By Givi Ordenidze, Civil Georgia
Georgia's orientation towards NATO is becoming more and more clear. However, the issue of its acession to this organization is another question. But despite this, first steps are being done in this direction. Bilateral cooperation in this regard develops on ascending curve.
First stage of "approaching" NATO is to change standards of the military equipment. This process is being implemented from the middle of 90's in Georgia, however rather slowly and depends completely on assistance of the western powers.
Georgian Defense Ministry received 8 UH-1H Iroquois "Huey" helicopters. Official ceremony of transfer has been held on 12 pm, October 23 at Alekseevka airfield. 6 helicopters are the present of United States of America and 2 - of the Turkish Defense Ministry. Total value of the units is 6 million USD.
Georgian governmental officials, representatives of American and Turkish military and foreign diplomats attended an official ceremony of transfer of the helicopters. State Minister of Georgia Gia Arsenishvili, Defense Minister David Tevzadze, former chief of staff of the United States John Shalikashvili, Charge d'Affairs of the United States Philip Ramler and other officials delivered speeches during the ceremony.
Iroquez helicopters are used for transportation of mobile ground troops, such as insertion and evacuation of infantry. The helicopter is in service in the American Army since 1960's. It has been widely used in Vietnam War. The helicopter is being produced in Turkey and China (under permission of the United States) as well. Machine guns and other types of armament can be installed on UH 1H if necessary. The helicopter can carry 13 soldiers, or 10 wounded plus medical staff. Therefore medical units use the aircraft as well.
As Georgian Defense Ministry informs, average age of the received crafts ranges between 10 and 12 years, which is normal for this class of aircraft.
The grant agreement, concluded between Georgian and Turkish Defense Ministries for 5 years considers other types of assistance along with the transfer of the helicopters. During the mentioned period, the Turkish side will provide 40 tons of fuel and technical assistance for the aircrafts, e.g. spear parts, consultations and training of personnel.
The United States will train crews for the helicopters. With this purpose group of Georgian military students has been dispatched to USA several months ago, however due to certain actions of one of the students the whole group was returned back to Georgia. On journalist's question about what exactly happened there, Georgian Defense Minister David Tevzadze replied: "Inadequate behavior". New group of students is not dispatched to the United States yet, but their training is expected to start in the nearest future.
The Turkish side trained crew for the two machines, presented by this country. Fortunately, there were no accidents during the training, so Georgia now has two pilots for the helicopters.
As Georgian Defense Ministry informs, the aircraft will be used by both Defense Ministry and Border Guard Department. It should be mentioned here, that the US government for the Department two Mi 8 helicopters, repaired in Ukraine. This was very timely present for the Border Guard Department, which has been experiencing material difficulties.
Thus, we see, that US-Turkey-Georgia cooperation is becoming real and, as Georgian Defense Minister says, such friendly relations between the defense agencies of the three countries would further expand in the future too. On journalist's question "What would be the next real step", David Tevzadze, who seemed to be very pleased with official ceremony, replied with laughter "Probably we would bring big gun next".
While overall political situation in the region is extremely tense, and, even further there are grounds for military conflicts, military cooperation by the United States and Turkey should be a kind of political 'message' for the powers in the region. However, David Tevzadze says regarding the 'messages': "They arrived and they are stationed".
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