Our southern neighbor, Georgia, has long and firmly been in the camp of the opponents of Russia. Recently, a motorized infantry company of the Georgian Armed Forces was incorporated into the NATO rapid reaction force. In the country, especially among young people, anti-Russian sentiments are strong. A NATO training center operates on the territory of Georgia on an ongoing basis. Since last year, joint military exercises of the units of the NATO and Georgian troops have acquired a periodic character. The last ones with the puffy name Noble Partner 2016 started as recently as May 11. President Georgy Margvelashvili from a high rostrum has repeatedly said that "Russia occupies a fifth of Georgia and Tbilisi will never accept this." During the opening of the Noble Partner 2016 military exercise, he announced Georgia’s desire for NATO. The North Atlantic organization is slowly but surely mastering a new Caucasian theater of military operations for itself. And there is no longer any doubt that in the event of a war against Russia, NATO will undoubtedly make an attempt to invade the Caucasus. And this time, the Russian army will have to fight not against the Georgian soldiers, who have once shown what they are on the battlefield, the enemy will be more serious. If we talk about the organization of the defense of the high-mountain part of the Main Caucasus Range (GKH), then first of all, it is worth paying attention to the Trans-Caucasian Mainline, the Military Ossetian and Georgian Military Highways. No less dangerous is the direction of the Sukhumi Military Road with gentle Klukhor and Marukh passes.
The section of the Georgian-Russian border, which runs along the Main Caucasus Range (GKH) from Gvandra Mountain to the summit of Geze-Tau (about 140 km in length) should also not be ignored. Here you have to defend the position at absolute heights 3000 – 3500 m and above - this is high mountains. I propose to consider some features of the organization of defense in this segment.
A PROBABLE OPPONENT
The fighters born and raised in the mountains are best suited to the war in the mountains. The irony of the situation is that with the defense of the Caucasus in 1942 – 1943, the Red Army was deployed front to the north, and now the likely enemy is threatening Russia from the south. In those years, residents of the mountainous regions of Georgia adjacent to the GKH from the south — the Svans provided invaluable assistance to the mountain troops of the Red Army and the NKVD. Many mountaineers fought against the alpine rangers of Germany and its allies (in fact, the troops of Western and Central Europe, but at that time united under the auspices of the Third Reich). Now Svans will fight against Russia. Among them there are a lot of great hunters, by the way, they almost destroyed all the game on their side and often visit the Russian territory in order to get a mountain goat or something else. The Balkars have long been jokingly saying that under any circumstances wild animals in the Caucasus do not cross the Russian-Georgian border in the southern direction. It should be borne in mind that Svans know the mountains like the back of their fingers, they know how to shoot, move around, triple ambushes, attack and defend themselves in the mountains. They are undisciplined, but they can successfully participate in sabotage and reconnaissance raids as part of small groups. In Soviet times, among the Svan there were many magnificent climbers. For example, the name of Svan Mikhail Khergiani, one of the strongest climbers of the Union, at one time was widely known in the USSR and in Europe.
But, frankly, Georgia cannot put serious forces on the battlefield. The main part of the NATO mountain infantry will be: German 23-I Mountain Brigade, French Alpine huntsmen (five reinforced battalions: 6, 7, 11,13, 27-i), 159-th mountain-infantry regiment, legionnaires; units of the US 10 Mountain Division and possibly the 86 Brigade, the Italian Alpini (two brigades and three separate regiments) and the Bersalieri (six regiments). It is impossible to completely exclude the possibility of the appearance in the Caucasian theater of operations of the Austrian 6 mountain brigade within the framework of the NATO Partnership for Peace program.
Western countries have one serious problem, which concerns the ability to significantly replenish the number of mountain infantry forces through mobilization. In short, NATO does not have such an opportunity; all that the command of the North Atlantic organization can count on is reservists. For example, strong climbers from Western countries (and there are a lot more of them there than in Russia), a priori not connected with the army, are unlikely to be attracted to military operations because of their pacifist outlook.
From the former allies of the USSR under the Warsaw Pact, the 21-I Polish brigade of the Podhalyanskiy shooters and two Romanian mountain brigades - 2-I and 61-i can take part in the hostilities in the Caucasus. The remaining countries - members of NATO do not have any significant forces of the mountain infantry as part of their armies. But, based on past experience, it can be assumed that they will put small military contingents at the disposal of the joint command of the North Atlantic organization. Involvement of military contingents of the ANZUS bloc countries (Australia, New Zealand, USA) to the solution of military tasks in the Caucasus cannot be ruled out. In addition, it is possible to participate in hostilities units of non-NATO countries within the framework of the same Partnership for Peace program, such as Ukraine, Moldova, Pakistan, Azerbaijan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and others. By the way, in Soviet times, the Ukrainian mountaineering clubs (in Kiev, Kharkov, Odessa, Dnepropetrovsk) were among the strongest in the Union.
RUSSIAN MOUNTAIN ARROWS
What special troops, intended for war in the mountains, does Russia possess? As part of the Southern Military District of the Russian armed forces there are two mountain-rifle brigades. One brigade (33) is deployed in the Botlikh district of Dagestan, approximately 40 km from the Russian-Georgian border. This is the eastern Caucasus. This brigade consists of separate mountain battalions 838 and 839, separate reconnaissance battalion 1198, self-propelled howitzer division, anti-aircraft battery, communications battalion, engineering battalion company, electronic warfare company, supply company, repair company, a medical company, an RCBZ platoon and a commandant platoon.
Another mountain brigade (34-I), also a battalion, is deployed in the stanitsa of Storozheva-2 in Karachay-Cherkessia, approximately 60 km from the state border. True, this time on the other side is not hostile Georgia, but friendly Abkhazia. By its structure, the 34 Brigade is identical to the 33.
It is necessary to admit frankly, these forces are clearly not enough in case of possible military actions, which are discussed in the article. In contrast to NATO, the Russian mobilization system can significantly replenish the troops by reservists in a short time. But here we are talking about mountain specificity. Therefore, it is worth creating, in addition to the already existing real brigades (which, undoubtedly, have tasks according to the “M” plan) scaled mountain parts or compounds in the required quantity and quality and locate them in Staropole and the Kuban.
In Russia, there are from whom to form the mountain-infantry units for conducting combat operations in the conditions of high mountains. The mass enthusiasm of young people for mountaineering and mountain tourism contributes to this. The question is whether the military registration and enlistment offices take into account the enthusiasm of potential conscripts and reservists, which is so useful for the defense of the country. In Soviet times, when mountaineering and mountain tourism were more widespread than they are now, military registration and enlistment offices did not conduct such accounting, and in the Soviet armed forces there was virtually no mountain infantry at all. We do not speak about formally declared, as mountain, military units and formations.
LOOKING TO THE CHARTER
Once again I want to return to the question of the inconsistency of the recommendations that are spelled out in the Combat Regulations "for the preparation and conduct of combined arms combat" (BU) with the realities that troops in the mountains will meet. This time we are talking about defensive fighting.
Let's see what is written in the 198 article of the 2 BU part: "The main efforts are focused on the defense of tank-dangerous areas, mountain passes, road junctions, dominant heights and important objects." It seems to be all right, but this is only a quick glance, and if you think about it, then this very general recommendation is essentially a dummy. And it is worth mentioning that tank-dangerous directions in high mountains are mainly roads, sometimes it is the bottom of flat-bottomed valleys or gorges or gentle slopes free of large stones, very rarely these are plateaus with a smooth surface, which you need to drive up along serpentines and then move down. Here, perhaps, that's all. But this “all” concerns only the low mountains and some part of the middle mountains. In the highlands, there are no tank-dangerous areas at all.
When it comes to dominant heights, you need clarification. If you mean the tops of the mountains, then the recommendation is a mistake: the fact is that from the tops of the valley are not viewed at all, with very few exceptions. To survey the valley bottom, one cannot leave above the lower shoulder of the ridge slope, as soon as he has gone beyond the bend, only the slope of the opposite ridge will be in sight. The higher you go, the smaller part of what happens in the gorge, you see. From some points can be viewed remote areas of the valley. Obviously, there is no point in defending heights in the mountains, as is done in the plain. The point is not to indiscriminately position one’s position as high as possible, but to be higher than the enemy, while not losing sight of him and being at a distance from him that will allow you to effectively use all available fire weapons.
I propose to look at the 199 article: “The most densely all kinds of fire in combination with barriers should cover roads, exits from gorges, tunnels, mountain valleys, narrows, convenient river crossings and canyon crossings, and directions that can be used by the enemy for bypass. "
First, the notion of “exits from the gorges” confuses. It turns out that heights are deliberately given to the enemy, and lowlands must be defended, since the gorges (valleys) are always located "exits" down. The article is confusing between the terms "valley" and "gorge". I want to clarify for the reader one detail: gorges and valleys, in essence, is one and the same and it is not necessary to include these terms in one chain of transfers. It is believed that the former are considerably narrower and somewhat shorter than the latter. Example: Tunkinskaya valley has more than 160 km in length and 30 km in the widest place, and the Baksan gorge is about 96 km in length and in the widest place it is slightly more than 1km. But in the special literature, these two terms have no distinction when it comes to valleys, which often means gorges. Secondly, they are embarrassed by the “transitions through canyons”, the impression is that the author of the article did not see anything other than plain ravines, and believes that the canyons are so small that it is a trifle to build a passage through them. It is difficult to comment on these "transitions" because they are clearly from the realm of fiction, which has nothing to do with reality.
Further in the same article it is written: "... by organizing defense in a narrow valley (gorge), firing means should be placed on the adjacent mountain slopes so that the chamber of the valley (gorge) is provided with crossfire." The word "lumbago" implies that the gorge should be swept to its full length. Let us take as an example the very small Adyl-su gorge in the Elbrus region. It is about xNUMX km long, has many kinks and a significant difference in height, and it is unlikely that it can be “shot through” it to its full length using the whole arsenal of a motorized rifle battalion. It is not a problem to block any part of it across the entire width of the gorge with dense fire, but we are talking about a “shot”.
I return again to the article: “The heights that form the entrance to the valley are most strongly fortified. The approaches to the commanding heights are covered with artillery and grenade launcher units and anti-tank weapons. Artillery is widely used for direct fire shooting. "
If we mean the main valley, which starts from the foothills and goes all the way to the main ridge, then the heights at its entrance can be very low and insignificant so that a maximum of them can be equipped only with a machine gun nest, one position without spare ones, or to lay there for sniper or NP. Why cover the approaches to such a summit is also unclear. If we are talking about one of the side valleys near the main ridge, then there is no point in defending such a peak, because, as a rule, the valley is not visible from it at all. In this case, the position is better to prepare on the lowest shoulder on the side of a mountain. In this case, we are not talking about the placement of cannon artillery there (especially MLRS). Let's try to imagine how you can prepare a position for a cannon on the slope of 30 – 35 degrees for firing direct fire in the direction of the foot of the mountain (otherwise, how to understand the requirement of the charter).
The article 201 says: "The circumventing enemy is destroyed by artillery fire and other means, as well as by decisive actions of the units of the second echelon (reserve) or the battalion armored group (company)." The trouble is that far from everywhere, even in the midlands, you can drag up artillery, especially armored vehicles, and it’s not about doing something like that in the highlands. There everything that mountain infantry can have, it is able to carry on itself, at best, to use pack animals.
Let's look at another position and finish it. So, the statute says: "It is advisable to conduct counter attacks from top to bottom along ridges, valleys, roads with extensive use of detours and envelopes." This is another empty recommendation. First, if we move along the ridges and valleys, taking into account their great length, then this combat action does not fit into the term “attack”, then we must speak about a counterattack. Secondly, if we are talking about midlands and high mountains, the ridges are crowned with rock ridges, and in winter - snow pressures and cornices. The relief of the ridges itself is often such that it does not unfold on it. Sometimes it is necessary to attack even not into the column one at a time, but simply one at a time, and the fighters will in some places have to crawl through difficult areas where they cannot physically fire at the enemy. Along the valleys will have to counterattack the enemy in the forehead. Therefore, if we are talking about a counterattack, we must, first of all, pay attention to the slopes of the ridges, wide couloirs, folds in the mountain relief, which allow secretly maneuver to occupy advantageous positions, from where you can counterattack, and it is better to hit the enemy with destructive fire from top to bottom , with medium distances.
The fighter of the 34 Brigade demonstrates skills that are useless in real combat. Photos from the official website of the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation
Not to be unfounded, I propose to consider the option of organizing defense with a specific example. Take not the whole highland section of the GKH from the top of Gvandra to the top of the Gese-tau, but only its center. Let's confine ourselves to the regimental defense area (PO), from the top of Chiper-Azau-bashi (3862 m) to Cheget-tau peak (4109) - along the front (about 40 km long) and to the village of Elbrus in depth (inclusively approximately 16,5 km without taking into account the height difference). This RO closes the exit to the Baksan gorge with its developed infrastructure and operational directions to Nalchik and Minvody. The essence of the organization of defense is to take a small part of the forces on the GKH line, and leave the main forces to maneuver, which is the main component of active defense. Reserves must be placed so that there is an opportunity to transfer troops ahead of the enemy to particularly dangerous areas during the fighting.
On the right flank of this RO, the main attention will have to be paid to the Donguz-Orun pass, through which the load route from the Baksan gorge to the Inguri valley in Svaneti goes. This pass is located at an altitude of 3180 m above sea level. The slope that leads to it from the Baksansky Gorge is flat, but not passable for technology. Light artillery, ammunition, and material resources will have to be lifted here for pack animals or, as they say, manually. It is possible to use helicopters, naturally, without their landing. The slopes on the Georgian side, leading to the pass from the valley of the Nakra River, are steep, wide and open. The length of the ascent is 3,5 km, on which the infantry has nowhere to hide. There is work for mortars, large-caliber machine guns and long-range sniper rifles. In addition, in the upper part of this climb to the pass leads a rather narrow couloir, which is sufficient to block with a single machine gun. A light mortar battery can be placed on the northern slope of the pass, not far from the ridge. Snipers can be located in the rocks just below the pass on the south side, on the very pass, along the adjacent ridges of the Nakra-tau and Donguz-Orun-bashi peaks. In addition, the pass can be placed before the platoon of shooters. The position is strong, but reliable air and missile defense and means are needed to combat high-precision weapons.
The company reserve will be located at the lake Donguz-Orun-Kel and partly in the North shelter. Calculations of MANPADS will take up positions on the ridges closer to the peaks of Nakra-tau and Donguz-Orun-bashi. At the neighboring Chiper passes (3400 m), Chiper-Azau (3263 m) and on the jumper (3700 m) between the Nakra-tau and Donguz-Orun-Bashi peaks, it is necessary to put barriers, one maneuverable group should be placed on the Big Azau glacier.
When preparing positions, it is imperative to provide for laying of bombs for the collapse of rockfalls, ice falls and avalanches on the enemy’s battle formations in an explosive manner. This weapon is sometimes more effective than machine guns, rifles and artillery.
The reserve of the battalion, intended for the rotation of personnel occupying positions in the high mountains, should be located at the Cheget Hotel. The senior commander can deploy heavy cannon and rocket artillery and air defense forces near the Cheget, Terskol, Itkol hotels, in the Narzan glade and deeper down the valley. At the same time, fire and technical equipment should be dispersed. EW systems and air defense systems can be deployed on the southern slope of Elbrus, the roads here lead to Mir station (3500 m) and to the ice base (3800 m), with the help of ratrak the equipment can be raised to the jumper between the tops of Elbrus (5300 m). For visual communication with the neighbor on the right place the NP on the Hotyu-Tau Pass.
In the center of the forward position of the RO, the most “hottest” place will undoubtedly be the Becho Pass (3375 m). In this area, the second echelon and support facilities will be located below the pass in the Yusengi river valley, since this valley is impassable for vehicles and can be carried out by cartage and transport helicopters. The approach to the Becho Pass from the Georgian side is simpler than from the Baksan Gorge, but the terrain for technology is impassable, the enemy will have to attack on foot. The road from Svaneti approaches close to the foot of the pass, the enemy has the ability to deploy artillery on the approaches to it.
The left flank of our RO will cover the Adyl-su valley and the lateral valleys extending from it towards the GKH. Here, the main efforts will be directed to the defense of the passes of the Jan-Tugan (3483 m) and Kashkatash (3730 m). In addition, at least four barriers will have to be set up to cover the passes: Ushbinsky (4100 m), Chalaat (4200 m), Double (3950 m), Bashkar (3754 m). In the valley of the Adyl-su river, heavy self-propelled artillery and equipment can reach the camp of Gian-Tougan, and this is 5 – 6km from the GKH (without taking into account the height difference). Reserve groups can be located on German overnight stays, on the glade of Shkhelda’s smile, next to the Jan-Tugan a / l, at the Yellow Stones bivouac (lateral moraine of the Kashkatash glacier), on the Green Hotel glade (at the Bashkarinsky glacier). For visual communication with the neighbor on the left, the NP can be placed on the top of Viatau (3742 m). The headquarters, reserve and rear regiment is best located in the forest at the confluence of the Baksan and Adyl-su rivers, near the village of Elbrus.
In the course of hostilities due to the proximity of hostilities of the warring parties aviation the enemy will not be able to strike at the front line of defense. But it’s still necessary to prepare shelters for positions. When organizing the circular defense of strong points located on the watershed line of the Main Range, the main attention should be paid to the ridges and long regiments passing below them.
There are a few rules to follow when you are in the highlands. Sunglasses on snowfields or closed glaciers prevent the aimed fire from small arms (especially for snipers), but in no case should they be removed: after an hour of battle with unprotected eyes in bright sun, the fighter will get a sunburn of his eyes, and after a whole day - at best, losing sight for a short time. It is necessary to protect all exposed skin areas from the sun, especially the face, otherwise severe sunburn cannot be avoided. In case of low clouds, dark glasses are also not allowed, because this will cause eye burns.
It is always necessary to provide insurance (self-insurance) in the highlands, in positions and during movement over the relief, even for latrines.
With a long stay in the highland zone (for the Caucasus, this is the absolute height of 3000 – 3500 m and above) the human body loses a lot of moisture, which must be constantly replenished, if not done, the blood will thicken and there is a danger of “earning” thrombophlebitis and as a result - heart attack or stroke. In combat, a situation may arise when the fighter does not have the water at hand. If there is snow or to suck on ice, the larynx and tongue become inflamed and swollen. When drinking melt water, firstly, thirst is not quenched, and secondly, vital minerals are flushed out of the body, even if the water is heated. Cold water can provoke inflammation in the larynx and is harmful to the teeth. To avoid trouble, it is necessary to supply the fighters who are at war in the highlands with aspirin tablets to thin the blood (which must be consumed constantly, between drinking) and special aqua-salt complexes to enrich drinking water with minerals. In case of emergency, each fighter should have a flexible plastic tube of length 20 – 25 cm, from 5 to 7mm in diameter, which is necessary so that there is no contact of cold water with the teeth while drinking from a stream (in this case you should drink in small sips, warming water in the mouth).
If a unit defends positions located in a high mountain zone, a snow cave is the best structure for the rest of personnel. It does not bother the wind and precipitation, protection is more reliable in case of thunderstorms and storms, snow is a good heat insulator. When constructing snow caves it is very important to ensure the outflow of carbon dioxide that a person exhales (carbon dioxide is heavy, therefore it accumulates below, the niche for outflow must go below the floor of the cave), if the outflow is not ensured, everyone in the cave may die.
If it is not possible to stand on the bivouac (to warm up food) during the march in the conditions of high mountains during the winter season, in order to maintain vitality in dry rations, there must be chocolate. Other products freeze in the frost to the state of bottle ice and are not suitable for consumption as food, and even frozen chocolate is easily dissolved in the mouth. The flask with water should be transferred in such conditions under the down jacket, closer to the body, in the backpack the water will surely freeze.
If you experience acute symptoms of mountain sickness (hypoxia), the victim must be given alcohol inhalation, this will support him for a while. Ideally, of course, you need a portable oxygen breathing apparatus, if it is not there - the patient must be immediately lowered down, and he should not go by himself, he must be carried. Otherwise, mountain sickness can develop in pulmonary edema, brain or heart attack.
During an attack (counterattack) while skiing down a slope with a deep cover of fresh snow (from 1,5 m and more), in order not to cut the slope (this happens during the traverse of the slope) and not to cause an avalanche to descend, all fighters should move strictly downwards with shallow , smooth arcs (godil). It is quite difficult to fire on the move (with sufficient skills it is possible, but it will not work precisely), it is undesirable to stop for shooting (since the skier plunges deep into the snow when stopped, he does not have a view, and then it is very difficult to start the movement). It’s easier to get close to the enemy and destroy it with fire point-blank. In this case, it is difficult for the enemy to conduct aimed fire at the rapidly approaching combat order of the attackers.
If the enemy decides to attack the attackers with mortar fire, firstly, due to the quick movement of the skiers, it is difficult to attack him, secondly, the mortar fire can cause an avalanche, but even if the enemy decides to do so, the effect of the mortar fire will be insignificant ( that the avalanche will come down) - deep snow will extinguish the blast wave and will not allow the fragments of the drowned mine to scatter.
It is difficult to carry out an attack on skis, if deep snow is covered with a thin crust that cannot withstand the weight of a person. In this case, skiers require excellent preparation in order not to lose balance during the descent.
Observation posts or positions for shooters that are distant from the base should also be equipped with shelters in case of a thunderstorm storm. For example, on the slopes of Elbrus at altitudes above 4500 m during a storm, the temperature may drop to –20 (sometimes lower) degrees Celsius, but it will snow. A fighter who is in an open space will be covered with a crust of ice in the blink of an eye, he will have to fight this phenomenon, and there will be no time for the enemy.
Lightning during the storm hit the slope tightly (like a machine gun fire) and randomly, static electricity just fills all the space around, in the dark all objects jutting up light up and buzz. In combination with a strong wind, dense, harsh, and even wet snow and other delights, a storm in the highlands is an absolute hell. A fighter must be prepared to perform a combat mission in such an environment.
For lifting high-altitude positions of heavy loads, such as mortars, ammunition, building materials for the construction of shelters and fortifications, etc., you can use pack animals. Where they will be powerless, fighters will have to haul cargo by themselves, but not by the same method as was done in 1942 – 1943 in Afghanistan. Polyspast is a universal system that will help soldiers to raise mortars and other gravity to a height without losing a lot of strength. And for this it is necessary that the fighters knit a tackle “on the machine”.
Storage sites for ammunition, especially artillery shells and grenades, should be reliably covered from lightning in case of a thunderstorm.
Fighters of mountain troops must be able to work reliably with a lack of safety material. In the absence of Zhumar, shunts or clamping blocks (devices for moving up the rope), you should be able to use special assemblies in combination with carbines: prusik, UIAA knot, guard loop, etc. If there is no descender, you can do with a carbine. By the way, in Russia, not all eminent climbers know what a “carbine brake” is and how to knit it. There are popular knots: the eight and the simple conductor, which are better to replace with the boulene for the simple reason that the latter does not tighten tightly under load and, if absolutely necessary, it can always be dissolved. There are many such “minor tricks”, they need to be known, because they can save lives.