The North Atlantic D+11 (20 July, 1987) Part I

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Before departing from the Kola Peninsula, Marshal Akhromeyev visited the Red Banner Northern Fleet headquarters in Severomorsk to meet with fleet commander Admiral Ivan Kapitanets. Akhromeyev informed him of the personnel changes taking place at the theater headquarters. He then made it a point to emphasize to the admiral that his own job was safe-for the moment at least. Moscow understood fully the restrictions placed on the Northern Fleet’s wartime operations by the former NWTVD commander and sympathized with Kapitanets to a degree. For this reason, the general staff, and Kremlin saw it fit to extend him the opportunity to redeem his command, and by extension, himself. Akhromeyev then explained the coming operational restrictions that were going to hamper the Northern Fleet over the next twenty-four hours. Kapitanets was not surprised to hear this and assured the marshal that he could work around them.

The next topic of discussion was the future of the ballistic missile submarines assigned to the fleet. Akhromeyev told him the general secretary’s orders and emphasized that it was necessary for every SSBN to be at sea by 0600 the next day and in route to their assigned patrol sectors. The bastion defense was to be implemented as soon as the first sailings commenced. Again, Kapitanets was unmoved by the abrupt timetable. Northern Fleet was fully prepared to execute the plan. Many of the main units were already deployed and ready. Those that weren’t would be at sea, or in the air in a matter of hours.

Akhromeyev was encouraged to hear this, and as a result his confidence in Kapitanets was increasing. As far as the American and French aircraft carriers in the Norwegian Sea, they were of less importance until the SSBNs had sortied. Once that was complete, Akhromeyev promised, Northern Fleet’s leash would be loosened and Kapitanets was free to hunt them down using every conventional weapon at his disposal. Akhromeyev concluded by promising the admiral he would be also be handed control of Long Range Aviation’s Backfires by midnight.

 

Task Force 20.5 remained veiled through the first half of the day. Kitty Hawk, Eisenhower, and their escorts were mission ready. Unfortunately, other pieces for the upcoming missions were still coming together. The plan remained for Strike Fleet Atlantic to begin round-the-clock air missions against the Kola as soon as possible. But Task Force 21.3 remained holed up in the Norwegian fjords while Forrestal’s airwing continued to fly missions out of Bodo in support of the Marine ground attack on Andoya. Both Strike Fleet Atlantic’s commander, and SACLANT had toyed with the possibility of starting the air campaign with only two carrier air wings before deciding against it. All four of the force’s flight decks and air wings were to be utilized simultaneously, along with land-based aircraft. Forrestal’s air wing would hand responsibility for its missions over to 2nd Marine Air Wing later in the day. Forrestal and Foch were to depart the fjords in twelve hours, recover aircraft and steam northwest towards the yet to be determined rendezvous point with TF 20.5. The air campaign against targets on the Kola Peninsula would begin at 1200 hours the next day come hell or high water.

In the later hours of the morning, some potentially disturbing news reached SACLANT’s headquarters in Norfolk. Indications were appearing that led the CIA to suspect the Soviets might be considering sending some, or all of their SSBNs to sea. How this information had been obtained was not revealed by the Agency, yet Langley seemed to be moving along on the assumption it was quite possible. This was making many folks in Washington, and Brussels nervous. SACLANT understood why, but it was his personal belief the Soviets were making a sound military decision. Their ballistic missile submarines were a vital national asset tied to the dock and quite vulnerable right now with US carriers in the neighborhood. So long as they survived, and were a credible first strike weapon, the Soviet Union would remain unbowed. If they were removed from the board, the dynamic changed drastically for Moscow.

For SACLANT, the news meant he now had to seriously prepare for the possibility of going after the Soviet boomers in the north if they did sortie.

2 Replies to “The North Atlantic D+11 (20 July, 1987) Part I”

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