Baltic Approaches D+9 (18 July, 1987) Part III


The scope and tempo of air operations in the Baltic region was limited for NATO and the Warsaw Pact on D+9. Missions were conducted, airspace defended, and reconnaissance efforts continued at a limited pace compared to recent days. Both sides were waiting for the shoe to drop so to speak, and did not want their respective air forces to be caught unready when the time came.

4th Air Army, as well as East German and Polish squadrons conducted a limited number of strikes against targets in Denmark. Newly arrived mobile radar and air defense sites, troop concentrations in Zealand, were the focus. A heavily escorted reconnaissance of central Jutland was also done although the three reconnaissance planes, and eight escorting fighters were downed by SAMs and NATO fighters. Needless to say, the mission was a failure.

Warsaw Pact and NATO fighters also clashed in the vicinity of Borholm throughout the day. With the island now in Pact hands, a screen of fighter patrols was maintained nearby to deter NATO from conducting its own ground attack missions against Pact forces there. Reconnaissance missions were also done in the vicinity of the Swedish coastline. The purpose was twofold: ascertain the location, and status of Swedish naval forces, and measure the response times of Sweden’s air defenses. None of these flights came close to penetrating Swedish airspace, but their appearance resulted in scrambled Swedish fighters multiple times, and in one case an escort away from the coast by three heavily-armed Viggens.

AIRBALTAP’s main objective remained the air defense of Denmark. To a large degree air superiority had been established over Jutland, and to a lesser extent Zealand, but it was not total. Most of the Warsaw Pact air missions flown against Danish targets had suffered heavy losses, but in some cases enough enemy ground-attack planes managed to get through the defenses and successfully strike their intended targets.  The closeness of WP airbases in East Germany and Poland made the chance of obtaining total air superiority nearly impossible. AIRBALTAP did not have enough ground-attack aircraft to begin heavy, round-the-clock airstrikes against Pact airbases belonging to 4th Air Army units. Unless 2nd ATAF was willing to chop a couple squadrons of Tornados or F-111s to the effort, those airbases were not going to hit anytime soon.


The naval situation in the Baltic remained a mutual stalemate. Neither side was in shape to take the initiative and achieve the lofty pre-war strategic goals that once provided the foundation of their doctrines. The Baltic Fleet was preparing for possible operations against Sweden, and potential amphibious landings in Denmark. Operations against the Baltic approaches had ended, with the Warsaw Pact essentially ceding control of the vital approaches to NATO for the moment.

NATO’s focus was on defending the Danish coast from an amphibious landing, and defending the Great Belt and Oresund approaches should the Baltic Fleet attempt a surprise breakout.


Sweden was on the minds of NATO and Pact commanders in the Baltic all day. It was the elephant in the room, so to speak. In the absence of solid information out of Brussels, or Stockholm speculation ran wild in political, and senior military circles. But as the wait progressed, preparations continued.

At 8 PM the Swedish government announced that Prime Minister Carlsson would address the Riksdag, and the nation at 10 PM that evening. One way or another, the waiting appeared to be coming to an end.


Author’s Note: The conclusion of D+9 in the Baltic Approaches will come in the next post which will be a Politics of Global War covering the Swedish issue in detail. I hope everyone has a good weekend!

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