The Northern Flank D+4 (13 July, 1987) Part I


In spite of the urgency attached to the effort, NATO fighter-bombers tasked to hit Andoya did not launch until 0545 CEST. The morning strike was undertaken by eight RAF Jaguars of the No.6 squadron, supported by a USAF EF-111 Raven jamming aircraft. Originally, AFNORTH’s air planners intended to use US F-111s against Andoya. Preparations for that went on the shelf following objections by the USAF Element commander in Kolsas. The officer was disturbed by the lack of cohesive preparation being put into the Andoya mission. Intelligence was incomplete, and a clear picture of the enemy forces, and capabilities at Andoya had not been put together. His argument made enough sense to CINC-NORTH that the -111s were removed from the task and replaced by RAF Jaguars. Unfortunately, the changeover bled more time away from mission planning and preparation.

The mission turned out to be a costly one for the NATO. During the late evening, and pre-dawn hours, the Soviets reinforced their air defenses around Andoya. The better part of an SA-6 battery had been moved ashore, as well as additional ZSU-23s. The EF-111’s jamming neutralized the SA-6, and degraded the search radars on the ZSUs, but the SPAAGs could still fire manually, and they did. The Jaguar drivers ran into a curtain of steel, and handheld SAMs on approach to Andoya. Two aircraft were lost, and another pair damaged. Six of the eight aircraft did manage to drop their ordnance loads, though post-strike BDA revealed that the amount of damage inflicted was minor. The race to knock Andoya out of commission before MiGs arrived there continued.

Following the morning’s airstrike, the Soviets established heavy combat air patrols over Northern Norway to aid in the defense of Andoya, as well as protecting the air corridor for Backfire and Badgers downbound to strike NATO convoys in the North Atlantic. As more enemy fighters arrived in Norway, a growing Soviet concern was an attempt by NATO to interdict the air corridor. Unknown at the time to Soviet air commanders on the Kola Peninsula, a desire to begin a concerted offensive counter-air effort over Northern Norway was gaining momentum in NATO air circles, but for a different reason entirely

The growing contingent of USAF officers now attached to AFNORTH Kolsas was outspoken in their calls to conduct fighter sweeps over Northern Norway and clear the skies of MiGs. This would allow NATO fighter-bombers an easier time to strike enemy targets in the region. With Soviet ground forces advancing through Norwegian territory, and former Norwegian airbases now filled with enemy aircraft, interdiction missions had to kick off soon to whittle down the Soviet’s advantages in numbers. The USAF alone had two squadrons of F-15s, and an equal number of F-16s now on the ground in Norway, in addition to support aircraft, and USMC F-18s. Instead of restricting them to the defense of central, and southern Norway, the USAF officers wanted to start offensive operations immediately.

AFNORTH’s air commanders initially turned down the proposal, wanting to keep a strong fighter presence over friendly territory instead. The fact that AFNORTH appeared to have more or less written off Northern Norway was distressing to the US officers. Discreetly, following a brief discussion with his peers, USAF colonel, placed a phone call to USAFE’s wartime headquarters and explained the situation in candid terms. Less than an hour later, CINC-NORTH received a personal phone call from SACEUR in Brussels.

A little while later, the order was given for a heavy Offensive Counter-air effort to begin over Northern Norway within twelve hours.

2 Replies to “The Northern Flank D+4 (13 July, 1987) Part I”

  1. I’m very late coming to read this Blog, which I’m loving. Were no USAF “heavy hitters”, e.g. B-52s kitted out for an airfield denial attack such as the one talked about here on Andoya? Was the Buff reserved solely for US SAC purposes pre-Desert Storm times?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Welcome aboard, Tony. As I always say, better late than never. There have been a handful of B-52s allocated for conventional attacks. SAC had some set aside for conventional missions, especially anti-ship. But they really haven’t been utilized as much as expected. That could be changing soon though.


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