Sunday, July 13, 2014

The Russo-Georgian War of 2008 - #1: Border Patrols and Staff Rides Near Gori

In a previous entry, I mentioned that I will use the board game Russo-Georgian War of 2008 by Bruce Costello to provide a template and keep track of the high level actions in which my usual small AARs are embedded. I've spent some time playing the board game and it is very easy to learn and relatively fast to play, which makes it ideal for this purpose. For the first entry, which is written from the point of view of a Georgian Mi-8 pilot a couple of days before the start of the war, I will fly over one of the likely Russian axis of advance.

A picture of the board game in the Tskhinvali-Gori axis. The South Ossetian-Georgian border is marked with an orange line. During the deployment phase, the Georgian forces are represented by white counters and the South Ossetian forces by white, red and yellow counters. Note that odd Russian (green counter) mechanized battalion. I think these are the infamous Russian "peacekeepers".

It is important to note that the board game does not feature "patrols" as a simulated activity. I'm here just flying a custom DCS Mi-8 scenario as an excuse to get a feeling of the terrain. At least a visualization of what DCS Mi-8 has to show.

My Mi-8 takes off from a FARP in the outskirts of Gori, Georgia. Our mission is to transport the commander and captains from the tank battalion in a familiarization flight north of Gori.
A low level flight over the Mtkvari River. Gori is in the background.

After repeated pleas from the mayor of Gori, we now fly over the river, avoiding downtown. With the war being imminent, such a request from civilian authorities are rather odd.
After crossing the low ridges north of Gori, we move into a series of towns connected by a main road.  In this picture, Gori is in the background. 
North of Gori, the terrain here is almost flat and there is not much cover or concealment. Tskhinvali is in the far background, near the mountains.

After a short flight north, we rendezvous with the lieutenants from the tank battalion who are riding on loaned BMPs.

We are supposed to fly along the BMPs for a while. The stability augmentation system of the Mi-8 allows an easy adjustment of the forward speed. The top right indicator indicates airspeed near hover for the forward/backward and lateral movement. In this case, I am moving forward at 10 km/h, which will allow me to move along the BMPs.
My copilot and the column of BMPs. Some very good precision flying despite the sheer mass of the Mi-8.
The vehicles below and the officers above them. At this point, a comms link was established and the commanders were pointing some terrain features to the riders below.
At this point, the "flying officers" wanted to ride in the BMPs, so I received instructions to land nearby the vehicles. In this picture, I am about to land near that T in the road.
Landing near the BMPs. I should have landed on the road to avoid the risks of soft ground spots.

The patrol, which was more like a staff ride than anything else, continued a couple of hundred meters north, without coming too close to the frontier. After this flight it was determined that the initial deployment of Georgian forces centered around Gori was appropriate. Any attempt to get into a meeting engagement or a hasty defense north of Gori would result in egregious losses for our side.
The board game captures the futility of a forward defense quite well. With a short delay, the Russo-South Ossetian forces could mass against any Georgian deployment north of Gori. Destruction or outflanking are quite possible under such circumstances.


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