It was generally accepted that the Southwestern Theater of Military Operations (SWTVD) would constitute a secondary theater in the opening days of a war against NATO. The Western TVD (WTVD) was the theater of highest priority and understandably so. SWTVD objectives in the first 3-4 days of hostilities were to halt any NATO air or land countermove against WTVD, and prevent a major conflict in the SWTVD while preparations for offensive operations were underway. The preparatory phase for land operations against Thrace and the subsequent battle for the Dardanelles was still underway on the second day and was expected to continue for another 24-48 hours. The Bulgarian Army was fully deployed on that country’s border with Turkey and Greece, along with a limited number of Soviet units. The main Soviet ground forces allocated to SWTVD were still deploying into the region. When the time came, the bulk of the initial Warsaw Pact thrust into Thrace would be made up primarily of Bulgarian forces.
SWTVD air operations on the second day continued to be chiefly focused against Turkish air defenses, radars, and airbases. With more air assets becoming available as elements of the 24th Air Army arrived in theater, the attacks were becoming focused and intense. The airstrikes were not limited to targets only in the western half of Turkey. A portion were being directed against Hellenic Air Force bases and radar sites, but the center of attention was Turkey. The Commander, Sixth Allied Tactical Air Force (COMSIXATAF) was becoming more concerned about his losses as the day went on. From his headquarters at Izmir, Turkey he monitored the air battle and directed the air defense of Turkey. Twice he and his staff had to head to the shelters when installations around Izmir were targeted by Soviet aircraft.
Sixth ATAF’s fighter squadrons and air defenses were inflicting losses on the attackers, but it was costing them. As the day went on and the tempo of air strikes peaked, Turkish F-4 Phantoms, F-16s, and F-104s allotted to defending Turkey were almost fully committed. Losses in aircraft and pilots were heavy and climbing. Almost as disconcerting was the grim fact that, as losses climbed, COMSIXATAF was losing its ability to take the fight to enemy forces in Bulgaria. He concluded, quite correctly, that without a swift infusion of NATO air reinforcements, air superiority over Thrace and much of Turkey could not be guaranteed for more than the next 24 hours.
In Naples, CINCSOUTH was fully aware of the situation in Turkey. He agreed with COMSIXATAF regarding the reinforcements equation and was working to get additional squadrons to Turkey rapidly. Unfortunately, CINCSOUTH could not begin moving squadrons from 5th ATAF in Italy east until reinforcing squadrons from the US arrived in significant numbers. As desperate as the situation in Turkey was becoming, CINCSOUTH couldn’t afford to strip 5th ATAF of fighters right now and leave Northern Italy naked. Thus far, Soviet forces in Hungary, and their Hungarian comrades had not moved into Austria or Yugoslavia. A move into Yugoslavia was not anticipated, however, a thrust into Austria would pose a grave danger to AFSOUTH. Italian forces guarding the Gorizia Gap, and corridors in the Austrian Alps were going to need air cover and close air support. For the moment the Northern Italian subregion was quiet. Moving fighters and attack aircraft from Italy to Turkey could inspire the Soviets to move and take advantage of the situation. For the moment, 6th ATAF was on its own.