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

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NATO airpower was not only causing problems for the Polish divisions moving into and towards western Jutland. The Soviet divisions in the east were feeling the effects too. Danish, West German, and USAF ground attack jets were inflicting casualties, seeping the combat strength out of units, and slowing movement across southern Jutland around the clock. D+11 marked a significant rise in the number of attack, close air support and other sorties directly tied to the defense of Jutland. The day also saw an increasing number of American specialized ground attack aircraft, and attack helicopters in the mix. One squadron of USAF A-10s now flying out of Vandel Airbase was joined by a dozen AH-1F Cobras and six OH-58C Kiowas from the 9th Infantry Division’s combat aviation brigade. The Warthogs and Kiowa/Cobra teams flew close air in direct support of the West German 6th Panzergrenadier Division throughout the day and night. Attacks by USAF F-16s and Luftwaffe Phantoms on targets in the Pact rear areas had forced the 20th Guards Tank Division’s lead regiments to move their assembly areas farther south to minimize the effects of the attacks. NATO air superiority over Denmark was also allowing a wide variety of ELINT, EW, and reconnaissance platforms to support the battle. The EW aircraft were proving especially troublesome for Warsaw Pact commanders in Jutland who were now contending with consistently heavy jamming of their communications and electronics for the first time in the entire war.

Soviet, East German, and Polish fighters were missing from the skies over Denmark for the majority of the day, owing to the Western TVD commander Marshal Nikolai Ogarkov’s decision to place over forty percent of the combat aircraft in the Baltic region in reserve for the day. CINC-West, after talks with Moscow was again leaning towards launching a combined amphibious/airborne attack against the Danish coast to support the current drive into Jutland. Widening the conflict in Denmark at this point could potentially help swing the Central Front in the Soviet’s favor. With the battle in Germany hanging in the balance a move had to come soon.

When Ogarkov made the final decision, orders were issued within minutes. Naval and air plans were reworked to focus on coming operations in and around Denmark starting in the afternoon of D+12. A number of warships and submarines were detached from missions in the eastern Baltic and retasked. Dozens of air transports were on the move to airbases in the Baltics, and Poland from the interior Soviet Union. Enough aircraft to move the bulk of the 7th Guards Airborne Division. The paratroopers from that division were alerted and preparations got underway at once. The clock had started and in thirty six hours, much of the division would be taking part in the largest Soviet airborne operation since 1942.

6 Replies to “Baltic Approaches D+11 (20 July, 1987) Part III”

    1. Yeah, after the war the size of VDV was really ramped up. I guess they saw what US and British airborne forces could do and wanted a big force with similar capabilities.

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  1. I think they’ve left it too late… an airborne operation into the teeth of contested airspace – ouch. Surprise is the key, but maybe if they at least get tactical surprise… they’ll get lonely but at least they’ll get on the ground.

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  2. They’re going to get massacred. I’d guesstimate 40~% losses going in, a good deal of scatter, the transport aircraft will probably take 65% to 80% losses. The Soviets did a lot of stuff with air-transportable armor (BMD, ASU-85), but it’s gotta get to the ground safely. At night those landing rockets firing are gonna be big ol’ flares that say “Here I am, come shoot me”.

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