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Some Very Preliminary Thoughts on Military Performance

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It’s very hard at this point to come to any conclusions about the capabilities of either Russian or Georgian forces. I do think we can decisively say that Ralph Peters (Russians are drunken idiots, Georgians are brave little toasters) is wrong; the Russians appear to have displayed considerable professionalism, and the Georgians bugged out of Gori in a hurry, without apparently bringing much of their equipment. A private correspondent of mine affirms this impression, arguing that the Russian Army has made huge improvements in discipline and moral over the past five years. Christian at Defense Tech links to this post at the NYT, more or less agreeing with the above but asking questions about the performance of the Russian Air Force.

Those are, indeed, good questions to ask. The Georgians have made impressive claims as to the effectiveness of their air defenses (10 Russian aircraft shot down), but it’s fair to say that there’s not yet much evidence to back those claims up. The Russians have confirmed the loss of two aircraft, including a Tu-22 Backfire bomber (for Tom Clancy fans, this bomber played a key role in Red Storm Rising), and the Georgians have, as far as I know, only displayed the wreckage of those two. It’s also worth noting that Georgian air defenses don’t appear to have deterred Russian activity over Georgia, as every report I’ve seen indicates that they are bombing wherever they please. However, they may not be bombing very accurately; when this is all over, the Air Force chiefs may receive some uncomfortable scrutiny from Putin.

The Russian Navy also seems to be doing fine. Its major ships are operational, and it has reportedly sunk two Georgian missile boats. The deployment of the big cruisers was more than a bit risky; the Georgian missile boats were armed with Styx and Exocet missiles, either of which could have given the Moskva a very bad day. If the Georgians had managed to sink one of the most powerful ships in the Russian Navy, then the assessment of the outcome of the war might have been different.

….on this last, I was sent the following:

One of the members of the crew of a ship in the BSF, having taken part in the clash with Georgian cutters off of Abkhazia on 10 August, shared his recollections immediately after the return of the ship to the main base of Sevastopol. His story is at the information portal “Communication Portal of Ukraine”.

“We took up station guarding the opposed landing on the Abkhaz shore when all of a sudden four high speed targets were detected. We sent out an IFF signal and the targets didn’t react. Receiving a command from the flagship, we got into formation and right at that moment the unidentified targets opened fire on the ship formation and flagship. The cruiser was slightly damaged and a small fire broke out aboard. Then, fearing for seaworthyness, the flagship withdrew from the firing area.” – the sailor said.

“Right then the small missile boats clearly fired,” the participant continued. “Taking up position, our MRK launched a “Malakhit” (SS-N-9) anti-surface missile, which literally cut the lead ship, the “Tbilisi” to ribbons. After that, fire was shifted to the rest of the Georgian ships. Another ship was damaged, we couldn’t finish it off, allowing it to leave the scene under its own power.

The sailor also said that the Tbilisi took literally a minute and a half to sink into waters around 300 meters deep.

Interesting.

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