Georgian Sky to Get American Radars?
21 June, 2012
Georgian Sky to Get American Radars?

On 14 June State Department released an official statement on the third annual meeting of the US-Georgian Strategic Partnership Commission in Batumi that was opened by the US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on 5 June, while on her visit to Georgia.

According to the statement of the State Department, the meeting discussed various options of developing of defense systems for air and coastal waters, strengthening of defense engineering capabilities, improvement of training the sergeants and brigade personnel management  and control, upgrading the transportation helicopter parks.
Control of air space is mainly made possible via radio detectors operating in active and passive regimes. It requires common radio detection field so that the most of the air space and especially dangerous directions are checked against possible attacks by enemy air assault objects such as aircrafts, helicopters, cruise and ballistic missiles. As for the common system of air space control, it consists of swift forwarding of radio detection data to the central management where the high command observes the whole picture of goings-on in the country’s air space, as well as its adjacent regions.
During the August 2008 war, the Georgian armed forces were operating several radars in western and eastern parts of the country, including relatively modern three-dimensional radars purchased from Ukraine. Although they could not cover the entire Georgian air space, they still managed to identify Russian military aircrafts flying at medium and high altitudes. On the second and third days of the war, the Russian aviation destroyed several Georgian radars using air-radar type remotely controlled missiles, including the radars near Tbilisi, Shavshvebi (Gori), Senaki and Poti. Unfortunately, the Georgian military-industrial complex is not capable of manufacturing such sophisticated devices. The only way to have it is to purchase them abroad. Yet, after the August war the western countries are not eager to sell their modern radars to Georgia, even though there is no international sanction against Georgia on arms trade. The reason behind this unofficial political embargo is Russia. Certain arms exporters do not risk spoiling relations with Moscow at the expense of meeting the Georgian needs.
Soon after the Russian-Georgian War in 2008, the American Presidential Elections were won by the Democrat representative Obama. Immediately he proclaimed the so called Re-Start process with a view to warm up Russian-American relations and support the procedure of disarmament. The Re-Start policy did not quite fit into the defense-strengthening aspiration of Georgia as the White House did not want to give a reason to Kremlin for new accusations. Allegedly, this is why during these three years after the August war the American Administration has been only politically and verbally supporting friendly Georgia, 20% of which has been remaining under the Russian occupation.
How and by what means could the United States help Georgia in the formation of the common system of air space defense? As the first stage, it could do it by stationing several mobile radar stations operating in active and passive regimes in various parts of Georgia to ensure effective control of the northern and north-western directions. Take Baltic States as an example of the processes that led to the formation of the air space control systems there. In 1998-2000, before even joining NATO, three Baltic countries – Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia – started the introduction of BALTNET, the air space control and reconnaissance system. In 2004, after accessing to NATO, these countries set up modern American three-dimensional TPS-117 radar stations capable of controlling the space of 450 km in radius and 30 km in height. Subsequently, the North Atlantic Alliance connected BALTNET to the common air reconnaissance and early detection system. This move allowed NATO to gain a strategic advantage. The radars in the Baltic States are able to control air space of a western part of Russia and almost entire Belarus at medium and high altitudes. NATO Command can use them to detect any Russian or Belarusian aircraft heading for the west.
Of course, American TPS-117 radars would not be bad to control the Georgian air space too but their effectiveness would not be as high as in the Baltic States because unlike these countries Georgia is separated from Russia by the Caucasian Range, a wall of sorts, obscuring the other side for the radars. Detection of planes and helicopters flying at low altitudes from Russia towards Georgia is impossible until they pass over the Caucasian range. Accordingly, the time from the identification of the flying object by the radar till decision-making (e.g. to issue an order on launching missiles from the anti-aircraft missile complex) is short and requires ultimate professionalism from anti-aircraft gunners. Nevertheless, a group of mobile TPS-117 radars installed in the hills would greatly enhance Georgian air defense potential, especially if one or two of them were to work in the directions of occupied Abkahzia and Batumi-Anaklia coastal strip and others to operate along the northern border. It needs to be pointed out that the Gudauta military air base in the occupied Abkhazia can host any type of military aircraft, while the occupied Tskhinvali region can accommodate attack helicopters. These Russian means of air assault do not need to cross the Caucasus range. This further shortens the time between the detection of the aircrafts and decision-making. So it becomes an  imperative to set up radar stations.
The Russian leadership made a due analysis to the results of the 2008 war and went to modernize Russian military aviation in order to make it equally effective even under grave weather and night-time conditions. To this end, Russian Su-25SM attack aircrafts are being upgraded and Mi-8AMTsh helicopters get a major transformation into Mi-28N and Mi-35M. The Command of the Russian armed forces has already stationed dozens of modernized attack aircrafts and helicopters on air strips of the South Military Region in the North Caucasus, close to the border with Georgia, as well as on the occupied territories of Abkhazia and Tskhinvali region. This said, even if the control of the Georgian air space is improved with the American assistance (e.g. by means of TPS-117 radars), it would not be called a final cure because enemy flying objects, violating the air space need to be eliminated after being detected by those radars. This can be done by means of either destroyer-interceptor aircrafts or anti-aircraft weaponry. As for the aircrafts, the Georgian army has no destroyers whatsoever and will not have for quite a while. Regarding the anti-aircraft weapons, they can be represented by not only anti-aircraft machine guns and cannons but also by anti-aircraft missile complexes.
Such arms are certainly available in the Georgian army but their quantity is something to be wished for. So, it could be just fine if America accentuated this issue after providing possible assistance to Georgia in strengthening the air space control. Otherwise, it makes no sense to install radars and detect air space intruders if you cannot shoot them down.
America seeks to have radars (selfsame TPS-117) installed in Georgia and look into skies of both Georgia and its neighbors, primarily Armenia and Iran. Involvement of the Iranian factor does not need much explanation. The European anti-missile defense system of NATO would acquire an extremely important complex by stationing mobile radars in the South Caucasus, particularly in Georgia. They would be able to detect Iranian ballistic missiles in just 2-3 minutes after their launching.

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