The Southern Flank D+10 (19 July, 1987) Part II


Libya’s declaration of neutrality did not shake Moscow to its core. Frankly, the Libyan move was met with general indifference by Soviet leadership. By this point in the war, the focus had shifted almost fully to the Central European battlefront. Romanov and the Politburo regarded Libya, and the Mediterranean as an inessential sideshow. Gaddafi’s decision to move his nation into the neutral column would have no permanent negative effects on the Soviet war effort in Germany. Therefore, it was fruitless to contest the move, and risk turning an annoyance into a new conflagration. Moscow already had more than its fair share of brush fires burning across the globe.

The most pressing matter was the immediate removal of all Soviet forces from Libya. Moscow agreed to move its troops and equipment off Libyan soil as soon as possible. The forty-eight hour deadline was slightly unrealistic though. Discussions between the Soviet ambassador in Tripoli and Gaddafi began. The Libyan leader indicated he was open to extending the deadline if the Soviets put forth an act of good faith. Moscow wasted little time arranging this and by the afternoon hours the first transport aircraft filled with Soviet military personnel departed Benghazi for Angola. Sending flights north over the NATO-controlled central Mediterranean was a non-starter. Until an arrangement for the safe transit of Soviet troops back home could be arranged through the UN, the flights would head to Angola.


At sea, the US Sixth Fleet was preparing to take the offensive in the coming days. Saratoga had moved west to a position off Sicily, and the USS John F Kennedy and her escorts were expected to clear the Strait of Gibraltar around midnight. Sixth Fleet’s commander Vice Admiral Kendall Moranville, USN assured CINC-AFSOUTH that Sixth Fleet would be ready to begin offensive operations with two carrier battlegroups within thirty-six hours.

The issue was in deciding where the offensive should begin. Moranville wanted to move the carriers into the Eastern Med, and, in conjunction with land-based airpower go after Soviet airbases and ports on the Black Sea. AFSOUTH’s commander was of a similar mind, but he was under increasing pressure from the Greek and Turkish governments to start a concerted air effort against the buildup of Warsaw Pact forces in Bulgaria. Athens and Ankara were also petitioning the NATO secretary general and SACEUR to make Bulgaria the main theater priority. Events in Thrace on D+10 certainly supported such a move, but Admiral Busey remained uncommitted. He had twenty-four hours at least to consider the issue and make a decision before Kennedy reached the Central Med. Then the time for action would be upon them.



6 Replies to “The Southern Flank D+10 (19 July, 1987) Part II”

  1. Point to note (which I’m sure Mike is aware of)…the South Africans did in fact have a small nuclear arsenal at this point in time. How many warheads and what method of delivery are in question but they definitely had them.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You’re right, the Afrikaans were a nuclear power back then. Thanks to the Israelis help, or so the rumors go. I think they probably just would’ve used aircraft delivered bombs as their primary delivery system back then. Not sure what their ballistic missile capabilities ever were. But we may never know.


  2. Correct on the air delivery, using Black Burn Bucaneers.
    Ballistic missile delivery was hidden in the “satellite ” launch space program that only really came to fruition around 1989 if I recall correctly.
    Bear in mind in 1987 we were heavily engaged with the Cuban & FLAPA forces in Southern Angola.
    Great Blog, been binge reading for the last two days.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. True, in ’87 you had some significant problems down there with the Cubans in Angola. Had no idea about the ballistic missile delivery but it makes sense.
      Thanks for taking the time out to binge read. Always makes me grateful to hear somebody is devoting a large chunk of time to reading this blog.


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