The Northern Flank: D+5 (14 July, 1987) Part I


It did not take long for word of the pending offensive counter-air effort to reach Oslo. The Norwegian government was directly opposed to the measure. Like many officers at AFNORTH headquarters, Norway’s civilian leaders were worried the commitment of so much airpower to efforts in the north would leave NATO airbases, and Norwegian cities in the central, and southern regions of the country vulnerable. Prime Minister Gro Harlem Brundtland  wasted no time instructing Norway’s ambassador to NATO to lodge a formal complaint. A short time later she pleaded her case to her British counterpart Margaret Thatcher, and US Secretary of State George Shultz via secure satellite phone. Brundtland emphasized the political backlash she’d face if Oslo, or any other major Norwegian cities in the south were attacked by Soviet bombers.

Towards the end of the call, both Thatcher and Shultz promised a twenty-four hour hold would be imposed on offensive counter-air missions while they discussed the matter with President Reagan, and Brussels. It was a small, yet significant victory for Brundtland who’d been facing a growing number of voices urging her to seek out a separate ceasefire for Norway and end its involvement in the war. The victory was also shared by CINC-NORTH who’d been less than thrilled to find that a group of US Air Force officers had gone behind his back to plead their case directly to the senior military leadership in Brussels, which he viewed as an American monopoly.

NATO established heavy combat air patrols over central Norway while the Soviets maintained theirs farther north. Throughout the day a number of dogfights took place, yet neither side made a significant effort to interdict the other. Reinforcing US and British aircraft continued to arrive at bases in the central and south areas, while the Soviets continued moving aircraft into their newly acquired airbases in the north. The air corridor that had been established over northern Norway continued to function perfectly for the Soviets. Backfires and Badgers flew south to strike Iceland and the North Atlantic convoys and returned to their bases unmolested by NATO fighters.



Naval Forces South Norway (NAVSONOR) was tasked with defending the convoy approaches to southern Norwegian ports. The previous day’s Backfire attack against the Norway-bound Convoy 28-1 was fresh in the memory of NAVSONOR’s commander. He was determined to prevent another disastrous attack, either by bombers again or by submarines, on the convoy before it reached port. 28-1 was not the only convoy bound for Norway either. A second, smaller assemblage had left the UK late on D+4 bound for Trondheim.

The bulk of the Royal Norwegian Navy was deployed in the waters of the southern Norwegian Sea and conducting ASW patrols in conjunction with shore-based P-3s. Submarines were the greatest threat from the Shetland Islands east to the Norwegian coast. A Tango-class diesel submarine was detected late in the afternoon and was hunted into the night before falling victim to a torpedo dropped by a Norwegian P-3.  There were other enemy diesel boats operating in the area, NAVSONOR was positive. His ASW forces would grow busier as the convoys came closer to Norwegian waters.

Air attack was still a threat, but NATO maintained air superiority over southern Norway and the nearby waters for the moment.


2 Replies to “The Northern Flank: D+5 (14 July, 1987) Part I”

    1. Early on, yeah. Southern Norway was very open and vulnerable. If Denmark had fallen early, AFNORTH would’ve had to reinforce Southern Norway fast


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