Baltic Approaches D+4 (13 July, 1987) Part III


The Soviet 4th Air Army intended to begin D+4  with a wave of pre-dawn airstrikes against Danish radar sites, and airbases. NATO’s unexpectedly heavy airstrikes against Warsaw Pact airbases overnight ended up severely disrupting the 4th’s battleplans. The damage inflicted on airfield facilities, runways, and aircraft was serious enough to delay the planned missions against Denmark. Western TVD, and 16th Air Army’s desire to retaliate in kind shifted a number of 4th Air Army squadrons to the 16th and permanently cancelled the 4th Air Army’s plans altogether. D+4 marked the first day of the war that saw no  offensive air missions launched against Denmark.

By the afternoon, both 4th AA, and AIRBALTAP’s air assets were largely involved in providing close air support for their respective land forces in Schleswig-Holstein. For NATO, this included freshly arrived squadrons of ground attack aircraft from Britain and the United States. COMBALTAP had won out on the matter of who would receive control of the 355th Tactical Fighter Squadron, an A-10 Warthog squadron from Myrtle Beach AFB. Even though the 355th was tagged for deployment to Denmark in wartime, COMAFFCE had tried to poach the squadron away from AIRBALTAP. The matter had gone all the way up the chain of command to Brussels where SACEUR rendered the final decision: AIRBALTAP would keep the A-10s. The USAF A-10s and RAF Harriers went to work almost immediately and played a major role supporting the withdrawal of the West German 6th PgD.

At the beginning of D+4, there were two NATO airbases operational in Schleswig-Holstein. When twilight came, there was only one. Eggebek Air Base ceased air operations at 1700. Air units that had been flying sorties from there moved north to Denmark airbases, leaving Leck Air Base as the only NATO airbase still operational in Schleswig-Holstein.


NATO and Warsaw Pact naval forces in the Baltic both remained in defensive postures throughout the day. Both sides were content focusing their resources on reconnaissance missions, and sporadic hit and run attacks on opposing naval forces, and bases when the situation allowed. These attacks came in air, surface, and sub-surface forms and mainly comprised little more than the trading of fire, and minimal damage before both sides withdrew. Twice on D+4, however, these small duels turned into larger skirmishes involving both air and naval forces. Fairly equal losses were suffered by NATO and WP forces, and the fighting did nothing to change the strategic naval picture in the Baltic Sea.

The Soviet Baltic Sea Fleet showed no indications of launching a break out operation into the North Sea. Soviet, and Polish amphibious ships remained in their home ports. Photographs from recon flights confirmed both their presence, and the fact they did not appear to be preparing to sortie. In light of this, COMNAVBALTAP was pushing for a major air attack against the Polish ports. For the time being, the air assets weren’t available. The benefits of knocking out a large number of the enemy amphibious lift capability in port was too tempting to ignore. Coordination between NAVBALTAP and AIRBALTAP began in earnest late in the day. Plans were discussed, and outlined, eventually the directive to plan a major strike was passed along to mission planning cells.

The major handicap for planners was the lack of available aircraft at the moment. By midnight the shortage would  be rectified and the window for a possible strike set for early on D+5.

6 Replies to “Baltic Approaches D+4 (13 July, 1987) Part III”

  1. I’m kind of surprised, in retrospect, that the West Germans didn’t buy the A10 in bulk from the US. It certainly would’ve been a better choice than the Alphajet for flying into the teeth of Soviet advances…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I would’ve taken the A-10 as well. The Germans never really embraced the A-10. I think they saw it as a specialized aircraft that wasn’t worth the maintenance costs and all. Their loss. I think South Korea was the only country that expressed real interest buying A-10s, and that deal fell apart for some reason


    1. Good point! LOL I was surprised the Germans had no interest in the A-10. Especially considering that their greatest Stuka ace had a lot of input in the aircraft’s development


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