Georgia releases footage of Russian MiG shooting down drone

Georgia today released this amazingly detailed video footage of a Russian MiG fighter shooting down one of its unarmed drones:

Georgian authorities claim that the drone was shot down during an operation over the breakaway region of Abkhazia which is supported, of course, by Russia. Colonel David Nairashvili, commander of Georgia’s air force told reporters:

Mig-29 fighter firing missile“On April 20 a Russian MiG-29 fighter jet shot down an unarmed, unmanned air vehicle which was performing basic reconnaissance over Georgian territory.

It’s absolutely illegal for a Russian MiG-29 to be there.”

Naturally, Russia has protested its innocence. A typically robust spokesman for the Russian air force said today:

“Nonsense. What would a Russian jet fighter be doing over Georgian territory?”

Interestingly, no markings are visible on the aircraft – I’m not sure if this is because the MiG was actually unmarked, or if the video’s resolution isn’t good enough to pick out the markings. But Georgian authorities are sure the plane is Russian. The Georgian airforce chief went on to add that:

“The MiG-29 has a distinctive twin-tail marking. It’s a Russian aircraft. Georgia does not possess it, nor do Abkhaz separatists.”

And, moreover, he claims, Georgian radar records show that the plane took off from a base in Abkhazia before shooting down the drone and fleeing across the border into Russia.

Clearly someone shot down the plane. But I wonder – could it have been a training exercise by the Georgian air force – presumably they have a few MiGs still knocking around. Or, does the Abkhazian military have a couple of MiGs under its control, on loan from Russia?

What do you think?

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16 Responses

  1. Aleks says:

    It’s true that the georgian airforce don’t have Mig-29s, though they do have some Sukhoi 25s (Rutskoi’s old afghan mount) as there is a Sukhoi factory in Georgia.

    Georgia would certainly want to put its best spin on this ‘news’, but there are a couple of questions:

    1: Is this really footage from Georgia?

    It is known that the US has a number of Mig 29s (former Mig 29Cs bought from Moldova because they had wiring for the carriage of nuclear weapons and the US didn’t want them being picked up by undesirables). Germany has donated its Mig 29s to Poland, so a stitch-up, however actually unlikely, is technically possible. We also know that not so long ago Russia increased its military presence in Armenia, including Mig 29s (and apparently much of the materiel being pulled out of the ex-soviet bases in georgia).

    2: We only see a clip. Is there anything of interest earlier?

    3: I’m suprised that the Mig took a frontal shot and wasted a missile when it could have easily shot it down from behind with cannon. Bravado? Also the need to use a Mig when helicopters have been quite successfully used against UAVs in the past (could have shot it down from above and thus remained unseen).

    Then again, maybe the russians were being particularly deliberate considering NATO’s delayed invitation to Georgia at the recent Bucharest summit.

    On a related note, where on earth did Georgia get the money to buy such UAVs? If anything, this shows that though the US and NATO are not evidently present in Georgia in substantial numbers, that there has been a significant transfer, or donation of sophisticated military materiel to the georgian armed forces.

    It is also quite possible that the ‘pilot flying’ the UAV was not a georgian pilot, depending on how long the georgians have been operating the UAVs and if they have actually had time to train.

    Putin has been very active in the last few weeks dropping sanctions against Georgia and bolstering ties with S. Abkhazia and Ossetia, supposedly offering a deal to Moldova that in return for it nver becoming a NATO member, Russia will ‘accept’ that Transdnestr becomes and autonomous regions of Moldova, and annoucing a very large ‘humanitarian shipment’ to Kosovo’s Serbs as well as strongly reiterating that only UNMIK has authority in Kosovo. It’s all very ‘carrot and stick’ deliberately tying up a number of outstanding issues, but why now? Does Putin still doubt Medvyedev or possible political manoeuvering by ‘others’ behind Medvyedev? Curious indeed…

  2. Good points Aleks.

    As I stated elsewhere: using baseball terminology, the Russian announcement on seeking to establish closer ties with Abkhazia and South Ossetia can be likened to throwing a brush back pitch in response to Georgia seeking NATO membership and the support given to Kosovo’s independence.

    The Russians aren’t likely to acknowledge this. Much like how the brush back pitch is ofen not stated as a counteracting move.

    If successfully implemented, the hypothetically mentioned peace plan for the former Moldavian SSR (Moldova and Pridnestrovie) could then be brought up as an option for resolving the Kosovo dispute. As is clear to those familiar with these situations and reasonably objective: Pridnestrovie has a better independence case than Kosovo on matters pertaining to history, human rights, self sufficiency and governance.

  3. kyle says:

    Very simple! This is a staged event! Aleks has it correct!

    Kyle

  4. Andy says:

    Good questions, Aleks – there are a lot of things still to clear up and Georgia’s presented case does rely a lot on supposition (“it’s a MiG29 and we don’t have any so it must be big bad Russia…”).

    But, turning the issue back on its head again – why would Georgia shoot down a drone and blame it on Russia and, more importantly, how could they organise it?

    As well – why would any NATO country allow its equipment & personnel to be used for this?

    Georgia doesn’t appear to have any MiG-29s of its own. However, as Aleks notes, it could have access to one via its NATO allies. But, if that’s the case, why would any of those allies risk allowing Georgia to use it in this way to make a propaganda point. If Georgia were found out and Russia thought Georgia had acted with the explicit or tacit approaval of NATO, it would reflect very badly on any involved NATO allies, and damage relations with Russia.

  5. Aleks says:

    I don’t know if it is staged, I only said it was techincally possible.

    If we take the video and what we are told it shows at face value, what it does show is that Georgia has access to sophisticated technology, clearly coming from the US/NATO countries. The video is high quality and must have been ‘streamed’ back to a base station rather than recorded onboard, which means that it requires the relevant communications fit such as satellite communications or someort of relay. Georgia doesn’t own a satellite. Add to this that UAVs are almost never bought singly (usually a base station and several UAVs) and you are looking at some serious money.

    If Georgia bought such equipment, where did they get the money from? Was it donated etc??? When did the flights start?

    I just read a piece that quoted Putin as saying such flights are ‘destablizing’. Techincally this is true as ‘reconnaissance’ flights are to gather very useful data on troop and materiel dispositions so could be seen as a prelude to a military offensive by the georgian military (which is being trained by NATO allies).

    Still, the bolstering of Georgia’s military capabilities strengthens its negotiating/military position vis-a-vis S. Ossetia/Abkhazia.

    Why would the Georgians do it? Play the role of the victim of big bad Russia who threatens its existence and build wider support in the UN General Assembly if something comes up? One thing for sure is that the ante has been upped since the NATO summit in Bucharest.

    How could they do it? Without access to the raw video footage, it could quite easily have been faked digitally. The Mig 29 could have come from Azerbaijan who purchased a number in 2007 from the Ukraine and Belarus.

    NATO is certainly not above technical tricks, e.g. when NATO blew up the passenger train at Grdelica in Kosovo, they played back the tape of the attack ‘showing’ that the train suddenly appeared and the pilot did not have time to divert the missile. It was only some years later that we discovered that the tape had ‘accidentally’ been played back at three times its normal speed.

    If anything, its more of a message to NATO by Russia.

  6. Andy says:

    Sorry Aleks – I didn’t mean to imply you were suggesting the incident was staged.

    I do think Putin is right about Georgian overflights being destabilising, though. Partly because of the intelligence benefits they give to Georgia.

    But, more importantly, the opportunity they provide for NATO analysts to examine Russian capacity in the region and how they deploy troops. If NATO or the US are supplying the drones and equipment to run them, they will certainly also have access to the raw data.

  7. Aleks says:

    Andy, I should have been clearer, I wasn’t referring to you but to Mr. Kyle’s (evidently) sarcastic comment.

    More info from the defense blog of la liberation: http://secretdefense.blogs.liberation.fr/defense/2008/04/quand-la-russie.html

    The Abkhaz claim it was an L-39 (LOL!), and that they previously shot down the same type of UAV (Israeli Hermes 450: http://www.fas.org/man/dod-101/sys/ac/row/hermes-450.htm) in March. The 450 (if that is what it is) is some expensive kit – it is very long range and can ‘loiter’ for 20 odd hours – very useful for passing off target data/information for realtime use (aka ‘sensor-to-shooter’) and according to the FAS can include a mapping/targetting radar, electronic countermeasures and SIGnalsIntellingence… Nothing to be sniffed at!

  8. Kyle Keeton says:

    Kyle was not sarcastic, he watched the video and made a decision that the video was a staged event. Not real.

    I said, you were correct in the presentations of your information. Other words much more here than meets the eye.

    You said “1: Is this really footage from Georgia? 2: We only see a clip. Is there anything of interest earlier? 3: I’m suprised that the Mig took a frontal shot and wasted a missile”

    I said,”Very simple, This is a staged event.” (This is my thoughts on the subject!)

    I said that,”Aleks was right” (You gave very good information and questions that should be pondered and equated on. other words I considered your comment to have value)

    Kyle Keeton

  9. Aleks says:

    Sorry Kyle.

    I assumed you wrote that I was “correct” in agreement with your comment that it was staged. It wasn’t very clear to me! I stand corrected.

    Aleks

  10. Kyle Keeton says:

    Thanks Aleks, I also think that your second comment is note worthy.

    While I just traveled Ukraine and Georgia in the last few weeks. I saw very new and sophisticated radar systems in the mountains. For countries that have money issues (as I am told.) They have a lot of money to invest in Military. Seems NATO (or USA) has been sneaking around for some time and putting their two cents worth in! One of the most fantastic complexes that I saw was located in the Crimea. On top of the mountains located near Yalta!

    Then I could be wrong…..

    Kyle

  11. Aleks says:

    Kyle, do you mean the Ai-Petri ‘golf balls’ location of an observatory and radar station? http://community.livejournal.com/foto_kpblm/81802.html

    Google earth kmz of all the Crimean installations can be downloaded here: http://bbs.keyhole.com/ubb/showthreaded.php/Cat/0/Number/392284/page/

    The ‘new’ interesting bits: http://news.monstersandcritics.com/europe/news/article_1401275.php/Russia_Georgia_trade_accusation_of_breaking_UN_rules

    “‘The flight by the reconnaissance plane … was a violation of the Moscow agreement on the ceasefire of May 14, 1994, and of the corresponding resolutions by the UN Security Council on the mandate of the UN observer mission in Georgia,’ the foreign ministry added.”

    “Georgia, after first denying that it owned reconnaissance aircraft that could have flown Sunday’s mission, made a statement saying one of its ‘unmanned aerial crafts’ was attacked while ‘conducting routine surveillance above the breakaway Georgian territory of Abkhazia.'”
    ***

    More: http://www.newsgeorgia.org/military/eorgia-has-about-40-drones–saakashvili.php

    “(Civil Georgia 22.04.2008) Georgia has about 40 unmanned reconnaissance aerial vehicles (UAV), President Saakashvili told the New York Times”

    40? No doubt they bought a range of models. Still, even more dineros than several Hermes 450s…

    “The New York Times quoted Georgian officials as saying that they were fortunate to capture the fighter plane on camera, and had done so only because a first missile fired by the plane missed the drone, which has a small engine that they said made it a difficult target for a heat-seeking missile. The pilot apparently decided to approach closer for a second shot, officials said, and flew near enough for the plane to be filmed by the drone before it was destroyed”

    1st missile shot failed! Also in this article and others the Abkhaz say the rememnants had Elbit & Hermes(?) written on it. It’s curious that the UAV was not camoflaged.

    From Eurasia.net in more detail: http://www.eurasianet.org/departments/insight/articles/eav042208b.shtml

    Curious. Why deny owning UAVs? I wonder at what date NATO upped its military support for the Georgian governement…. and whether the Mig 29s moved to Gudauta before or after the georgians started UAV flights… Having Migs at Gudauta implies a logistics trail, i.e. transportation of sufficient avgas and its storage there, along with maintenance and other forms of back up that are needed to keep aircraft in the air. This is not somthing that can be done over night.

    Google earth: Gudauta – 43° 6’23.72″N 40°38’8.06″E , ‘Russian’ airbase: 43° 5’57.52″N 40°34’54.88″E).

    I have so far failed to find a photo of said UAV in georgian markings..

  12. “Sergey Bagapsh
    Abkhazia says it was their air force that shot down a Georgian spy drone on Sunday. Abkhazian leader Sergey Bagapsh spoke exclusively to RT about the incident.”

    http://www.russiatoday.ru/guests/detail/1151

  13. Aleks says:

    Irakly Okruashvili given political asylum by France! http://news.monstersandcritics.com/europe/news/article_1401434.php/France_grants_political_asylum_to_former_Georgian_defence_minister

    I’m sure that will put a further dent in Saakashivili’s PR image…

  14. Perhaps some theatrics at the UN on the downed drone and the state of Russo-Georgian relations:

    http://www.russiatoday.ru/news/news/23842

  15. Emil says:

    “Why would the Georgians do it? Play the role of the victim of big bad Russia who threatens its existence and build wider support in the UN General Assembly if something comes up?”

    or nation building.