LANDJUT’s next defensive line was established across the length of Schleswig-Holstein from Husum in the west to Brodersby on the Baltic. The Jutland Division anchored the western end of the line, and the West German 6th Panzergrenadier Division in the center. The eastern section was defended by West German Territorial units. Deployed north of the defenses, close to Eggebek was the British 1st Infantry Brigade, the UK Mobile Force that had been airlifted to Denmark shortly before hostilities broke out. COMLANDJUT intended to use this brigade to contend with a breakthrough by Warsaw Pact forces.
As the fighting continued to move north towards Jutland, many NATO airbases in Schleswig-Holstein were either now in enemy hands, or too close to the fighting for effective air missions to take place. Squadrons originally based at Husum, and Kiel air bases were now operating from Leck Air Base or from airfields in Jutland. Schleswig Air Base, although close to the front, was serving as a large forward operating point for NATO attack and transport helicopters.
The overall air situation in theater as D+2 began was bordering on desperate for both NATO and WP air commanders. AIRBALTAP was on the ropes. Danish air bases, radars, and SAM sites had taken a beating on D+1. The focus of WP air attacks had been set on air defenses initially, gradually moving to Danish fighter bases as the day went on. Though the amount of damage inflicted on these air bases was not as great as hoped, Denmark’s air defenses had been thoroughly smashed. Air commanders in Poland, and East Germany intended to redouble the efforts against Danish airfields on D+2. Unfortunately, heavy losses had been suffered in both aircraft, and pilots on the previous day. The regiments, and squadrons committed to the effort against NATO airbases in Schleswig-Holstein, and Denmark required additional time to regroup. The knock out blow envisioned by WP commanders would have to wait at least twenty four hours. Strikes and missions took place against targets in Denmark around the clock on D+2, but not at the tempo WP commanders envisioned.
On the morning of D+2 AIRBALTAP received the first air reinforcements from the United States and Britain. A flight of four USAF F-16Cs arrived at Tirstrup Air Base outside of Aarhus shortly before 0600. Three hours later, four RAF Tornados touched down at Vandel Air Base on the Jutland peninsula. Within forty-eight hours, NATO hoped to have three complete squadrons of USAF and RAF fighters operating from Denmark. They were desperately needed. The Royal Danish Air Force was hanging onto control of the skies over Jutland, however, it was coming at a heavy price. Denmark’s air force was relatively small compared to the air arms of many of its NATO allies. It was not intended to take on the East German, Polish, and Soviet air forces on its own, yet that is what had happened for the first two days of the war. Now, combat losses, battle damage, and a diminishing stockpile of weapons, and fuel were all starting to diminish the combat effectiveness of Denmark’s air defenders.
*Author’s note: Part III will be posted by mid-week and will cover the remainder of air ops, as well as naval operations in the Baltic on D+2. I hope everyone here in the US has enjoyed their holiday weekend.*