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Maritime Defense Force (MDF)

In 2009 Georgia created a Maritime Defense Force with the merging of Navy and Coast Guard assets. According to the law of Georgia on “Amendments conducted in the Law of Georgia on Defence of Georgia” of December 19, 2008, the structural changes have been made in the MIA Border Police of Georgia and Armed Forces of Georgia. Over these structural changes the GBP Coast Guard Department and Navy of the MOD have been merged, thus forming united naval force – the Coast Guard Department of the Border Police of Georgia. The CG discharges maritime-defence and law-enforcement tasks and duties.

Additionally, a detailed implementation plan was required to reorganize the Navy and Coast Guard. Defense Tasks were securing the sea lines of communications; Protecting Georgian waters, ports and coastline from attack and other violation or intrusion; – Preserving high level of combat training and readiness; Support to civil authorities during disaster relief operations; Support to civil authorities in counter-terrorist operations; and Providing forces for the regional maritime collective defense. Law Enforcement Tasks were : Protection of maritime borders; Prevention of smuggling and enforcement of custom regulations; Prevention of illegal immigration and enforcement of immigration regulations; Protection of the maritime environment and enforcement of environmental regulations at sea; Protection of maritime resources including fisheries, and enforcement of applicable regulations; Enforcement of navigational regulations; Conducting search and rescue at sea; Control and coordination of port safety and security; and Other maritime operations as directed.

The Organizational Concept for Creation of the Maritime Defense Force included an organizational structure consisting of a Maritime Defense Force Command – a reorganized, combined naval and Coast Guard staff located at Poti; a Maritime Operations Center – integrated maritime surveillance center featuring a common operational picture developed from long (out to 200 nm) and short (out to 60 nm) range radars located at Poti. The Main Poti Maritime Base would have berthing and support facilities to accommodate the following organizations: a Maritime Ship Squadron of 3-4 blue water vessels, a Coastal Ship Squadron of 4 – 5 vessels, and logistic support center providing support to all maritime forces. The Batumi Maritime Base – berthing and support facilities to accommodate the following organizations; a second Coastal Ship Squadron of 4 – 5 vessels, a Maritime Training Center, and a small logistic center to support the Coastal Ship Squadron. Dispersed radar reconnaissance detachments to man the short and long range radar systems.

Selected vessels will be programmed, including potentially the Navy vessels Tskaltubo and both Guria and Atia landing craft, based on their existing status. Remaining Naval vessels will be retired based on the availability of replacement platforms to perform essential mission requirements. However, based on age, operational status and future value, the Dioskuria, Kutaisi, Iveria and Mestia will likely be early candidates for retirement. It is possible that some existing naval river and patrol boats could be transferred to coastal missions since some of these vessels are in good operational condition. Some fast boats will be retained for port security (including counter mine requirements) while the remainder will be sold or retained for training.

Replacing maritime (blue water) vessels constitutes the greatest challenge. Some 3 to 4 blue water capable platforms represent the objective requirement. Every attempt will be made to procure vessels from a common source to mitigate logistic support costs. Finally, due to the significant expenditures required to replace Maritime Defense Force assets, a thorough life cycle costing assessment will be conducted.

The merging of naval and Coast Guard capabilities represented a formidable challenge. However, the Coast Guard had been the beneficiary of a sustained, U.S. Department of Transportation program that has supported the transformation of the Georgian Coast Guard. This organization had already experienced dramatic downsizing, including a reduction in its fleet from 38 to 14 vessels. The fleet as of 2007 included two ships and twelve operational patrol boats. Many of these vessels have been donated and include a number of former, U.S. Coast Guard vessels that were in excellent condition. Additionally, the Coast Guard received U.S. support in building or refurbishing many of its administrative, operational and logistic infrastructure, most of which is located at Poti or Batumi.

Georgian Coast Guard

The Coast Guard activities cover defense of the Sovereignty of Georgia, Sovereign rights of Georgia, protection of the maritime border of Georgia, maintenance of the maritime security. The main tasks of the Coast Guard Department is to demonstrate the state flag of Georgia in the maritime space; to control legal regime in the maritime space of Georgia; to prevent, reveal and eliminate illegal activities in the maritime space of Georgia; to monitor the activities of the Georgian and other countries ships; to secure safety of navigation and boating; to conduct search and rescue operations in the sea; to control and coordinate the measures of protection and safety of the seaports; to protect strategic objects from the seaside./p>

The formation of the Georgian Coast Guard started in 1998, when the first naval division was established within the State Border Defense State Department of Georgia. At the same time, the first and the second naval divisions were founded in Poti and Batumi. On July 16, 1998 the Coast Guard of Georgia started patrolling of the maritime state border of Georgia. Due to the importance of the obligations to control the maritime border, in 2003 the Main Office of the Coast Guard was established.

In 2005, the State Border Defense Department of Georgia became subordinate agency to the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Georgia with the significant increase of the status and functions of the Coast Guard. Two offices were formed within the Coast Guard Main Office: one - responsible for the conduction of maritime operations and the other - for the provision. The changes were based on the recommendations of the US Coast Guard experts as well.

In 2006, the MIA State Border Defense Department was transformed into the law-enforcement agency with the special functions – the Border Police of Georgia. Relevant changes were made in the Coast Guard as well; it had got the status of the department. The Head of the Department became at the same time the deputy Head of the Border Police of Georgia.

Georgia Navy

Georgia's Navy was responsible for maintenance of the sovereignty of the country and for protection of internal territorial waters and economic zones. Georgian Navy is responsible to participate in collective protection of region of the Black Sea under multilateral agreements and commitments. The primary functions of Navy are to watch over the interests of Georgia in the Black Sea region, the maintenance of the sovereignty of the country, the security of the navigation and operations controlling in the Georgia's Responsibility Zone (GEOREP).

The primary goals of Navy include:

  • Demonstration of the national Flag in sea waters.
  • Providing of daily activities for combat readiness and preparation of the Naval Forces.
  • Protection of territorial integrity from an attack and other threats together with other Authorities.
  • Achieve progress in the harmonization process with NATO and international requirements and standards in coordination with other government bodies.
  • Protection of national and international economical activities in the Georgia's Responsibility Zone.
  • Interactions, cooperation and coordination with other ministries in environmental measures as well as in elimination of poaching, drug transit, human trafficking and other illegal actions.
  • Planning and carrying out of trainings, exercises and other preparation measures together with other service branches.
  • Implementation of search and rescue operations, in the case of natural disasters aiding domestic population independently, or in close cooperation with other authorities or neighbor countries relative structures.
  • Providing fire support during joint operations.
  • Ensure shipping transactions.
  • Lead counter-terrorism measures independently or with partner countries.
  • Providing special operations against objects located in enemy's zone.
  • Fulfillment of international commitments.

The Ministry of Defense includes the Navy, which as of 2000 had 750 military personnel and 13 vessels of various different classes and types, according to the International Institute for Strategic Studies' annual publication The Military Balance. By 2008 the Navy had about 500 personnel and only six vessels, according to the IISS. According to the official Georgia Navy webpage, as of 2007 the strength of Navy was 892 personnel, of which 178 were Officers, 405 NCOs, 119 Conscripts and 42 Civilians.

According to a report in Kommersant, as of 2004 Georgia's navy had 30 vessels and boats of different classes at its command. The main forces were made up of missile boats "Dioskursia (French Combattante II Class, received from Greece in 2004, armed by two Exocet MM38 cruise missiles with 49 km range) and the Tbilisi missile boat (206MP Vikhr, donated by Ukraine in June 1999, which was equipped with P-15M cruise missiles with 80 km range). The navy also had two 106K Vydra storm-boats, received from Bulgaria, three 1400M Grif patrol boats, 4-5 1398B Aist boats, and 15-20 miscellaneous patrol boats of different kinds received from Turkey, Greece, USA, Germany, and Romania. Georgia's navy may also have possessed a 1241 Molnia missile boat with P-15M missiles and two small 1124 Albatros anti-submarine boats. Some small number of landing craft were also said to be in inventory.

Georgia's military manpower was no more than 2000 people, according to Kommersant, as of 2004, when it was commanded by Vice Admiral Gigla Iremadze. The main base of the fleet was located in Poti. The boats were maintained at shipbuilding facilities in Poti and Batumi, and at the Balaklava Metallist shipyard. The vast variety of ships from different countries, which were hard to maintain and provide parts for them, meant that the fleet was not highly efficient. Georgia's fleet had no experience in carrying out combat operations, but a number of ships had taken part in excercises with the Black Sea basin countries.

The military fleet of Abkhazia, by official Abkhazian information, had Komsomolets Abkhzii and Sukhum motor ships, Raduga-5 and Raduga-8 boats, a self-propelled barge and a few other boats. These originally civilian vessels had been equipped with artillery and unguided rockets. According to Georgia's State Border Security Department, the Abkhazian Navy was more powerful, and had a 205P Tarantul patrol boat, six 1400M Grif patrol ships, 12 Nevka hydrofoil boats and 7-10 boats of other modifications. The Abkhazian Navy had three divisions with headquarters located in the area of Sukhumi lighthouse. The main Naval bases were Sukhumi, Ochamchira and Pitsunda. Manpower consisted of 100-150 people. Abkhazian sailors had experience from the war of 1992-1993 (they landed their troops several times and blocked the opponent's sea communications). Abkhazia had strengthened security along its shoreline in preparation for the possibility of sea landing.

On 9 August 2008 the missile boat Tbilisi (206MP Vikhr, given by Ukraine in June 1999), was reported to have been hit by gunfire and sunk by units of the Russian Black Sea Fleet off the Abkhazian coast when allegedly entered a Russia imposed 'security zone' along with four other vessels. It was discovered on fire in the Georgian port of Poti on 13 August 2008.

Strategic Importance

Georgia's military ties to NATO had an energy security component as a result of Tbilisi's key strategic role as a major transit state for the export of Caspian oil to Western markets. Georgia's chief strategic role in the geopolitics of Caspian oil was due to three strategic issues, two of which related to Caspian oil. The first was Georgia's pivotal position along the proposed Baku-Ceyhan pipeline route, which was often referred to as a strong choice for the Main Export Pipeline (MEP) route. Secondly, Georgia was the strategic hub for the widely discussed Eurasian Transport Corridor, which had received over $5 billion in support from the European Union via the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD). The third factor was attributed to the Baku-Supsa pipeline, which was another possible option for the MEP.

American strategic interests in the Caspian were formed shortly after Azerbaijan signed the "contract of the century" with the Azerbaijan International Operating Company (AIOC) in September 1995. America's predominance in the AIOC was clearly evident due to the fact that the flagship consortium was 40 percent American-owned. As a result of American stakes in the AIOC, US policymakers in the Clinton administration soon initiated a strategy of engagement focusing on a multiple pipeline policy for the export of "early oil" from Azerbaijan. The multiple pipeline policy consisted of US support for creating two major pipeline routes for exporting AIOC's "early oil" from the Caspian. The 1,346 kilometer Baku-Novorossisk pipeline was the first of the two routes and ran northward from Baku through war-torn Chechnya to Russia's Black Sea port of Novorossisk. The second route was the 926-kilometer Baku-Supsa pipeline that ran through Georgia. Known as the "Western route," this pipeline was extremely costly to rebuild (over $2 billion), but remained the only non-Russian route for transporting "early oil" from Azerbaijan. The Western pipeline route ended at Georgia's Black Sea port of Supsa where a 1.6 million-barrel oil terminal was constructed. By early 1999 it was to be capable of handling the AIOC's "early oil".

Training and Exercises

The Georgian military decided to train personnel in NATO member countries, including naval personnel. Approximately 20 professional (among them 5 with academic education) officers were prepared, and 12 of warrant officers. Representatives of the Naval Forces were studying in US, Germany, Greece and Turkey.

Ongoing reforms at the Ministry of Defence were also reflected on Naval Forces: its potential was put in motion and military capabilities increased. The process of acquiring new vessels and refitting existing ones was also ongoing. Representatives of the Naval Forces participated in different international and internal trainings. Among them were: "Cooperative partner," "Cooperative MAKO," "Cooperative Merlin," "Sea Breez," "BLACKSEAFOR," and "Black Sea Partnership."

The US actively encouraged countries around the Black Sea to take part in the Turkish-led Black Sea Harmony maritime security program, through which intelligence on sea traffic was shared among all the coastal states. In December 2006, Russia became the first country to formally join the program, at which time Ukraine and Romania were reportedly close to joining. Georgia's navy was not large enough to provide any significant intelligence, although it did participate in information exchanges. Georgian Navy and the Turkish Naval Forces Command drew the Protocol on transferring and installing of the Automatic Identification System Network. Two Identification Stations in Poti and Batumi would be installed, which would provide the organization with detailed information about vessels and ships sailing in the Black sea, after joining the network.

Ten ships from Georgia's Navy and Coast Guard joined the US Frigate Hawes in a joint exercise on 5 August 2000. The exercise was part of a military co-operation agreement between Georgia and the USA.

Within Sea-Breeze-2008, in July 2008 ships of Ukraine's and Georgia's Navy successfully performed amphibious assault in Donuzlav Lake area. Having performed almost a 100-mile passage to the area of a peacekeeping operation, ships of Ukraine's Navy "Konstiantyn Olshanskyi" and that of Georgia's Navy "Atia" successfully performed an amphibious assault in the area of the Donuzlav Lake. Overall leadership was run from the Joint Staff of Ukraine's Navy and US Navy Sea Breeze-2008. The Ukraine-US Sea Breeze-2008 maneuvers were in progress in Ukraine with armed forces of 15 states involved.




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