The Northern Flank D+7 (16 July, 1987) Part II


The outbreak of hostilities in Finland entirely changed the face of the conflict on NATO’s Northern Flank. The fighting in Norway was now being greatly influenced by the events taking place to the east and west of the country. This held true for both NATO and the Warsaw Pact, significantly affecting plans, and operations throughout the day. The air situation in particular took on an even greater prominence. It was  becoming evident that the side which controlled the skies was likely to be the victor when all was said and done.

With Strike Fleet Atlantic’s carrier groups now entering the Norwegian Sea, Soviet-controlled Andoya had to be neutralized soon, and Soviet air superiority over Northern Norway knocked back. As the carriers continued moving north, Backfire and Badger bombers were going to come into play. Being able to cut across Northern Norway unmolested would allow the bombers to carry more ordnance to use against the carriers, and reduce the warning time available to the carrier groups. Removing Andoya from the equation would go a long way towards reducing the effectiveness of Soviet air superiority in the region.

AFNORTH’s commander-in-chief General Sir Geoffrey Howlett was under pressure from Brussels to help clear the way for the carrier groups. As the morning went on, SACEUR grew more concerned with taking air superiority away from the Soviets in the north. Bomb damage to Oslo, and other Norwegian cities was of less consequence to NATO  than anti-ship missile damage to the aircraft carriers in the Norwegian Sea. It was a bitter truth to digest, but with the fate of the Western alliance now on the line, the concerns of the Norwegian government were secondary to the military priorities of the alliance.

Two medium sized NATO raids were launched against Andoya on D+7. The first was undertaken by RAF Tornados, and the later one by USAF F-111s. Post-strike BDA revealed little significant damage had been inflicted. The raids came as part of an enhanced OCA effort over Northern Norway that also included a major fighter sweep. Dogfights between NATO and Soviet fighters took place sporadically, but the decisive engagement that AIRNON had been hoping for never came about.

If NATO had been aware of the condition Northwestern TVD’s airpower was in as the day progressed, AIRNON would’ve pressed the matter. Air assets in the NWTVD were tasked beyond capacity on D+7. Between missions over Finland, and Northern Norway, escort duties, and combat air patrols, every combat aircraft in theater had flown an average of three sorties in the 24 hour period. These responsibilities, along with the Northern Fleet’s demands for fighter protection for its bombers, and the prospect of carrier-based aircraft attacking Soviet installations on the Kola Peninsula in the near future was prompting NWTVD to consider adopting a purely defensive air posture in Norway as the war in the north moved towards a new stage.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: