The Southern Flank D+11 (20 July, 1987) Part I

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Right before the morning briefing got underway, Southwestern TVD (SWTVD) commander General Ivan Gerasimov took a call from Marshal of the Soviet Union Sergei Akhromeyev, Chief of the General Staff in Moscow. Akhromeyev ordered him to be in Moscow by midnight and to bring with him the plans for the next phase of operations in theater. Gerasimov did not ask for or receive further details. However, he felt the order to Moscow indicated a pause was coming to operations in the Western TVD soon. He knew NATO resistance in Germany was fiercer than expected. The war was approaching the two-week mark, a point where general staff war plans called for Western TVD’s forces to be replenished and reorganized if NATO had not yet been defeated.

This was also the point in time when the focus of SWTVD was expected to shift to the offensive phase. Specifically, the main attack in the Southwest theater would begin, in order to keep the pressure on NATO while West replenished. The objective was to seize control of eastern Thrace, the Dardanelles and Bosporus. Gerasimov was confident the ground offensive part of the plan could start by D+15, but the air and naval operations needed to be refined. In reality, those elements had been implemented on D+1 and remained underway at present.

The naval plans had called for the 5th Eskadra to have cleared the Eastern Med of NATO shipping, while additional naval units, working in conjunction with the Libyans were to have gained control of the shipping lanes in the Central Med. The opposite had occurred in the east with Soviet forces having been cleared out entirely. Libya’s defection had ceded control of the Central Med to NATO. Fortunately, the Black Sea was firmly in Soviet control and this was not going to change anytime soon.

The air picture was increasingly leaning in NATO’s favor now. After initially enjoying air superiority over Greece and Turkey for the first week of war, reinforcing US fighter squadrons started arriving in theater. Steadily, the tide turned against the Warsaw Pact air forces across the theater. Control of the skies was up for grabs at present but this wouldn’t remain the case for long as more US aircraft came in. A growing concern was Soviet aircraft and pilot losses, which were approaching the critical mark in many fighter regiments. Gerasimov needed his own air reinforcements and replacements before offensive operations in Thrace and the Dardanelles started. He wondered to himself if anything would be available for his theater.

Through the morning and afternoon, SWTVD’s planning staff worked on modifications for the offensive phase. Gerasimov reviewed the plans in depth afterward and was satisfied with them. He was on a plane to Moscow by 2100 local time and spent the duration of the flight northeast going over the plan once more.

 

The Libyan government agreed to extend the deadline for Soviet troops to leave the country by forty-eight hours. As flights to Angola continued, Soviet officials in New York formally requested the United Nations arrange a safe transit corridor between Libya and the Soviet Union so transport aircraft could return troops to Soviet soil without fear of being shot down. The United States and her European allies were not opposed to the move provided the returning Soviet aircraft did not land in Bulgaria, Romania, or the Black Sea region of the Soviet Union. Negotiations went back and forth through the day, but as midnight approached it appeared a deal was imminent.

Libya’s neutrality ceded control of the Central Mediterranean sea lanes to NATO. The convoys bound for Greece and Turkey still had to remain vigilant for Soviet submarines but with Libya no longer a belligerent, the air and surface threat in the area was entirely removed from the board.

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