The North Atlantic D+12 (21 July, 1987) Part III


Scott’s dispatch of the Tu-95 frayed nerves immeasurably and brought on questions that had no answers at present. Did its crew have enough time to transmit a radio message before its death? How many more reconnaissance aircraft and submarines were out there searching for the carrier force? News of the Eisenhower air wing’s attack against the Kirov/Baku group had probably reached Severomorsk by this time. Northern Fleet was going to be keen on finding the carrier responsible. The cat truly was out of the bag now.

Strike Fleet Atlantic had been heading north for only a few hours. When the launch and recovery cycles were complete, course changes were ordered. Task Force 20.5 turned southwest while Task Force 21.3 wheeled south. The air defense game plan remained unchanged for now. A Hawkeye from Kitty Hawk that launched earlier remained aloft. It would be relieved when needed. For the time being, Kitty Hawk and Foch’s fighters covered the flight deck, either attached to the catapults, or manned and ready nearby. To the north, aircraft from Forrestal were moving to and arriving at their stations. An 8-Tomcat BARCAP was established 180 miles northeast of TF 20.5. Two of the group’s Hawkeyes were also up, as were a pair of Prowlers. Between the task force and BARCAP was a roving CAP of four fighters, and a flight of KA-6 tankers for refueling. As was the case with TF 21.3, Forrestal and Eisenhower’s decks were filled with Tomcats, Hawkeyes, and attack planes carrying buddy stores.


In Severomorsk, confusion dominated the mid-afternoon. Northern Fleet’s commander Admiral Ivan Kapitanets was informed of the air attack on his most powerful surface group, though no information on damage was forwarded yet. Understandably, this made the fleet commander uneasy. Next came a fragmented report from a patrolling Tu-95 that it had discovered an American carrier group. No information had followed up the initial message and the aircraft was assumed to be lost.

At Northern Fleet’s headquarters the last known position of the enemy carrier group was plotted, and the next move debated. Naval Aviation wanted to strike the group immediately. The better part of a bomber regiment was on alert at Olenya, armed with anti-ship missiles, and could be launched within 30 minutes. Kapitanets was tempted to order the regiment airborne to find and destroy the carrier group. His first instinct was to do just that. Yet he held back out of caution. The lessons from previous air-naval battles in the war were etched in his mind. It would be madness to throw his bombers, and crews into an attack without a clearer picture of what lay before them. There would be defending fighters and radar aircraft present, almost certainly F-14 Tomcats and E-2 Hawkeyes, as well as SAM-equipped ships.

However, at the same time there were three American aircraft carriers, and a smaller French one on the Soviet Union’s doorstep right now. Waiting too long to attack this force was madness as well. Carrier aircraft were already attacking his surface ships. It would not be long before they started going after his ballistic missile submarines, and installations ashore. The destruction of strategic assets of the Soviet Union, and unacceptable damage to military bases on Soviet soil would be the end of Kapitanets professionally, and perhaps even physically.

At the same time, he was not about to throw a regiment of bombers and aircrews blindly at a capable, well prepared enemy. The choices were as basic as they were stark: Commit a regiment of bombers now and almost assuredly bring minimal damage to the American carriers. Or hold off until a decisive, multi-regiment blow could be launched. One that would almost assuredly smash the so-called Strike Fleet Atlantic to dust.

Or in the short term, Kapitanets could go with a third option while a massive attack was prepared.


Author’s Note: This post was a shorter than I anticipated. Real world issues came up this afternoon. I apologize and will make it up over the weekend. –Mike


19 Replies to “The North Atlantic D+12 (21 July, 1987) Part III”

    1. All is well, Bill. Just had a couple of tests rescheduled for yesterday and today. Today’s ran late. Oh well. I’m doing about as well as the NATO task force, and much better then the Kirov group 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

    1. More like Chernobyl sound. Do you know how many SSNs are at the bottom of the Atlantic, Norwegian Sea, and Barents at this point? 🙂

      Liked by 3 people

      1. Which makes me wonder what effect this war will end up having on the environmentalist movements around the world once all is said and done with the war.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Good point. That’s something I certainly haven’t given deep thought to, beyond the tens of potential runaway nuclear reactors sitting on the ocean floor. I am curious now though.


          1. I remember thinking along the same lines back reading RSR for the first time – it gets a mention I recall with a (?) Victor being taken out just off the east coast.
            It’s an interesting line of thought, for sure – and I suspect shouldn’t really focus on the ocean deeps, where I don’t believe currents would disturb the wrecks too much and while locally calamitous (Godzilla in 50 years!) I suspect is unlikely to have too extensive an impact. It’s the coastal areas – and more importantly the continental battle grounds where there’s going to be generations of detritus and follow-on impacts… Brrrrt, even before anyone resorts to CBN use.
            There’s probably a blog in this alone…

            Liked by 1 person

            1. I went back and re-read that porting of RSR after seeing your post. Yeah, a Victor was taken out right around the site of where the Andrea Doria went down in the 50s? If you’re not up on the Doria, check her out. Hell of a story there. But it did become a big divers spot and I’m sure it still is.
              Agreed, SSN wrecks the coastal areas away from the shelf are where the problems would likely occur. That’s where the food chain is affected, and all. And the problem remains today. You can’t tell an ADCAP ‘hey, make sure you don’t impact near the reactor compartment.’ So if a Red sub is hostile and attacked in relatively shallow waters, and there’s a reactor leak or worse, its going to be a major disaster and Greenpeace will go absolutely bonkers. Not that I care about how they react, but the damage done would affect millions of people potentially.

              Liked by 1 person

  1. Oh yeah, I like that better. Chernobyl Sound!

    Hey…you know what – you bring up something very interesting that I can’t believe I didn’t think of earlier. In your timeline, did the Chernobyl accident occur?

    That really shook a lot of people’s faith, within the USSR, in the system. Could that be a problem for the Soviets on the home front? And have a ripple effect in to the military? The Russians and Ukrainians have always been at odds, and if the Ukraine feels its been left holding the bag on the radiological mess that is the Chernobyl NPP, they just might decide this is the chance to mutiny. The Soviets deployed what, 250000 troops in the quarantine and cleanup effort?

    That’s…ten? divisions or so (not sure what size a Soviet infantry division was in the 80s but I think it was 20 or 25k).

    Man if you factor that in, along with the whole brigades of armor and helicopters the Soviets had to abandon due to the clean up, they could really be hurting.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah, Chernobyl occurred in this timeline. That was spring of ’86 so roughly a year before the coup and subsequent war. Bill, you’ve brought up something I pretty much looked over entirely: Chernobyl. I think the Russians would’ve had to scale back the clean up tremendously to feed the war effort. But that would’ve caused a whole crop of new trouble for themselves. You’re right. I think this deserves some study.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Hmmm…

    The two visible options and possible 3rd… are really a conundrum for the STAVKA/Northern Fleet commands.

    While delaying the strike is sensible for the time being, NATO is going to be able to hide their ships in the Great Blue once more and the Soviets will not be able to find them easily or in time to prevent their helping to hammer ground forces in Norway.

    It also gives NATO time to both shore up their gains on the ground there are well as move some more assets into the region in order to hammer whatever is either afloat or in the air. So waiting too long to strike ensures MORE potential losses for little to no gain. I mean, they gotta find the fleets and then act quickly. And they won’t get more than one group at best, most likely- its not clear to me that they know there is four flattops out there…

    A quick strike- likely heavy losses to the regiment likely but possible substantial damage to at least one battlegroup.

    A Delayed strike. While numbers of strike craft will ensure some sort of severe damage to a NATO group, the delay also means better prepared NATO defense and response resulting in a very chewed up ‘n’ spat out strike force.. Not exactly a desired result.

    The Big Response of the 3rd choice…. *may* get a desired result of 1-2 Carriers out of action or sunk- but again, NATO won’t be idle either and will be waiting for the strike with some serious cans of whupass on tap. And it will be that case of whupass that will decimate the strike force…. and render it incapable of any operations at all post-strike, yeah, whacking a flattop or two is a desirable result but wrecking the ability to do ANYTHING offensive after… to me isn’t worth the cost. Especially when so much is in flux overall.

    I look forward to the next posts.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, John. And you’re pretty much on the money with your analysis. Go now, or wait and go big later. There might be a couple of middle ground choices in between though. You’ll find out tomorrow night when the next post comes out. Hope things are going well up in Schyulkill County. Or is it Berks where you’re at?


      1. Mike, nice to know I’m in the ball park on analysis.

        I’m not really seeing too many middle ground choices- so many of them, in my mind, require something of a shotgun effect of tossing scouts out there en-mass… and hoping for a clear picture of where the fleets are from at least TWO of them (for better search area).

        Mind you, Once the notice of location given, half the raid gets launched with the second half launched a half hour later… but then, so will be that monster CAP. First half will get smashed, I’m sure. That second half though… I dunno.

        Eitherway… I and everyone else will find out more tomorrow. (time to make more popcorn…)


        As for things here- I live in the Skook, which is starting to have issues AND is looking to tell the Gov to stick his restrictions up his keister. I work in Berks, which has some rough patches near and in Reading City. Its slowing down some for those there… but will it be enough to get to a re-open phase? That’s the big question really. And no one really knows at this point.

        Its all theory.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Just posted, and the ‘compromise’ option is explained. 🙂

          I hope you guys tell Wolf to go and stick it. I hear Lebanon did just that. I didn’t realize there were issues near Reading. No surprise though. Sometimes when I go out to Lancaster I take the north route. 78 to 100 to 222. I stop at the Barnes and Noble on Broadcast Rd in Wyomissing quite a bit. Haven’t been out to PA since early March though when all of this was starting. Hope the re-open phase starts up soon.

          Yep, theory and politics. Never a good combo.


  3. Anyway, to comment on nukes and contamination. Subs sunk so far in the Atlantic have not contaminated the Ocean, with the Tresher and the Scorpion imploding. In the Konsomolets, traces of radiation are discovered inside the sub, but not outside, so no 3 eyed fishes yet…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jose, found the other comment you just posted and all of the other ones in my spam. I think it had to do with the link. I love the work you did though and am very appreciative. Let me figure out a way to fix the privacy setting and I’ll repost them.


    2. No three-eyed fish yet 🙂 With the older subs, the reactors remained intact. If there’s an instance where that’s not the case, bring on the three eyed fish


    1. Thanks Jose. 🙂

      I emailed wordpress about the issue with the link. Apparently, judging by the return email they’ll be getting in touch with me tomorrow to fix it .


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