The Southern Flank D+1 (10 July, 1987) Part I


The destruction of the Soviet surface action groups in the Eastern Mediterranean marked the end of the 5th Eskadra. Every major surface combatant belonging to the Soviet Navy’s Mediterranean squadron was at the bottom of the sea, along with their escorts, and a number of submarines. The squadron’s commander, Rear Admiral Vladimir Yegorov had perished aboard his flagship. The fact that the 5th Eskadra had taken a French carrier group down with it was of little consolation. Saratoga had survived and it was the US carrier which was almost singlehandedly responsible for the destruction of the 5th Eskadra. When all was said and done, the shootout between NATO and Soviet naval forces on the first day of hostilities had been won and lost decisively. Surviving Soviet submarines in the Eastern Med were ordered to go defensive and evade NATO ASW forces for the time being.

Saratoga was the undisputed champ of the East Med, though she would not be rewarded with reinforcements any time soon. The Suez Canal was blocked indefinitely following the scuttling of a Bulgarian freighter on the 9th. USS Constellation was now prevented from joining Saratoga in the Mediterranean as planned. Connie was returning to the Arabian Sea where the Seventh Fleet would be glad to have her. Sixth Fleet was in a pinch, though. Kennedy was being hurriedly prepared to depart from Norfolk and be sent to the Med. It was going to be at least ten days until her and her battlegroup arrived east of Sicily. And that was only if SACLANT did not steal her away.

For the time being Sixth Fleet, and AFSOUTH had to make do with one flattop. France was keeping its last remaining aircraft carrier in the Bay of Biscay and out of harm’s way. The loss of Clemenceau was regarded as a national disaster. The French were mourning, however, beneath the sadness was a burning desire to settle the score. The French Navy would return to the fight. The Italians had the baby carrier Garibaldi available, but no fixed wing aircraft to fly from her deck.

Syria remained on the sidelines for now, even as Soviet warplanes flew missions from its territory. Israel had adopted a purely defensive posture for the time being at the urging of Washington. Following the Suez Canal incident Egypt was stringently patrolling its airspace and waters and this did not appear likely to change. President Mubarak did not want to be dragged into a conflict where he might find his country on the same side as Israel. The situation in the Persian Gulf was a different story entirely. Egypt would aid the United States in keeping the Soviets away from the Saudi oilfields if necessary. As far as the Eastern Med went, Cairo wanted nothing to do with the fighting there.

In the Central and Western Mediterranean surviving Soviet submarines were making their way to the Gulf of Sidra and Libyan waters to regroup and prepare for future operations in conjunction with Libyan naval forces. So far, the Libyans had yet fired a shot in anger. The time for their forces to make their presence felt had not yet come. In the near future, the Colonel’s ships, submarines, warplanes, and anti-ship missiles would play a role.

With Saratoga slated to remain south of Crete for the moment, units of the Italian and French navies were moving to cover the Strait of Sicily. US, Italian, and French maritime patrol aircraft and fighters operating out of Sicily would support them, as were a handful of NATO attack submarines. AFSOUTH was satisfied that the combination of forces in the Central Med was sufficient to handle what the Soviets and Libyans had in the area.



2 Replies to “The Southern Flank D+1 (10 July, 1987) Part I”

  1. Just a little mistake: few posts before the ship sunken in Suez was Hungarian (although I think Hungary did not have any freighter ship). By the way great blog, it is a pity I only found it now… 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for catching that. One day after the blog is concluded I am going to go back and fix the mistakes from early on.

      Better late than never. 🙂 Very glad you found it and welcome aboard!


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