Tuesday, January 21, 2014

ArmA 2 - The Battle for Tskhinvali: Firefight for an Underground Cable Inspection Station (Part 1 of 2)

Near Tskhinvali, day one of the Second Russia-Georgia War. The strategic Roki tunnel, which connects Russia with South Ossetia, is fed with electric power and carries communications through and from underground cables converging from both countries. Almost every war plan from the Georgian Armed Forces included some sort of infrastructure-related offensive or defensive action. The certainty of a Russian contingent arriving through Roki was overwhelming and, no matter how nimble, every effort was to be made to interdict the invading force.

This is a custom-made, single player scenario played in ArmA 2 modified with the Georgian Armed Forces mod and the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation mod.  The real location of this firefight is somewhere in Bukovina, the intention being to portray a location a few kilometers south of Tskhinvali. The narrative is in the first person, so brace yourself for some cheesy literature  and an ESOL downfall.

The only Russian Army personnel on the south side of the Caucasus were the "peacekeeping" forces in Tskhinvali, although we heard that a company of paratroopers have landed near the city of Poti. As part of the forward elements of the forward elements of the 51st Light Infantry Battalion, Georgian Land Forces, we entered South Ossetia a few hours ago, our destination some patch of woods near an underground cable inspection station. Inconspicuous, dilapidated and unworthy of attention or repairs. We never thought we would be defending and losing lives to this installation.

There is nothing comparable to the excitement and the cockiness a soldier feels during the first hours of a military operation, more so if no bullets have flown over his head yet. It was strange that the fresh memories of the defeat during the first war were not kicking in.

With our objective in sight, we started taking positions and waiting for orders. We were just three fire teams and two DShK heavy machine guns. I was in command of the only fireteam that had a light machine gun.

A few tank rounds sounded off on the other side of Tskhinvali. As a veteran of our ways of war I hoped that our company commander would not forget and leave us behind.

A few minutes later, I had no reason to worry anymore. At a distance, I could distinguish that trot only scouts have. No gear bouncing up and down (they strap it as if is part of their bodies), moving at good speed but defiant of what is pushing them back, taking turns to turn around and look at the enemy they just broke contact with. A group of four Georgian scouts was just moving through our objective and into our rear area.

Hidden as we thought we were, I hesitated about how to approach the scouts without spooking them into a friendly fire incident. There was no need to even talk to them. The oldest scout turned his body 180 degrees and while continuing his trot (now backwards) and raising his two arms on the direction they were coming from, shouted at the bushes between us. Platoon of dismounted Russian infantry coming that way, likely to the cable station!

Super! Our concealment skills suck. I felt more mortified about that than agitated about the Russians coming our way. The scouts passed by and disappeared on a patch of woods, not an extra single word said.

The two sergeants in charge of the DShK heavy machine guns took control of our nimble detachment, arguing that the enemy could be defeated by implementing an engagement area centered around their weapons. There was no argument about their weapons being the most important. But I remembered our engagement area training telling us something a tad different from what they were talking about.

Tactical sketch showing our assets (three fire teams, two HMGs), the enemy's avenue of approach, the cable inspection station (objective Spartaki) and the planned engagement area (EA Dinamo).
The view from one of the HMG positions. This position provides fires with an enfilade overtone, but the lack of defile would likely defeat its purpose.

The view from the second HMG position. This position provides frontal fire towards the engagement area, although from quite a bloated range. On the bright side, given the elevated location, this HMG can provide fires onto the depth of the engagement area.

My fire team, located near the cable inspection station, took positions at the cable inspection station itself. In this image, our LMG (right), taking advantage of the defile provided by the small building.
Just a few miles from the line of departure and all confidence is gone. My mind was racing to correct as much as I could without resorting to insubordination.

What a badly conceived EA! The enemy would unlikely walk the open terrain and we have no means to canalize them onto it, neither with obstacles, mines or fire. The main weapons had no defile. There were no TRPs, even with friendly forces positioned forward from the HMGs. The two forward fire teams had no clear mission (were they for flank security or for delivering fires on the depth of the EA?). Who provides fire coordination? My fire team ... What was our mission?

I suddenly remembered the first war's day of defeat.


Anonymous said...

Just curious, do you ever use mods like JSRS sound and TPW - suppression? If so, does it add to your experience? Or do you prefer vanilla missions?

I do love reading every one of these entries!

JC said...


I tend to leave everything very vanilla because of lack of time to keep up/maintain my installations.

Not that I don't want to, but given the wide range of games I play, it quickly becomes a chore to install mods and whatnot. :)

In this case, I made an exception with the Georgian and Russian forces mod. That TPW suppression mod sounds terrific and I have been thinking about it for a while.


Gibsonm said...

Just a question on the sim rather than the plan, as I'm not a ArmA / VBS guy.

Do the Infantry come with goggles as a default (as some sort of holdover from more arid regions where dust actually is a problem, or are grass seeds a major source of non battle cas in Georgia)?

JC said...

That's surely the most critical flaw of this simulator.


Doug Miller said...

It's that Georgian pollen Mark. Nasty stuff!

RangerX3X said...

Hi JC – Great post and it is nice to see you return to ArmA II. The screen shots look fantastic.

RangerX3X said...

Hi JC – Great post and it is nice to see you return to ArmA II. The screen shots look fantastic.

RangerX3X said...

Hi JC – Great post and it is nice to see you return to ArmA II. The screen shots look fantastic.

Carlos Cavalcanti said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Carlos Cavalcanti said...

The second I saw that plan, I knew it wouldnt work.

No army in the world, as dumb as they could be, would charge in open, unprotected ground, against effective fires from the enemy, when they could just enter throught the forests to the W and E. No army, and certainly, not the highly trained russian army.

When later I read your critics to that absurd plan, I thought it was fantastic that you simulated even how bad leadership come up with bad plans, wich happens all the time. That "We were soldiers" thing only belongs to the movies fantasy.

The truth is, outnumbered at least 3 to 1 against the russians, the georgians would have to set up a new objetive: to fight and retreat, and keep doing it until the heavy machinegun positions had to be abandoned. Also, I wouldnt let those georgian scouts get away that easy.

With the new "hit and fallback" strategy in mind, I would place that first HMG on the tip of that forest to the extreme right, northwest. It would cover the two fireteams that would be on the central forest, to the north at 284.

The second HMG would move to the first fireteam on the left´s position. The fireteam would be retreated in the woods to the left.

So the plan would be: when the russian platoon appeared on the town, fireteams 2 and 3, on the central forest, would engage them with supression fire (the AR would be there too). The objetive would be to use the surprise and iniciative to make several casualties on the enemy, and try to start to event the odds. The right HMG, on the forest to the right, would also open fire. Left HMG and Ft 1 would be silent.

"What? Nuts!" No, no yet. The enemy platoon would immediately start to supress Ft´s 2 and 3. Using the right mg, they would fall back to the generator, but keep on fighting during the retreat.

If you were the Russian Platoon Leader, you would chase the Georgians through the wooods, but keeping them to the left clearing, so as to protect them from the HMG to the right. Maybe a fireteam or more of the enemy would enter the woods to the left, and they would spread in the woods to put fires on the HMG.

This is when Ft-1 and the other HMG start to work.

They would open fire, effectively putting the enemy on a killzone of crossfire between the two MG´s, the fireteam on the left and the leftovers from Ft 2 and 3, who would stop their retreat and start to supress the enemy again.

By then, since its fire would be concentrated to the left, the right MG would probably be on the verge of being flanked by an enemy fireteam coming from the northeast. If that happenned, they would be able to fall back through the woods to the southeast, take a detour then regroup. If that didnt happen, all the better.

By that point, the enemy casualties, with some luck, would be enough to halt the enemy advance and make then try to save the 70% to 50% left of their Platoon.

With still at least one HMG firing on them, as well as the full fireteam protecting it; having to cross a football field just to get to them, under fire, or fall back to the town, also under fire, then maneuver (wich would give time to prepare for it), the fire from the remnants of Ft´s 2 and 3, and possibly the second HMG, the bear would hopefully decide that honey pot just wasn´t worth it.

What if it didnt? Worst case scenario, full retreat.

Winning or losing, expected friendly losses of 50% to Fireteams 2 and 3, and the crew of the right HMG captured or killed (unlike Ft´s 2 and 3, they wouldnt have anyone to cover their retreat in the woods).

Gowan James Ditchburn said...

not exactly a nice place to get stuck in. but when your stuck your stuck the best thing you can do is fight hard and hope that you get the chance to break out. perhaps some one comes to help. if not it's going to be a nasty time one which may not have a happy ending. by the looks of it unless the Russians march forwards completely careless about their surroundings and go straight down that road those positions will not hold them for long