The hazards many, the enemy disorganized and our luck immense. Not sure for how long things will stay the same.
With our flight plans and indirect fire deconfliction areas loaded in the ABRIS, we depart the Kutaisi airbase with no incident. The radio traffic from the ground forces, even when it is limited to the self-propelled artillery coordinating their fire missions, is awe inspiring. I hope that the rebels are picking up our transmissions ... They almost always do. This time their numbers are up.
|On our flight towards waypoint 2, we catch a glimpse of the indirect fire already falling on Kutaisi. Is a fire plan focused in the main route of advance of the ground forces and intended to clear up rebel ambushes along it.|
|Near waypoint 2 and maneuvering towards the battle position. In the background, that Kutaisi avenue is getting pounded fiercely by our artillery.|
|Smoke and all, we are able to pick up dismounts with the SHKVAL (lower left monitor). Range is a bit extreme for the cannon, but with a bit of spray and pray we take them out in no time.|
|The lead elements of the friendly ground forces finally show up in the eastern edge of the city. We nervously scan their route ahead over and over, just in case there are rebels remaining.|
|By this time, the lead elements of the armor column (BMPs) we are supporting cross the bridge and move into position to secure it.|
|Quickly enough, all the friendly forces cross the bridge and move into position on the other side of the river.|
|A perspective of our new battle position deep into enemy territory. Note the smoke in Kutaisi and the smoke column from the previously destroyed tank a bit more in the background. A second Vikhr ATGM goes downrange.|
|Now we are back into the battle position, for a final scan before we sign off.|
|Friendly tanks moving into position after the bridge crossing. Note the flight path in the ABRIS (lower right, black line). With all friendly forces safe across the bridge, it is time for us to bug out.|
|Safe landing at Kutaisi airbase.|
1) The indirect fire plan used in this virtual mission was used in real life during the first Chechen war. I can only imagine the immense risk of blocking the route of advance with debris.
2) Although problematic for us (see below), the indirect fire cleaned up around 35 enemy dismounts. We just picked up a couple of enemy teams. The amount of enemy ambushes that the ground forces had to engage remains unknown.
3) Attack helicopters do not perform to expectations in urban areas. The line of sight is too fragmented and keeps the helicopters in distant battle positions out of fear of anti-air ambushes within the city. The urban fight is close and intimate. Our distant battle positions didn't seem to cut it.
4) Smoke and dusted lifted by the artillery shells was the worst challenge we faced to acquire enemy teams within the city.
5) FAC (for target acquisition) and better coordination with ground forces is needed for the Ka-50 attack helicopter. The TV-based target acquisition in the Ka-50 just doesn't cut it. As for coordination with ground forces, we just guessed their support needs by keeping an eye on them. This takes one sensor out of two from observing enemy maneuvers elsewhere.