More information is coming out
of Russia describing the problems troops encountered when they invaded Georgia
last month. It turns out that the Russians lost eight aircraft (four Su-25s,
two Su-24s, one Tu-22 and one Mi-24 helicopter.) The Russian pilots were not
prepared to deal with the three batteries of SA-11 anti-aircraft missile
systems the Georgians had bought from Ukraine last year. There is now more work
being done on countermeasures, and training pilots to cope.
unanticipated problem was the unreliability of the Russian navigation
satellites. Russia's answer to GPS, GLONASS, was at full strength (24
satellites) shortly after the Cold War ended (1995). But the end of the Cold
War meant the end of the regular financing for GLONASS. Maintaining the system
meant launching replacement satellites every 5-7 years. By the end of 2002,
only seven GLONASS birds were still operational. However, a series of launches
in 2003 increased the number of active satellites to twelve, and that went to
18 by the end of 2007. Russia plans to put eight more GLONASS satellites in
orbit this year. That would expand the system to 24 navigation satellites.
Russia plans to have the system fully operational next year. Right now, it is
active for most of Russia, but not, it turned out, in Georgia. Aircraft and
ground forces got lost, and that led to more losses. The GLONASS problems also
prevented use of Russian smart bombs with much effectiveness. The government is
already planning to replace the current GLONASS satellites with 30 second
generation birds by 2011.