Timur Apakidze

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Timur Avtandilovich Apakidze
Апакидзе Тимур Автандилович
თემურ აფაქიძე
File:Timur Apakidze full.jpg
Born (1954-03-04)March 4, 1954
Tbilisi, Georgia
Died July 17, 2001(2001-07-17) (aged 47)
Ostrov, Russian Federation
Allegiance  Soviet Union
Service/branch Soviet Naval Aviation
Naval Ensign of Russia.svg Russian Naval Aviation
Years of service 1975–2001
Rank Major General
Commands held
  • Carrier Battle Group fighter squadrons
  • Russian 100th Fighter Regiment
  • Russian 279th Naval Fighter Regiment
  • Russian 57th Mixed Air Division, Northern Fleet
Battles/wars Cold War
Awards Hero of the Russian Federation medal.png Honored mil pilot.jpg
Order personal courage rib.png Order service to the homeland3 rib.png CombatRibbon.png
Ribbon 300 years to russian fleet.png 60 years saf rib.png 70 years saf rib.png
20YearsServiceUSSRRibbon.png 25px 25px

Timur Avtandilovich Apakidze (Russian: Апакидзе Тимур Автандилович, Georgian: თემურ აფაქიძე Temur Apakidze) (March 4, 1954 – July 17, 2001) was a Russian major general of Georgian Ahiska-Turkish ethnicity, fighter pilot, flight specialist and founder of the modern Russian naval aviation and Hero of the Russian Federation.

Early Life and education

Timur Apakidze was born in Tbilisi, Georgian SSR into the royal Georgian Muslim house of Apakidze. His mother moved with him to Leningrad when he was one year old. There he grew up and attended school. After graduating from 8th grade Apakidze enrolled in the Leningrad Nakhimov Naval School. In 1971 on the eve of graduation the chief commander of the academy telegraphed Admiral Sergey Gorshkov about Apakidze's exceptional skills and requested his return to the fleet as soon as he had finished flight school. The Admiral agreed and from 1971 Apakidze started to serve in the Soviet military, naval aviation respectively. The same year he became cadet of the Yeysk Higher Military Aviation School.[1]

Military Service

In 1975 at the end of his EVVAU graduaction in Yeysk Timur Apakidze got appointed, with the rank of lieutenant, pilot of the 846th Separate Guards Naval Attack Aviation Regiment named "VP Chkalov" of the Baltic Fleet. By 1983 already promoted to major he acted as deputy commander for the same regiment's flight training. During that appointment he introduced hand-to hand combat training for pilots convinced that warriors without a weapon should know how to defend themselves if the situation was given. In 1986 after graduating from th Grechkov Naval Academy he was sent to the city of Nikolayev as commander of the 100th Fighter Regiment and educated himself on shipborne aviation techniques in the "Center of Naval Aviation". From the late 1980s to the early 1990s he was considered the best Soviet then Russian fighter pilot, being the first one who would land a Su-27K (Su-33) on deck of the aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov on September 26, 1991. During the same day he performed another three landing manoeuvre and afterwards also successfully tested the same manoeuvres at night and under difficult weather conditions, practically becoming founder of the modern Russian naval aviation. Prior to that Apakidze had lost one of the first aircraft of the series, codenamed "T-10K-8" due to control malfunctions. He survived the incident by ejecting but repeatedly stated that he could not forgive himself for not having saved the fighter.[2]

At the time of the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, Colonel T.A.Apakidze served as chief of air combat and tactical training for naval aviation in Saki, Crimea. Refusing to take the oath of Ukraine and also rejecting an offer from the reestablished Republic of Georgia to head its airforce reportedly saying "Swear only once", he flew with his regiment to Severomorsk, Russia taking the regimental color with him. In 1992 he got appointed commander of Russia's only naval fighter regiment, the 279th (Severomorsk-3). Serving from March 1993 as deputy commander and from November 1994 actual commander of the 57th Mixed Air Division of the Northern Fleet Timur Avtandilovich Apakidze got awarded the title Hero of the Russian Federation special distinction "Gold Star" by the president on 17 August 1995 for the development of efficient carrier based education and training programs and his daring numerous experimental flight tests with the Su-33. Later the same year division commander Apakidze left with heavy aircraft cruiser Kuznetsov for the Mediterranean Sea for combat duty. During that campaign which ended in March 1996 his pilots performed 2,500 landing manoeuvres. The commander himself sat up to seven times a day giving example to others. Despite these impressive efforts and successful results, the activity and intensity of flights was heavily decreased from then on. Furthermore the only Russian aircraft carrier would move out at sea for only two or three weeks manoeuvre training a year until such activities were ceased completely. Shipborne fighter jets numbered no more than 15 at a time. However it was due to his commitment that the Admiral Kuznetsov wasn't scrapped like other Soviet vessels as the result of decisive financial cuts in the military, especially the navy. In 1997 Major General Apakidze started teaching the so-called "Pugachev's Cobra" and "Bell" to his subordinates who then would teach their students. However it didn't work out for the long run since those techniques are considered non-conventional and not provided by any regulations and therefore not being implemented as a standard drill for Russian fighter pilots. From the only five pilots in the world who had the Pugachev's Cobra mastered, Apakidze was one of them. In 1998 general Apakidze was sent for studies in the Military Academy of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Russia and in 2001 acted as deputy commander of the Naval Aviation training program. Despite being a senior officer and already tasked with important business he never stopped flying. He had flown 3850 hours with 13 different aircraft and performed 283 deck landings on an aircraft carrier. Not a single pilot perished under his command or during his service.[3]

Airshow accident and death

File:Гарнаев Апакидзе.JPG
A bust in honor of Timur Apakidze

On July 17, 2001 during an air festival in honor of the 85th anniversary of Russian Naval Aviation, Maj. Gen. Apakidze's Su-33 crashed while performing manoeuvres. At first, the show went as planned but when Apakidze made a complex manoeuvre he reported experiencing sudden technical difficulties and from the ground it could be seen that the plane was out of control. He did not eject despite receiving the command twice. Trying to fly away from the populated area, he aimed for the landing strip in an apparent effort to save the aircraft. Unfortunately it wasn't enough from the last three kilometers to the runway. In a collision with the ground he ejected from the cockpit and suffered multiple fractures. On the way to the hospital Apakidze died. He is buried at the Troyekurovskoye Cemetery in Moscow (section 4) but not in Islamic tradition, instead he was buried in Orthodox Christian tradition. Busts and plaques were made in his honor/[4]

Honours and awards