The Northern Flank D+9 (18 July, 1987) Part III


As was the case on the previous day, land operations in northern Norway remained secondary concerns for AFNORTH and Northwestern TVD (NWTVD) for most of D+9. Air and naval operations continued to dominate the battle for Norway. At the present rate, the battle was likely to be won or lost in the skies, and at sea. Both sides recognized this, and as a result, happenings on the ground remained largely a secondary concern.

The exception was with regards to the US 4th Marine Amphibious Brigade, and Soviet-occupied Andoya. The US Marines had planned and prepared to execute a battalion-sized heliborne assault against the airbase three days earlier. This operation met multiple delays owing to the evolving air picture around Andoya, and a reassessment of the ground defenses around the air base. A new plan was put together and readied for execution on the morning of D+9. But it was to be postponed yet again when air battles broke out over northern Norway, and Soviet fighter-bombers raided NATO airbases in the region.

As far as Andoya went, it was not a matter of if the US Marines would begin an effort to retake the base, but when. The 4th MAB’s revised plan revolved around a two-part attack against Andoya, supported by the 2nd Marine Air Wing and the attack aircraft from a US carrier in the Norwegian Sea. Suppression efforts against enemy air defenses around the airbase would come first, followed by heliborne landings of Marine infantry south of the airbase. The 4th MAB had established forward arming and refueling points (FARP) for its AH-1 Cobra attack helicopters and Harriers late the previous night at Gryllefjord. Force Recon teams had scouted the defenses and the terrain south of Andoya, looking for areas where additional FARPs could be established. Beaches were also scouted to determine the ones best suited for the movement of vehicles and supplies to Andoya using LCMs and LCACs. Also at Gryllefjord along with the FARP, was a gathering of equipment and landing craft. The second part of the attack would be the landing of a second Marine battalion by air and sea to reinforce the first if necessary. This part of the plan is where the carrier air wing was essential. Its Intruders and Corsairs would continue providing close air support to the troops on the ground, while its two squadrons of F-14 Tomcats keep the skies over Andoya clear of MiGs.

That was the plan, anyhow. First it was the air battles over the north which temporarily delayed the operation’s start on the morning of D+9. Then later in the day the Soviet bomber attacks against the NATO carrier groups in the Norwegian Sea prevented the US Navy airwings from providing support for the Marines until at least D+10, if at all.

The 4th MAB would have to wait at least one more day before retaking Andoya.

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