Heavy fighting and potentially decisive action would take place place to the north and south of Norway in the later hours of D+12 and into the next day. In the Barents Sea, Strike Fleet Atlantic was moving to kick the door to the Soviet’s backyard wide open, and in the Baltic Sea a major Soviet attack poised at the Baltic Approaches was getting underway. To the distasteful surprise of more than one senior AFNORTH commander, NATO air power based in Norway looked to play minimal support roles, having little effect on the outcome in either area.
In the Baltic, Warsaw Pact forces were less than 24 hours away from their long-awaited air and amphibious attacks against Denmark. The first airborne landings took place on the Jutland peninsula before dawn and were preceded by heavy Soviet air attacks on airbases, radar sites, and other targets in Denmark. The size and scope of these attacks brought air defense forces in southern and central Norway to an even higher state of readiness. No bombs fell on Norwegian soil, however, and no Soviet warplanes even came close to penetrating Norwegian airspace. Late in the afternoon, with damage and overcrowding both becoming factors at airbases in Denmark, AFNORTH began transferring some air assets from the Danish side of the Baltic to Rygge, and Flesland in Southern Norway.
In the northern Norwegian Sea, Strike Fleet Atlantic’s carrier air wings went after the Soviet surface group guarding the approaches to the Barents Sea with a vengeance. Inevitably, this invited a response from the Soviets. In the later afternoon, Soviet Naval Aviation Backfires attacked one of the NATO carrier groups. A second, much larger raid took shape late in the evening. E-3 Sentries operating over Norway provided support with raid warning, and tracking, but NATO fighters were unable to make contact. Courses, and the strength of the fighter protection when transiting close to the Norwegian coast worked against NATO’s attempts to interdict the bombers.
Air Forces North Norway (AIRNON) was kept busy in other areas. Attacks against Soviet positions in Northern Norway continued throughout the day. Close air support missions continued against Andoya, tying up a large portion of the 2nd Marine Air Wing. The Royal Marines at recently retaken Banak Air Station were also in need of heavy CAS support to blunt a surprise attack by Soviet motor rifle troops.
Strike Fleet Atlantic’s activities on D+12 proved valuable to AFNORTH’s air components. Operation Midnight Sun was authorized by SACEUR and set to begin at 0500 local time on D+13. With a timeline now set, mission planning, and preparation resumed. Coordination with the carrier air wings at sea was going to be crucial to the overall success of Midnight Sun, and the carrier force’s attacks on the Kola. AFNORTH and Strike Fleet Atlantic exchanged air liaison officers that afternoon. A US Navy commander from USS Kitty Hawk arrived at Kolsas early in the evening. The C-2 Greyhound that brought him to Norway ended up taking a US Air Force lieutenant colonel back to the carrier fleet.
Overall, NATO aircrews were eager to start launching sorties against targets in the Kola. Most of them also appreciated the danger this new phase of the war would bring. There was no way to predict exactly how the Soviets were going to respond to heavy attacks against their homeland. This was a concern that many senior officers in Kolsas, and Brussels had wrestled with for days now without coming up with a satisfactory presage.