By early afternoon Soviet ASW forces were vigorously sanitizing the approaches to the Kola ports, and coastal waters. Il-38 Mays dropped sonobuoy lines, and were augmented by Helix and Hormone helicopters operating from airfields ashore. The number of diesel subs operating inshore. Some Foxtrots and Tangos were recalled from patrol sectors in the White Sea to strengthen the inshore barrier.
Farther out to sea in the Barents Sea the outer defensive barriers were taking shape. ASW hunting groups comprised of patrol craft and frigates were forming and moving to designated patrol areas. The Baku/Kirov group was positioned 123 miles northeast of Bear Island, anchoring the Svalbard-Bear-North Cape barrier line. Forward of the line was a line of nuclear-powered attack submarines positioned to interdict NATO attack subs moving into the Barents.
Teams of Spetsnaz commandos and small groups of naval infantry were placed on Svalbard early in the conflict. This was the day they sprang into action. The main airfield and heliport were both secured to prevent NATO ASW aircraft from operating there in the coming days. Commandos and KGB assets also sabotaged civilian, and Norwegian government communications, thus disrupting communications between the archipelago and the Norwegian mainland. For the Soviets, the disruptive actions assured that the northern-most point of the main barrier line would remain secure through the duration of the coming battles.
A powerful ASW task group was positioned in the interior Barents Sea. It was centered on the helicopter carrier Leningrad and contained eight other warships, the majority being ASW destroyers and air defense cruisers. With the 22 helicopters embarked on the carrier, and Tu-142 Bears (the ASW variant) operating from the mainland, the group was tasked with providing an impenetrable ASW blanket for a two hundred square mile area.
The Soviet ASW effort in coastal waters started to pay off in the afternoon. Shortly after 1500 an Il-38 May picked up a suspicious return off a sonobuoy line it laid fifteen minutes earlier. After some time and investigation, a contact was established and classified as a possible submarine contact. At this point additional patrol aircraft, as well as ASW helicopters and surface ships converged on the area twenty-eight miles northwest of the point where the Kola Bay meets the Barents Sea. The hunt began in earnest and the contact was eventually re-classified as a probable submarine. A torpedo dropped by one of the Mays missed, as did three volleys of RBUs from frigates and corvettes. As a second run by the May commenced, three torpedoes were detected speeding towards the surface ships that fired off the RBUs. The May’s torpedo hit the water, immediately found the sub and guided on it. Seconds later one of the enemy submarine’s torpedoes found its mark and exploded the Kanin-class destroyer Derzkiy. Through the excitement the fate of the enemy sub was unable to be verified. No breakup noises or explosions had been heard, but the contact had disappeared. The search resumed for another two hours before being called off with Northern Fleet’s ASW forces cautiously claiming credit for a NATO submarine kill.
Thirty miles away, the captain of the USS Philadelphia presumed the chaos going on to the west had something to do with HMS Spartan, a Royal Navy attack sub monitoring the waters off the Kola for signs the Soviets were surging their boomers. Philadelphia, a 688-class attack boat was performing the same mission from a point east of where the Kola Bay met the Barents. Spartan’s fate was unknown, but Philadelphia’s skipper used the opportunity to move closer to the coast undetected. It would pay off in the late afternoon when the first Soviet SSBN, a Delta III, was detected making his way north. A short while later, the American submarine radioed the news in.
Meanwhile, in Faslane, Scotland at 1930 hours it was noted that HMS Spartan had missed her scheduled 1915 check in time.