The North Atlantic D+3 (12 July, 1987) Part II


The scene at the GIUK gap on D+3 is best described as one of confused chaos. Efforts against Russian attack subs heading into the Atlantic continued. The high kill claims by P-3 and Nimrod crews and surface ship commanders, had collided  with conflicting reports of enemy submarines approaching the Atlantic sea lanes to create a high degree of uncertainty at NATO naval headquarters on both sides of the Atlantic. Allied ASW forces were sinking Russian submarines, but were they sinking enough? For each sub that was confirmed sunk, how many had leaked through the net? Even with SOSUS, and SURTASS data pouring in, the answers to those questions remained elusive.

The number of submarine attacks on NATO convoys was roughly the same as on the previous day. Soviet efforts were disjointed, and  lacked overall coordination. USAF Eagles operating out of Iceland continued to prevent the reconnaissance-model Bears from venturing out into the North Atlantic to hunt for convoys. The loss of the RORSAT earlier that morning only compounded issues. The Red Banner Northern Fleet did not have a clear picture of the convoy situation in the North Atlantic. Its submarines were to be stumbling across convoys by chance, or dumb luck more often than not. The Atlantic would not effectively closed unless this changed.

Admiral Kapitanets, the commander of the Red Banner Northern Fleet, was nowhere near satisfied with what he knew of his submarines attempting to break out into the North Atlantic. He had no idea how many had been lost, though he assumed a significant number of lost boats. How many were still in one piece and moving to their patrol stations? How many were on station but could not communicate because of NATO ASW units in the area? It would be some time before any hard information on the situation arrived in Severomorsk.

For all of the uncertainty south of Iceland, the Red Banner Northern Fleet controlled much of  the Norwegian Sea. The majority of surviving Royal Norwegian Navy units had been forced south of Narvik. NATO no longer controlled the coastal Norwegian waters north of this port city. The assault against Andoya had proved this beyond the shadow of a doubt. Soviet surface action groups patrolled the Norwegian Sea warily, the group commanders restlessly waiting for orders to either steam south and break out into the North Atlantic, or assume defensive positions and guard against a NATO counter attack.

Kapitanets had not determined what set of orders he would send. Events continued to play out, and he was not certain yet if his surface units would ultimately serve as a shield, or a sword. Intelligence had indicated that NATO carriers were gathering in the mid-Atlantic, but that information had not been updated in nearly twenty-four hours. The destruction of the RORSAT early on D+3 meant he would be in the dark for longer than expected.

If his counterpart in Norfolk was intent on sending his contingent of US Navy aircraft carriers north, Kapitanets best option was to fortify the Norwegian Sea with his surface groups, some submarines, and land-based bombers. Tranform the area into a hornets nest to neutralize the threat posed by those US carriers and the aircraft that flew from their decks. The defense of the Motherland came before everything else. The admiral in charge of the Red Banner Northern Fleet was fully prepared to utilize every platform, weapon, and tactic at his disposal to keep the war from spilling over onto Soviet soil.


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