The Northern Flank D+8 (17 July, 1987) Part III

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Land operations in Norway remained a secondary matter for both sides on D+8. In the last thirty-six hours, environmental, meteorological, and operational considerations all played roles of varying consequence for Soviet, and NATO ground commanders. As previously detailed, air and sea operations were assuming the lion’s share of prominence in theater. Even though AFNORTH and Northwestern TVD (NWTVD) continued to maintain road maps for defensive and offensive operations on land, the supporting assets were not available to fully bring these plans to life.

With its ground forces now fighting in Finland and Norway, NWTVD was feeling the pinch more so then its opponent. Logistics were becoming even more complicated. The distance separating the 131st Guards Motor Rifle Division’s main body, and its forward deployed combat elements continued to expand. Resupply convoys had been tentatively maintaining a stream of fuel, ammunition, and other supplies until the air situation changed. When Soviet air superiority became more tenuous in the late morning and afternoon of D+8  NATO used the opportunity to launch interdiction airstrikes against two resupply convoys. The amount of damage done severely curtailed further resupply efforts until additional trucks, and supplies could be brought forward from Soviet territory. Andoya also required a degree of resupply but this was performed by cargo aircraft flying from bases on the Kola Peninsula. Now, with air superiority hanging in the balance at least for a temporary period of time, future resupply flights were put on hold.

Airbase security was another major worry for the Soviets. A naval infantry battalion was responsible for the defense of Andoya, and elements of an airmobile battalion at Banak. Whether these forces would be sufficient to repel a NATO assault on either or both occupied airbases was unknown. NATO forces possessed enough transport and attack helicopters to make at least a single major effort in the coming days. Andoya was the more exposed location to such an attack, and in the big picture, more valuable. But with a battalion of naval infantry also there, any attack by NATO would have to be of brigade-size at best. Intelligence estimated that neither the US or Royal Marines had enough transport helicopters to move more than a reinforced battalion at one time, and even this would require a maximum effort.

Banak was deemed more vulnerable to a NATO assault, even though it was situated farther north of what passed as the frontline in Norway. It was lightly defended with only a reinforced company of airmobile troops, and a headquarters detachment presently there. The rest of the parent battalion was spread out across Northern Norway guarding other captured installations, or positioned across the border in Finland to assist the effort there. If NATO realized how weak the defenses at Banak were it would not be long before they dropped a sizeable airborne or airmobile force onto the base, effectively wrecking Soviet air, and land operations in Northern Norway. Given how well NATO intelligence capabilities were, the commander of the 131st Guards MRD expected a NATO assault against Banak to come at any moment.

To NATO’s credit, it did recognize the situation on the ground at Banak and given the circumstances, seizing the airbase would be beneficial. Unfortunately, AFNORTH did not have enough available troops and helicopters to pull it off. The US 4th MAB (Marine Amphibious Brigade) was still preparing its own heliborne assault against Andoya. It had been delayed by twelve to eighteen hours and was now scheduled to go off after midnight sometime on D+9. A reassessment of the ground defenses at Andoya had brought about a significant change in the plan. In short, one battalion of US Marines was not going to be enough to assure victory, even with heavy air support. The commander of the 4th MAB had realized he needed more, and had come up with a new plan he was certain would put Andoya back in friendly hands permanently.

2 Replies to “The Northern Flank D+8 (17 July, 1987) Part III”

  1. Wow 🇳🇴

    Just read through the whole thing in the last few days. Nicely done … and no “alien space bats,” as the late and lamented Alison Brookes would say.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m glad you’re enjoying the blog and thanks for reading through the entire thing. No alien space bats now or in the future. Been trying to keep it as realistic as possible. –Mike

      Like

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