I am a pilot of a utility helicopter and I have been originally assigned to haul materiel into the battalion's command post. Just a day into the job I find myself with the almost certain prospect of flying combat support missions.
The Abkhazians have been observed flying attack helicopters near the border and our S2 officers are having a hayday going through cell phone calls and radio traffic. A raid or a forward detachment offensive action appears to be imminent.
Our preparations for any type of enemy offensive action are insufficient. Today, under the advise of the US Marine Corps, we started an exercise to time our response time.
|This is a control post at the Inguri river, which separates us from Abkhazia (far background)|
|Within Zugdidi proper, the ubiquitous ZU-23s provide some anti-aircraft capability|
|The "Zeus" is also present in the country-side. Here near a bridge between Zugdidi and the tactical command post.|
|The command post has a FARP that can be used by attack helicopters, eventually. Right now is only used by utility helicopters.|
|The exercise starts at 0720, with an armored column departing from the tactical command post towards the suburbs of Zugdidi. In this picture, the two scout vehicles (BTR-80s) march at top speed.|
|A depleted company of T-72Bs follows.|
|I take off at 0725 from the tactical command post, with a squad of Georgian infantry. The objective for us is to test our ability to airlift troops within Zugdidi.|
|Our USMC advisers have warned my co-pilot and me about the extreme vulnerability of our unarmored helicopter. They urged us to plan our ingress route within the umbrella of our AAA cover. In this picture, we overfly a AAA position.|
|Useful navigation landmarks start to appear soon. This one (the intersection of two roads) is particularly important as it is located close to the city of Zugdidi.|
|We have been asked to familiarize ourselves with the urban landscape of Zugdidi, but the terrain below is too complex to find anything of use.|
|Our pre-planned landing position is a big open field in the middle of Zugdidi, near a ZU-23 emplacement (yellow arrow)|
|The infantry squad disembarks right after our landing.|
|And we quickly take off towards the tactical command post.|
|Keeping an eye on the compass (yellow arrow) at all times means that your familiarization with the area of operations is not enough.|
|On our way back, we see the tank column slowly crouching ahead. They have barely made 5 kilometers from the tactical command post. That's worrying.|
|We land at the tactical command post at 0752, ready to transport more troops if necessary.|