Except for a small number of generals in Brussels and at Ramstein AB, as well as a slightly larger cadre of pilots and squadron intelligence officers at RAF Alconbury, no one in Western Europe had any idea about how effective the early morning F-117 strikes had been. Remarkable post-strike videos from the targeting pods on the stealth fighters showed the laser-guided bombs approaches to and impacts on the intended targets. Copies were made and hurried up the line for analysis by NATO air commanders, SACEUR and their staffs. As this was going on dawn came and went, the air war kicked off with ferocity, and NATO commanders braced in anticipation of the land war starting at any minute. By 0700, with the Inner-German border was still unbreached, SACEUR and his senior air commander suspected the delay was connected to the command bunker attacks.
It was around this time that hostilities in space started to have an effect on NATO communications, and operations. The war in space on 9 July and beyond will be covered in detail at a future point, but to summarize, the opening hours were marked by effective Soviet attacks on US communications and reconnaissance satellites in low earth orbit. Close attention was paid to those satellites approaching the Central Front. US and NATO commanders in Europe suddenly lost large swaths of satellite coverage from the Baltic Sea to the central Hungary. Communications disruptions came moments later, but these were minor in comparison.
At 0754 the first Soviet tanks crossed the frontier south of Hötensleben. The early movement was due to a miscommunication between unit commanders, yet it did not have an adverse effect on the attackers overall strategy or plans. By 0803 hours the scene at Hötensleben was being repeated along the length of the Inner-German Border. T-80 tanks and BMP infantry fighting vehicles rumbled through holes in the fortifications that were hastily erected at the border and onto West German soil. Clashes between Soviet and NATO ground forces materialized at once, marking the beginning of the covering force battles.
Allied airbases that had been the recipients of heavy damage from raids earlier that morning were undergoing repairs. Fortunately, the number of bases that needed to be temporarily closed due to damage amounts was small. As the air battle continued to rage through the morning, the need for close air support at the Forward Edge of the Battle Area (FEBA) was becoming a priority. Gaining control of the airspace over the areas where NATO and Warsaw Pact forces were locked in battle area was a paramount concern as urgent calls for close air support came in. Over the CENTAG area of operations air superiority was gained early on and maintained by a curtain of US Air Force F-15Cs operating out of Bitburg. This enabled A-10s and other ground attack aircraft to support the covering force battles in the US V and VII Corps areas without having to worry about being challenged by marauding MiGs. Control of the skies over NORTHAG was another matter altogether. It wouldn’t be until later in the afternoon before NATO ground attack fighters and attack helicopters were able to influence the action on the ground up north.
Back in Brussels, SACEUR monitored the reports coming in on the covering force battles. Communications were not entirely reestablished, though, and the content of the reports that reached Brussels reflected this. In place of the fluid, continuously updated big picture that he needed were singular pieces of the puzzle that provided little more than a brief glimpse at what was going on in a specific area. He had a very good idea of how the WP offensive would likely play out, however, he had to rely on his commanders in NORTHAG and CENTAG to confirm where the main axes of advance were forming in reality. Would 3rd Shock Army be oriented westward or perhaps southwest aimed at the seam between NATO’s army groups? Was the bulk of the 2nd Guards Tank Army being directed south of Hamburg or north? The flow of information coming in was far too disjointed to offer indications of where the axes might materialize. All SACEUR could do for the moment was watch and wait.
1200 hours approached and the covering force battles continued while overhead the battle for air superiority continued unabated. Chemical or nuclear weapons had not yet been used by either side, though SACEUR expected the Soviets to make use of them by the end of the day. West Berlin was quiet so far. Communications with the city were spotty, but the East Germans and Soviets hadn’t made a move against the city yet. That could change by the end of the day too, General Gavin knew. If it did he wouldn’t be surprised. Unfortunately, if Pact forces did begin pouring into West Berlin there was little he could do to aid the city, its citizens, or its defenders.
2 Replies to “The Central Front: D+0 (9 July, 1987) 0800-1200**”
Probably you’ll cover this at some point in the next 5 years 😉 but I would think the space debris from the satellite destruction would be horrific.
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I have been lax for 5 years on the space war. I did mention a few ASAT shots against RORSATs by F-15s in a it of detail but yeah, I need to get going on the space war. You’ll see a post or two about that by Columbus Day