Baltic Approaches D+11 (20 July, 1987) Part I


Western TVD’s interdiction efforts against the supply pipeline being established between Sweden and Finland continued on D+11. The focal point of these attacks was near the Aland Islands at the mouth of the Gulf of Bothnia where the bulk of Swedish resupply vessels and aircraft would transit. The short distances between adversaries, and the constrictive geography of the eastern Baltic Sea had not proven to be an advantage, or disadvantage for either side yet. Passenger ferry service between Sweden and Finland came to a halt at the beginning of the war back in early July. Since then, both nations had taken the ferries and pressed them into military service. Now they were being used to transport war supplies from Sweden across the Gulf to Finland while surplus Drakens flew east overhead, headed for airbases in Finland, and service with the Finnish Air Force.

In the morning, the Swedes tried the convoy approach. Six ferries filled to the gunwales with military supplies departed Stockholm for Turku at 0500. Three Swedish Navy fast attack craft escorted them, and a quartet of Swedish fighters flew overhead. Their sailing was hardly a secret. KGB operatives ashore had passed along word the night before about a convoy preparing to get underway. In the morning, news of the departure was in Moscow before the last ferry had even left the dockside.

The first attack on the convoy was made by Soviet fast attack craft 100 km northeast of Stockholm. Two Nanuchka-class boats, using targeting and guidance data provided by a Tu-95 Bear, fired eight SS-N-9 Sirens at the Swedish ships, sinking one ferry, and the Swedish fast attack craft Umeå. Another ferry suffered damage from a near-miss and diverted to the Aaland Islands as a result. The Nanuchkas loitered in the area for a short bit of time, practically goading the Swedes to come out and chase them, but the surviving Swedish FACs stayed close to the ferries, expecting a follow-on attack to come soon.

Less than an hour later it came. A Whiskey-class diesel sub patrolling at periscope depth off the Aaland Islands fired four torpedoes at the convoy, hitting and destroying another ferry. Unlike their fast attack craft comrades, the Whiskey did not escape. It was detected forty-five minutes later by Swedish ASW helicopters and after being damaged by depth charges the Soviet submarine surfaced and raised the white flag in place of the ensign.

In the late afternoon, two separate Soviet air attacks each resulted in the destruction of a Swedish vessel: one ferry and one FAC. The surviving convoy ships reached Turku at 1628 hours in the afternoon. By then, the Swedish Navy had decided to discard the convoy strategy and replace it with a more flexible system centered on independent ferry crossings defended by increased ASW, anti-ship, and anti-air patrols.

Air attacks against military installations, and related targets on the Swedish mainland continued on D+11, but the intensity was slackening off. The Western TVD commander Marshal Ogarkov placed a large fraction of his ground attack aircraft and fighters in reserve for the day to rest and replenish. Moscow’s wish for operations in the Baltic to support the main attack in Germany were forcing Ogarkov to rethink his strategy. An amphibious/airborne operation against Denmark was again possible, given the growing success of the push into Jutland.

Even though the Swedish Air Force’s mindset was predominantly defensive on D+11 it did find an opportunity to take the fight to the Soviets. When an enemy raid on a radar installation on Gotland was detected, a flight of four Viggens was scrambled from Ronneby. Only these fighters had bombs dangling from most of their hardpoints, not AAMs. After the Su-24 Fencers struck the radar site and were returning to the Lielvarde Airbase in Latvia, the Fencers trailed low and at a safe distance. As the Su-24s prepared to land, the Viggens came in low and dropped their munitions on the airbase, destroying six aircraft on the flightline and damaging the tower. As an added bonus one of the Viggens shot down a Fencer with a Sidewinder shot on the egress.

The raid caused a moderate amount of damage but provided the Swedish Air Force with a much needed morale lift. And for once it had the Soviets responding to Swedish moves instead of the other way around.

Early in the afternoon the first Swedish ground troops landed in northern Finland. Two companies from the Lapland Ranger Regiment arrived, paving the way for what would become a larger commitment in the near future.


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