuclear platforms were kept in the Soviet Union itself. While publicly, the USSR, unlike the US, didn't have a concept of a separation of "tactical" and "strategic" nuclear use. Once the nukes went off (possibly from the West), the whole lot would have been used. Eek. However, their classified military literature and interviews of Soviet officers tell a different story. If NATO turned to limited use of nuclear weapons in the theater, the Soviets would respond proportionally, though they doubted that escalation would have remained limited for long. Another aspect was that if the Soviets were on the verge of a decisive victory with conventional forces alone, a NATO usage of a few nukes to "show resolve" might have very well be ignored. Many of these weapon platforms were (and still are) found among the states of the former Warsaw Pact. The warheads were stored in bunkers in the Soviet satellite states, despite the USSR claiming otherwise at the time. This category includes fighter-bombers, artillery and missiles with a range below 186 miles/300 km, the limit set by the Missile Technology Control Regime on missile proliferation.
Scudulike: Tactical Missiles, Rockets and Artillery
Hey, Sat On!: FROG (Free Rocket Over Ground- NATO designation) familyA series of unguided rockets, you aim your launcher (mounted on a ZIL army truck) and fire. Exported to other countries and some have ended up in North Korea. The final variant was the the R-65 Luna-M/FROG-7A and R-70 Luna-M/FROG-7B. An earlier type was deployed to Cuba during the 1962 Missile Crisis. Range about 70km, but not particularly accurate. Would be most effective with a nuclear or chemical warhead.
2S1 Gvozdika (carnation)/M1974A 122mm self-propelled howitzer, derived from the MT-LB armored personnel carrier. Entered service sometime in the early 70's & was phased out of Russian service in 2007. Capable of firing various kinds of ammunition, including HE & laser-guided munitions. It is also amphibious.
2S3 Akatsiya (acacia)/M1973A 152mm self-propelled howitzer, developed in response to the US M109. Entered service around 1971 and remains in Russian service. Capable of firing a variety of projectiles, including 2-kiloton nukes, smoke shells and laser-guided munitions. Has featured in several conflicts.
2S5 Giatsint-S (hyacinth- you what?)/M1981152mm self-propelled gun, successor to the 130mm M46. Used primarily for a counter-battery role. Capable of carrying a variety of ordnance, including nuclear and chemical weapons, it was exported to Finland, where it is known as the 152 TELAK 91. It remains in service there, as well as in Russia, Belarus and Ukraine. The Giatsint is NBC protected.
2S7 Pion/M1975A large 203mm self-propelled gun using the chassis of the T-80 tank. It entered service in 1975 and is capable of shooting high-explosive or nuclear rounds to a range of 37.5 kilometers, with rocket-assisted projectiles extending that range to 55 kilometers.
R-17 (later R-300) and Elbrus/SS-1 "Scud"One of the most famous missiles in the world due to its use in the Gulf War (a modification of the design) and several other conflicts. Sold to quite a few other countries as well and has a few imitators as well. Road-mobile, but designed to be launched from a pre-chosen position. A naval version was the world's first SLBM- see Mnogo Nukes: Missile Submarines.
OTR-21 Tochka/SS-21 "Scarab"A mobile ballistic missile with tactical nuke capability (If you call 100 kilotons- five times the power of the Hiroshima bomb- "tactical", although it can also carry 10), this has a range in its second version of 74 miles (120 km). Solid-fuelled. It could also deliver a 482 kilogram high-explosive or cluster munition warhead. Began deployment to East Germany in 1981, as a FROG successor. Exported and still used by a number of countries, including Russia and Bulgaria. It appears to have been used in Chechnya and Georgia.
Red Ones Go Faster: Fighter-BombersThe Mikoyan-i-Gurevich Design Bureau (Mikoyan and Gurevich), to give it one of its former titles- it's now called Russian Aircraft Corporation MiG is one of the world's most famous military aircraft companies. Just yelling "MiGs!" in a Cold War or Present Day piece is an indication to the audience that trouble is en-route. Mikoyan, however, have focused on air-to-air warfare rather than air-to-surface. The other most famous company in the former USSR is Sukhoi, who like to do fighter-bombers as well as fighters. Most famous for the Su-27 "Flanker" family, their earlier stuff was more air-to-ground dedicated- although not all of it. Soviet fighter aircraft tend to work best en masse. Individually, they don't rate well against their Western counterparts. The fact is many were built to fight bombers, not fighters. The primary advantage a Soviet fighter before the generation of the MiG-29 and Su-27 has in combat is sheer speed- for hit and run attacks- with some of these aircraft among the fastest military aircraft of all time.
Su-7B "Fitter-A"First version of a large family. Sukhoi was tasked in 1953 with producing a clone of the F-86 Sabre. The MiG-15 had been a good opponent for it in Korea, but was ultimately outclassed. That idea soon changed to a tactical fighter. This, the Su-7, entered service in 1959, but only saw limited use in the original role. However, a ground attack version was created, the Su-7B, entering service two years later. Designed for high subsonic-speed, low-level tactical operations, the swept-wing "Fitter-A" had 1,847 examples built. It was exported to a number of countries, including North Korea, Egypt and India. It did reasonably well in the 1971 India-Pakistan War. Capable of Mach 1.6 or so at high altitude, the major drawback was high take-off/landing speeds, combined with poor visibility, making landings difficult. Range appears to have been fairly good. The design was improved leading to...
Su-17 "Fitter-B" (onwards)The first Soviet variable-geometry (swing-wing) aircraft, the Su-20 and Su-22 designations were only used for export versions, such as to Poland. Recently left Russian service. Capable of carrying free-fall nukes, the "Fitter" is a front-line aircraft, designed to attack troop positions and artillery pieces. Widely exported, but not all that brilliant. The later Su-17M to M4 variants were more capable with improved range, avionics and the ability to target and drop precision-guided munitions.
Flying Kalashnikov: MiG-21 "Fishbed"Pretty much a free-fall bomb only plane in the nuclear role, this is the most built jet fighter in history, having only just finished production with its Chinese version, the J-7 (F-7 for export). It looks ugly, but it's Mach 2 capable, pretty agile and rugged. Widely exported, to 46 countries, still in service in many of those (Elbrus, a Romanian company, sells upgrades for it), it suffers from short range and in older versions the lack of a night-fighting capability, but proved to be pretty effective in a hit-and-run mode in Vietnam.
MiG-23/27 "Flogger"The -23 had some nuclear attack capability, but was primarily a pretty fast aerial interceptor (the Soviet Air Force had hoped for an air superiority fighter), being used by a variety of nations in that role, not especially successfully, as in the case of Libya. Another swing-wing plane, it doesn't have much of a dogfighting capability, although the final version, the MiG-23MLD "Flogger-K" (all conversions of existing aircraft) was far more agile. The primary assets are the R-23/AA-7 "Apex" semi-active radar homing missile, the ability to out-accelerate much of the US inventory and the fact it could be steered to a target by ground control. The -27 was a specific ground-attack aircraft, also nuclear capable. It was also capable of dropping precision-guided munitions. No longer in Russian service, but still around - in a nuclear role - with India. It was also exported to Sri Lanka.
High-Speed Riposte: Su-24 "Fencer"The "Fencer" (labelled, inaccurately, as the Su-19 in some older Western sources) is a supersonic strike aircraft. A twin-seater, twin-engine, swing-wing aircraft with more than a passing resemblance to the US F-111 Aardvark, it is frequently compared with that aircraft and found to be weaker by virtue of shorter range and cruder electronics. It's not a valid comparison, as the Su-24 is designed for deep air strikes in a military theater of operations rather than strategic nuclear use. It carries IR missiles, such as the R-60/AA-8 "Aphid" for self-defence, as well as a GSh-6-23 cannon. Of late 1970s vintage, it was the most advanced tactical aircraft in the Soviet inventory in the period of the early 1980s. Still in Russian service in considerable numbers, partly due to delays with the Su-34, it is undergoing upgrades, having seen action in Afghanistan, Chechnya and the recent Russia-Georgia war. Exported to a few countries, the collapse of the USSR spread the inventory among the former republics. Some can be found in Iranian service.
Duck: Su-34 "Fullback"This is a fighter-bomber variant of the Su-27 "Flanker" fighter. Intended to gradually replace the Su-24 in Russian service, is presumably also capable of delivering tactical nukes. It's been dubbed "Platypus" because of its cockpit shape. The two crew can sleep in the pressurised cockpit, which also has provision for a toilet and a galley. Only two production examples have been built, but none have been cleared for service.
Yak-28 "Brewer"Known as "Raschoska" (Comb) to its crews, due to its appearance from below. Not the easiest of aircraft to fly, it was capable of going supersonic for brief periods and had a range of about 2,000 km. Its only actual live attack was against a Soviet frigate, namely the Storozhevoy (a "Krivak", see Mnogo Nukes: Other Naval Nukes), whose crew had mutinied and were heading for Sweden. In the process, it managed to also hit a Soviet cargo carrier and narrowly miss the cutter with the commander of the Baltic Fleet on board. Evolved from the Yak-25 "Flashlight" interceptor and evolved back into one, the Yak-28P "Firebar", the latter only seeing combat on two occasions, one a non-firing "dogfight" with an F-4 (which may have been for fun) and the other aiding a MiG-17 in shooting down an An-2 "Colt" that was trying to defect- the An-2 is not an easy aircraft to intercept due to its slow speed, being a bi-plane. The Soviets were more concerned about the aircraft than the crew. Had a number of variants, including recce and jammer forms. Most older sources on this are very inaccurate. Replaced by the "Fencer" in the late 1970s and early 1980s.
Turning on a dime: MiG-29 "Fulcrum"The "Fulcrum", a highly agile air superiority fighter, had the capacity to drop 30-kiloton tactical nukes, and could also deliver various unguided bombs and rockets until later variants featured the capability to drop precision-guided munitions. Still in production in the MiG-29SM for foreign clients, it has been exported to quite a number of countries, a number of whom are now NATO members. East Germany had some of the Soviet-level versions at reunification, but the reunified Germany has passed them on to Poland. Some Moldovan examples were purchased by the US in order to keep them out of the hands of "rogue states". Flying air show debut in the West in the 1989 Paris Air Show, where it pulled off an impressive performance.
MiG-29K "Fulcrum-D"Carrier-based version of the "Fulcrum", intended for use off the Admiral Kuznetsov and the others in its class. The collapse of the USSR led to several planned aircraft types for the aircraft being cancelled, including the -29K. The project was resumed in 1999 and will form part of the air wing for the Admiral Gorshkov conversion, whether that goes to India or not.