For the first time in this region the US has put its money where its mouth is and although the number of US personnel within Georgian borders is modest, nobody can argue that the logistical juggernaut will shift the balance of forces within a few days.
Only two of the six A-10Cs that were flown into Georgia via Turkey are airworthy at the time of this mission. From a makeshift airbase at the Batumi airport, the airmen and crews have started their war before the first bullet was fired. Short of equipment, ammunition and spare parts but burgeoning on pride and ingenuity, the airport is now changed from a sleepy airstrip into a cacophony of shouts, tractors and aircraft engines. The first coalition debrief is being delivered to the two pilots while the first US bombs to ever be flown into a combat mission in Georgia are attached to the A-10C pylons.
|Somewhere near steerpoint 2, where we remain in station waiting for tasking from the JTACs. In the background, Poti. The Russian destroyer (in the far background) is already painting us with its radar.|
|The TAD, showing our position (center) and the JTACs' (x icons to the lower left).|
|Receiving our 9-liner from one of the JTACs. The autopilot can hold the aircraft on this orbit flight path while I work on the sensors.|
|Remarks and readbacks done (there is a lot of chatting between a CAS pilot and a JTAC), we get our target transmitted to us.|
|The TAD symbology: the JTAC's position (green x icon), the target (red triangle) and the cursor (green cross at the center).|
|The targets: a group of Russian infantry carrying RPGs are blocking a secondary bridge over a canal. The assault forces need these threats removed from their assault position. We must also take very good care of not destroying the bridge.|
|Weapons selected: Mk-82 "dumb bombs". A single one should be enough.|
|The Russian destroyer is trying really hard to get a lock on us. This is a tight turn back into the previous position (note the G meter, marking a steady 4G).|
|The second bomb run, three seconds before weapons release. Our altitude is worryingly low, but I will not abort this run for anything in the world.|
|The single Mk-82 leaves the pylon. The target is near the closest bridge.|
|The bomb falls off the center of road, precisely where I aimed it. The detonation kills all the infantry.|
|Ad hoc, over the shoulder battlefield damage assessment. The enemy infantry is destroyed and the bridge is still standing. Mission accomplished.|
|We remain in station near waypoint 2, but after a while it is obvious that there will be no more tasks for us. A platoon (+) of BMP-2s moves into the area we just bombed. They will be assaulting the enemy forces at the bridges.|
|The BMP-2s moving along the road, as we depart the area of operations.|
|Just to test the Russian sailor's will, we climb to 5,000 ft during our trip back to Batumi. The Russian destroyer paints us with the radar, but no SAMs are fired.|
|Landing at Batumi.|
|Taxiing through the cramped installations of our new home.|
The non release of bombs during the first bombing run was a bit of a surprise. I don't know why it happened and I could not see any indications that anything was off. The thing that I changed for the second run is to change the from waypoints to markpoints in the CDU (remember "A" was the markpoint I gave to the target). But I am not sure if this was the cause of the first run's failure.