July 17, 2008 (the date of publication in Russian)

Maxim Kalashnikov


The Tbilisi authorities have to realize: any Blitzkrieg will encounter an anti-Blitzkrieg

The situation is getting heated: Georgia is likely to launch a war for the breakaway Republic of South Ossetia. The forces of invasion are already on the starting positions. According to Osinform news agency, Tbilisi is planning to attack the republic and deploy the defense line along the Georgia-Abkhazia border. The key point of the operation is the town of Sanaki to the north-east from Poti. Here are the headquarters of Georgia's Second Infantry Brigade. The "Miha Tskhakaya" air base is located in the same area.

In Gori, at the border of South Ossetia, the Georgians have deployed Infantry Brigade 1, as well as an artillery regiment, a tank battalion, and engineering unit, a medical unit and a hospital.

Add the troop formations recruited from Abkhazian Georgians and inhabitants of Georgian enclaves in South Ossetia, and raised in several battalions subordinated to Georgia's National Guard. Add the police spetsnaz training center in Karaleti.

For the occasion of war, the military forces of Georgia formed two groups, against resp. Ossetians and Abkhazians. The group, targeting South Ossetia, is represented mainly by Infantry Brigade 1, including light infantry battalions 11, 12 and 13, each of 591 soldiers. The brigade also has a mechanized battalion with 30 T-72 tanks and 15 APCs. The artillery division possesses eighteen D-30 Howitzers, eight 120-mm mortars and four "Shilka" ADMS, as well as a logistics battalion, a reconnaissance squadron (101 soldiers and eight BTR-70 and BTR-80 APCs), an engineer squadron of 96 men, a communication squadron of 88 persons and three old armored cars). The brigade was trained under supervision from American instructors. It was heavily battered in clashes with Ossetians in 2004 (specially the light infantry battalion). In spring 2008, the brigade underwent training in Iraq.

While Brigade 1 is supposed to attack South Ossetia from the southern side, Brigade 3, based in Kutaisi and Akhaltsikhe, is tasked to strike from the west. Brigade 3 contains the 31st, 32nd and 33d battalions of light infantry of 591 men each, and artillery, reconnaissance, communication and engineering units equipped similarly to Brigade 1. This brigade was also trained by US instructors and spent two years (2006-08) in Iraq.

Infantry Brigade 4, based in Tbilisi and Mukhrovani to the south-east from South Ossetia, is composed of light infantry battalions 41, 42 and 43. This brigade was not trained in Iraq.

The artillery force is represented by a brigade headquartered in Gori (the command and staff, three artillery divisions and an anti-tank battalion, comprising manpower of 800. The armaments include three 152-mm 2A36 "Hyacinth-B" cannons, eleven 152-mm towed 2A65 "Msta-B" Howitzers, and forty 100-mm MT-12 "Rapier" anti-tank mortars.

The artillery possesses 44 SP mounts of various modifications – in particular, six 203-mm "Peony" mounts. It is serious: the device engages the target with a HE projectile at a distance of 32 km and with an active-reactive charge at a distance of 45 km. In addition, the Georgian arsenal includes one "Msta-C" launcher of the latest Soviet design, 24 Czech-produced Dana SPH-77 SP mounts and 13 152-mm 2SZ "Wattle" SP mounts; sixteen 122-mm Grad launchers and six 122-mm RM-70 MLRS (a Czech version of Grad), and four 160-mm LAR-130 Israeli-produced MLRS with a range of 45 km. The list of jet systems is added with twelve 128-mm Yugoslavia-produced M63 "Plamen" MLRS. The brigade is also equipped with 30 MTLB armored haulers and 14 light Zu23-2 ADMS.

The special tank battalion, headquartered in Gori, has got 31 T-55 and T-72 tanks. Gori also hosts a squadron of electronic surveillance and counter-surveillance. An independent engineer battalion is equipped with tracklayers and bridgelayers and means of remote clearance. The Gori-based anti-missile facility contains a battery of "Osa-M" complexes, ten SU-25 strike fighters, eight US-produced UH-1 helicopters, 18-19 Russian helicopters (Mi-8 and Mi-24) and 4 unmanned Israeli "Hermes 450" drones. These armaments are destined for air damage of the adversary, air reconnaissance, transportation of personnel and materiel, evacuation and rescue operations.

The army's special force (spetsnaz) is represented with two battalions comprising manpower of 500. The National Guard involves 1500 servicemen, tasked to defend the Georgian enclaves of South Ossetia, to protect the rear and to occupy the "liberated" areas.

The military police squadron is supposed to protect the communications and combat subversive units. Other forces of the Interior Ministry include the Shida Kartli police department, Giya Guluga and Omega special operation detachments, and a regional spetsnaz platoon.

In general, the attack force, mobilized against Ossetians, may involve a manpower of 15200, 91 tank (65 T-72 and 26 T-55), 88 armored vehicles (34 "BMP" combat infantry carriers and 24 APCs), 132 units of towed artillery and mortars of 100-mm and higher caliber), 44 SP mounts and 30 multiple rocket launchers. Add a battery of "Osa-AKM" flak complexes, 12 "Shilka" anti-air guns, 10 SU-25 attack fighters, 17 helicopters and 4 unmanned aircrafts. That is a rather impressive attack force, as compared to the armaments of Dzhaba Ioseliani's gangs in 1989-90.

While this in fact composite division will be busy crashing Ossetians, another group is supposed to neutralize Abkhazia. These forces include the Infantry Brigade 2, and the newly-raised Brigade 5. They are supplied with one battery of "Osa-M" anti-air missile complexes, and a combat electronic support squadron. The air force includes ten SU-25, ten Mi-8 helicopters, and 3 unmanned Hermes aircrafts.

The National Guard's Brigade 2, headquartered in Poti, is supposed to mobilize 3000 servicemen. A military police unit is available as well.

From the sea, Abkhazia is blocked with the naval forces including "Dioscuria" and "Tbilisi" missile boats, "Akhmeta" artillery boat, "Iveria", "Mestia", "Tskhaltubo", "Gantiadi" and "Gali", as well as a squadron of Navy spetsnaz.

The Interior forces in the area are numerous. They are represented with the Samegrelo-Zemo Svanetia police department, the alternative Abkhazian autonomous police, guerilla squads of White Legion and Forest Brothers, as well as special detachments – the counter-terrorist platoon, the platoon of the Special Operative Department, the regional platoon of the Chief Special Tasks Division, the number of personnel comprising 3000 servicemen taken altogether.

On the Abkhazian direction, Georgia is ready to mobilize a total manpower of 12400, 60 T-72 tanks, 42 armored vehicles, 26 towed artillery units and 10-mm mortars, a battery of four "Osa-AKM" ADMS, 10 SU-25 attack fighters, 10 Mi-8 helicopters, 3 unmanned "Hermes" aircrafts, and motor boats.

Thus, the military forces of today's Georgia comprise an army comparable to the military forces of a Central American state like Salvador. The weak sides are the insufficient anti-air facilities and the ill-prepared air forces.

In order to cut off the fist of aggression, the Russian Federation requires a powerful aviation grouping. For this purpose, Russia should deploy the most battleworthy units: a wing of SU-25 attack fighters, SU-24M short-range bombers and SU-27 blitz-fighters. Novel SU-34 fighters should also be tested in real warfare. Heavy bombes from the 27th Distant Aviation Army, equipped with free-falling bombs should be also used. Definitely, the air should be cleared with fighter aviation. The task is to resolutely suppress Georgia's artillery brigade, to disable the air forces, to exterminate the anti-air facilities, and to inflict maximum damage to the offensive columns of armored machinery from the air.

The emphasis should be made on extermination of the Georgian artillery and barrage weapons to which South Ossetia is especially vulnerable.

Unfortunately, the Russian side does not posses a park of modern attack helicopters that could well contribute to the overthrow of the adversary. Still, the available Ka-50 and Mi-28N helicopters could be deployed in Chechnya and Dagestan, in North Ossetia and even in Abkhazia.

At the same time, Russia's Air Forces should provide mot precise reconnaissance of the approaches to South Ossetia in a real-time regime. It is essential to establish an operative center, conveying the collected intelligence to the aviation. South Ossetian military detachments should be provided air controllers, GLONASS-M receivers, laser designators and means of communication. It makes sense to provide South Ossetians with two-three Zoopark complexes – radar-equipped SP mounts, able to trace the trajectories of the adversary's projectiles, and thus to precisely detect the location of the enemy batteries. Zoopark-1 mounts, produced by Tula-based Strela Plant, should be operatively conveyed to the Ossetian artillery.

Russia requires unmanned aircrafts as well. Unfortunately, the development of combat drones was stalled by the Defense Ministry. However, Russian producers have got a potential for production of drones. This capability is exemplified with Kazan-based Sokol company. Its DANEM unmanned vehicle, demonstrated at a number of exhibitions, is able to stay in the air for 15 hours, developing a speed of 180-300 km/h. Such aircrafts are capable of permanent monitoring of the approaches to Tskhinvali.

Thus, Russia should prepare for a counter-Blitzkrieg this very day. The military side of the problem, however, is not as complicated as the political aspect.

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