Monday, November 19, 2012

Insurgency in the North Caucasian Federal District - War Stories From the Front Lines: # 4 Close Call During the Escape and Evasion of an Attack Helicopter Pilot

Captain Vasily Kashlev, 118th Independent Helicopter Squadron (Russian Air Force), had to crash land his Ka-50 attack helicopter after an attack against insurgents near the town of Novopavlovsk. During the early stages of the conflict, the Russian Air Force had almost no combat search and rescue assets and this pilot had to rely on his training to rejoin friendly lines.

Played as a custom-made mission in ArmA 2 Combined Operations. Map is the "Marine Corps Twentynine Palms Air Ground Combat Center", by Phaeden. Pardon my mess as this mission is a night firefight and most of the screenshots are dark and monochromatic.

After my belly landing I was sorely disappointed to learn that a rescue mission was not to be available until dawn of the next day. I hid somewhere near the landing site but was forced to flee when insurgent forces approached the landing site later in the afternoon. I decided that my best chances of rejoining with friendly forces was via the city of Piatygorsk, which was some 20 km from my position. The relatively open terrain offered little concealment for me and plenty of cross-country mobility for the insurgent's wheeled vehicles, so I had to move relatively slowly during the rest of the day in order to be completely sure I was not being spotted from the distance.

As night fell I was shocked by the sight of a full moon. I hoped that the NVGs that I took from the Ka-50 would provide some edge to my night movement. Two hours into the evening I was hiding in an abandoned tree grove and just done with my dinner (a cereal bar and a highly concentrated energy drink) when I started moving again. I made contact with an insurgent patrol shortly thereafter.

Patches of tree groves with opening between them. Not exactly the dense forest where I would have wanted to be.

Right click and open in new window, please. An insurgent patrol moving on the opposite side of the grove, from right to left, some 150 meters away.
Getting sight of an enemy patrol is not so bad news for a pilot conducting an evasion. It actually provides a considerable amount of information about the enemy intentions and resources. In this case, if they were moving in one direction, it would have allowed me to sneak and cross their already patrolled path and gain distance from their axis movement while I continued with my own.  I slowly moved towards their position trying to get a grasp of voices, footsteps or whatever indication of more trouble.
While moving towards the enemy, my right flank was quite open. I should have probably have moved a few steps to the left where the trees would provide some concealment.
When I reached the opposite edge of the grove, I could see the 4 insurgents. I observed them from a prudent distance, and I couldn't see any additional forces supporting them. They were stationary, seemingly pondering their next move. This is when disaster struck: a clearly saw the leader waving tactical signals to his subordinates. I was just seen and I instinctively fired two shots. I aimed very low towards the bunched up silhouettes of the insurgents. My muzzle flash was blinding but brief and I could see one insurgent dropping to the floor. I immediately withdrew in all haste. 
The enemy fire didn't wait, but I was already running back towards my previous position. The trees were providing excellent concealment.
I could have made a stand within the grove, but the trees would have concealed any flanking enemy moves. That's why I moved back towards the edge of the grove and caught my breath covered by a water tank. Enemy rounds were pinging everywhere and it was impossible to figure out where they were coming from.

I moved towards better cover and fields of fire. An abandoned maintenance building had an accessible roof from where I could observe the enemy better. The insurgents have already seen me and were trying to flank my position (see the two figures moving in the open). 
Among the niceties of my new position was a single stairwell that provided just one point of entry in case the insurgents were to close assault. It also provided a quick access to cover in case these guys decided to toss grenades onto the rooftop.
It was vital to keep an eye on the insurgents, they were not that many but I was outnumbered. They ran circles around my position (in this screenshot one insurgent is seen running between the two neighboring buildings to my left), I just waited for an opportunity of a good shot.
The AKS-74U is not the weapon of choice for a mid-range firefight, but it was all I had. This shootout was far more disconcerting than what I wanted: every time I popped out to take a shot at the two insurgents running in the open, a third shooter threw a couple of well aimed rounds at my position. I finally took out the two runners, but the third shooter I could not figure out where he was.
After unsuccessfully trying to spot the third shooter, I crawled back into the grove with the intention to break contact and resume my movement towards friendly lines. As soon as I tried to stand up, the third shooter opened up yet again. He was in the open field just in front of my previous position at the building. I decided to eliminate this insurgent but I had to approach him from where he could not see me.
I backed up into the grove and while I was moving towards the flank of the third shooter I bumped into the first insurgent that I eliminated. A grabbed his AKM rifle and a couple of fragmentation grenades from him.

The search for the third shooter proved to be too involved and time consuming.
After a second weapon exchange from an insurgent (got an AKS-74 with a PSO scope), I moved away from the area. Leaving the tree groves left me without any concealment for kilometer after kilometer ... But after that firefight, I had to move away from the area as soon as possible.


Anonymous said...

Did you make it out? I enjoy your AARs.

Anthony "Desdinova" Mercando said...

Looks like those insurgents had NVGs, too. Good job getting through, fighting with an AKS74U against enemies with rifles usually doesn't end well in my experience (Unless we're in CQB)

Anonymous said...

I too enjoy your AARs! I am also wondering whether you made it out and intact. Night missions are always nailbiting and fun. When I'm flying Black Shark down low in the weeds at night, I find it a perfect balance of difficulty and exhileration.


JC said...

Hello guys and thanks for reading. "Vasily" rejoined friendly lines early at dawn the following day. :)

Hi Anthony,

I think that I was detected because I made excessive noise. That bloody "Shift" key! :) As for visibility, there was a full moon ... I don't know how realistic was being shot from so far away later in the mission.