Baltic Approaches D+6 (15 July, 1987) Part II


Pre-war Soviet and Warsaw Pact plans for the Coastal Front anticipated that amphibious and airborne operations against Denmark would not begin until total air superiority had been obtained. The land advance up through Schleswig-Holstein and onto the Jutland peninsula was expected to reap the benefits of complete Pact control of the skies by the time it reached the West German/Denmark frontier. The pre-war plans also anticipated air superiority would have already been achieved in Germany, freeing up additional air assets to support the operations farther north.

After seven days of fighting, none of these presumptive goals had yet been achieved. Pact air forces were not in control of the skies above Denmark and Schleswig-Holstein. Major NATO airbases in Denmark remained operational and were absorbing air reinforcements.  The ground advance through Schleswig-Holstein had been slowed considerably by NATO airpower. Perhaps most consequential was the dawning realization that when the amphibious landings began, they were going to take place beneath hostile skies.

This recognition, intermingled with the NATO attacks on East German and Polish ports the previous day, motivated 4th Air Army to propose a redoubled campaign against Danish airbases during the leadup to the next phase of operations. This effort would be centered on attacks made by Tu-16 Badger and Tu-22 Blinder medium bombers with significant fighter, and OECM support. A respectable number of these aircraft were presently under the control of the 15th Air Army, the Frontal Aviation element of the Baltic Military District. Until now, the NATO fighter strength around Denmark had deterred 4th Air Army from using the bombers. But with the next phase of operations set to move forward regardless of the air situation, the time had arrived to use every asset available to reduce the threat posed by NATO airpower.

4th Air Army requested and received permission to plan and execute their proposed air attacks. Some time was going to be needed for planning and preparations. Daylight hours would not be an ideal time to expose bombers to enemy fighters, and SAMs, so it was decided the attacks would be launched after dusk on D+6 and continue through dawn the next morning. This was the plan, at least.

The unsettled circumstances with regards to Finland eventually ended the possibility of using the medium bombers against targets in Denmark. Western TVD made the decision around 1200 to hold back the Badgers and Blinders for use against Finland if hostilities broke out in the Baltic region. 4th Air Army was left to create an entirely new plan using only its own assets. Unfortunately, as the afternoon went on, the fear of the conflict in the Baltic region expanding to include Sweden prompted Western TVD to cancel the planned air effort against Danish airbases altogether and directed 4th Air Army to start planning air operations against Sweden should they be called for.

NATO had its own air issues to contend with on D+6 as well. The airbases in Denmark were packed with aircraft of the Danish Air Force, and those belonging to the reinforcing USAF and RAF squadrons. There was little available space for the next wave of reinforcements scheduled to arrive in the coming days. AIRBALTAP was dispersing as many fighters to  civilian fields as possible, but the move was not enough by itself. There were no more rooms available at the Denmark Inn for aircraft, so to speak. Southern Norway proved to be a more sensible destination for the incoming fighters. From there, they could still affect the fighting in and around the Baltic Approaches, and the Norwegian airbases were safe from Soviet air strikes, at least for the near-future.

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