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


News of the Kirov’s demise reached SACLANT Headquarters in Norfolk first. An hour later it was followed by COMSUBLANT informing Admiral Baggett that USS New York City was now presumed lost. Her mission of trailing the Soviet surface group would now be taken up by either USS Augusta, or USS Jack. COMSUBLANT would make the decision and issue orders within the hour. In the meantime, other NATO attack subs staked out in the Barents continued to monitor and report the departures, and courses of Soviet SSBNs while other attack subs approached the Barents Sea. The anti-SSBN campaign was set to begin at 0600 Zulu on D+13.

Looking at the larger picture, SACLANT was cautiously optimistic. Strike Fleet Atlantic’s airwings were preparing to hit targets on the Kola Peninsula, and attack the Soviet surface groups in the Barents once they were found again. The next friendly satellite passes over the area would come after midnight Zulu time. The air missions against the Kola would commence in the early hours of D+13 and be coordinated with land-based airstrikes out of Norway and perhaps even Scotland.

The earlier Backfire attack on Task Force 20.5 concerned Baggett even though it failed. The Backfires would return, he was certain, and most likely soon. A RORSAT pass was expected over the northern Norwegian Sea and Barents late in the evening. The US Air Force was not going to be able to launch an ASAT mission this time. Publicly, the Air Force had seven ASAT missiles at the start of the war. The real number was closer to twenty in reality, but the inventory was dwindling. Now the remainder were being squirreled away for use against high value space-borne targets if the war started to show signs of escalation.

In the North Atlantic the number of Soviet sub attacks on convoys continued to diminish. SACLANT was frankly impressed by how well the war was going in and around the shipping lanes. His forces continued to hold firm control over the Atlantic SLOCs, largely due to Iceland remaining in friendly hands. Keflavik had endured heavy enemy air attacks earlier in the war, but the Soviets made no direct effort to introduce airborne, or naval infantry forces on the island. As a result, Keflavik, and the SOSUS listening posts arrayed along the Icelandic coast continued to operate and contribute greatly to the defense of the North Atlantic.


As anticipated, the Soviet RORSAT came over the northern Norwegian Sea at 2245. The satellite’s radar transmitter detected both carrier task forces. Twenty minutes later the data was at Northern Fleet headquarters in Severomorsk. Ten minutes after that the bomber, and reconnaissance aircraft crews were going through their final pre-flight briefings. The first bomber, a Kingfish-armed Badger, lifted off from its airbase on the Kola Peninsula at 2351 hours.

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

  1. This….. is going to be messy. For BOTH sides… but more for for the Soviets.

    Those Bombers are going to a spot the Carriers are NOT going to be. If I was NATO, the moment I knew the ROSAT made its pass, there would be a massive course change- something 60 degrees or more from the course currently on… which will prove important.

    BARCAP would be up in the air by Midnight and E-3’s watching for the Soviets. Its gonna be a radar and sensor fight…. and iirc, Soviet Gear was really poor at night. They are gonna get some success cause of so damn many aircraft involved… but holy crap.

    My thinking…. is that attack will show up and after stumbling around a bit taking some losses, they will get to launch….. but the overall engagement will be brutal for the Red Boys…

    Many aces will be made in that battle but there will be more than a few losses for NATO due to some “friendly fire” and from whatever MiGs/Sukhoi’s are accompanying the bombers. (Su-27’s I would think)

    This is also where NATO suffers a incap of a flattop and escorts for sure (throw enough shit at something, some will stick). Which one… I am not gonna guess. I still stand by my earlier thinking though.

    But the Soviets will get a bird-farm…. at the cost of 60% or better of the raid- with more punishment coming from waiting NATO fighters on their return trip to Kola…

    And this will be the high-point of damage inflicted, I think, on the NATO fleets. The raid after this one… will possibly get another carrier but at the cost of pretty much everything useful for offensive operations.

    Oh My God is D+13 going to be messy for Naval and Frontal Aviation…. and I suspect a Front Commander may get a visit for either the local KGB or GRU….

    This attempt is a very necessary gamble- Soviets pull it off and their life gets easier. Failure means The War….

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Yep, like I said in an earlier comment it’s down to the wire now. And if the Soviets fail, that leaves the Barents Sea and Kola open to NATO airpower. A lot of those commanders could find themselves counting trees in Siberia in a few days if things don’t work out in their favor. 🙂


  2. I certainly get that Space Command and SAC are going to have their own priorities. But if I were SACLANT, this might be one of those times I called in all of my IOUs. Call the CNO, call the White House, whatever. The next 12 hours are critical. Expend another ASAT to mask your strike forces a little longer.

    On the other hand, perhaps the task forces are so far north that it’s better to just light up the radars, launch every aircraft, and start the show. Hopefully there will be plenty of raid warning. Perhaps, on some godforsaken corner of the Kola Peninsula, there’s an SBS or SEAL team listening to the chatter as the bomber streams form-up. I’m sure there are other “national assets” that could help with that, too.

    In any case, this round may be for all the marbles! It’s just a story, but I feel that knot in my stomach for all those guys – that feeling of being tired but keyed up, living on cigarettes and coffee. It’s going to be quite a night (except it’s really 24 hours of daylight up there, right?)

    Liked by 2 people

    1. As another reader just commented a little while ago, going after the SSBNs could trigger escalation. If that happens, the ASAT missiles might be needed to go after hunter-killer satellites aimed at our DSPS or communications satellites. Escalation makes those missiles a strategic asset.

      There are subs just off the coast of the Kola listening and watching, as well as some SAS and Special Forces teams on the ground. I haven’t spoken much about them yet but they have given raid warning previously.

      Yep, it’s all coming down to the wire now. The war at sea will likely be decided within the next 12-18 hours. And yep, its still 24 hours daylight up there. Civil twilight, but that’s not enough to hide streams of bombers.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. “if the war started to show signs of escalation.” That might just happen if the Navy starts going after the Soviet SSBNs.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah, I think that just might do it. Therefore the reason it might be a good idea to keep some ASAT missiles available


  4. Hi Mike,

    The ASAT missiles were based on off the shelf components (from the wiki: A modified Boeing AGM-69 SRAM missile with a Lockheed Propulsion Company LPC-415 solid propellant two pulse rocket engine was used as the first stage of the ASM-135 ASAT.The LTV Aerospace Altair 3 was used as the second stage of the ASM-135, LTV Aerospace also provided the third stage for the ASM-135 ASAT. This stage was called Miniature Homing Vehicle (MHV) interceptor) so more could be readily produced if needed.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Wow, that’s interesting, Jose. I knew a little about the program but not that they could be readily produced. I wonder how much time would’ve been needed in wartime conditions


  5. Hi Mike

    Sure is exciting to read, but I have a question:

    What is the overall strategy behind the Navy s focus on The Kola Peninsula?

    Now I understand that part of it is hitting the Soviet Long Range Aviation capabilities – and that this will help avoid losing the 2nd Battle of The Atlantic. But this battle seems to already have been won? If this was the goal, then why risk going into the Barents sea – why not stay defensive south of Iceland?

    In other writings on the subject, and other comments are also hinting at it, the bombing of bases in Kola will be seen as a huge loss of prestige for the Soviet leadership. Generals getting fired (and worse), STAVKA being furious and the Politburo holding late night meetings…. But what else?

    What will SACLANT do with this potential victory? Go after the soviet submarines? Invade Russia from the north? Bomb everything they can reach?

    Going after the boomers will be seen as a escalation, and it wont contribute to the current war as that is still conventional.

    The fleet have nothing substantial to invade with – and they are not equipped for it anyway.

    Bombing everything on the borders of the Barents sea… well there is still air defense and i wonder how larger a stockpile of ammunition the fleet have anyways. And are there any targets within reach, that effect the land war being fought in Germany anyways?

    If STAVKA and the Politburo just goes on the defensive on the northern flank – transfer everything to Germany…what then?



    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hey Christian. Going after the Kola was a major component of the Navy’s Maritime Strategy in the 80s. Phase III was all about taking the war to the Soviets. Phase II was centered on seizing the initiative and this meant destroying Soviet fleets at sea. Once that was completed the transition towards attacking bases and support elements of the Soviet Navy ashore. So regarding the Kola, bomber bases, and naval facilities were the main targets that would be hit by the carrier air wings. That reduces the threat to the carriers, and the entire theater as well, and opening up the door for future offensive operations.

      Going after the boomers was another big part of Maritime Strategy. If they sortied, they were considered legitimate targets. The way ‘World War III 1987′ has evolved has put the Soviets in a difficult spot. There was a pre-war secret agreement by the US and Soviets to keep their SSBNs in port for the duration, so any movement was going to be seen as escalation. However, with US carriers approaching the Norwegian Sea, the choice facing the Soviets was to either risk losing them in port when US carrier aircraft attack, or sortie them and bring about escalation. Use ’em or lose ’em more or less.
      They could transfer whatever would be useful to Germany and go on the offensive, but then they leave a major flank weakened and NATO could move to take advantage of it somehow.
      Now, as we move to the Baltic Approaches, we’re going to see some events that have a more direct approach on what’s happening in Denmark 🙂


  6. I wonder (and am worried) that attacking Kola will trigger a response against the CONUS – just to show the US that they’re not screwing around.

    I was the person who speculated about the destruction of Soviet SSBNs would also trigger an escalation, and I’m still worried :O

    (Also this post has me wondering how quickly an ASAT can be built…)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. ASAT’s apparently could be readied quick according to what I’ve gleaned in the last 12 hours or so. But the damage was already done with the RORSAT pass. Now it’s up to the Soviets to use the data properly.

      Not outside the realm of possibility. We go after Kola and the Soviets launch air attacks against targets in Alaska in exchange. That could be interesting…and dangerous

      Liked by 1 person

  7. From a writing perspective, Mike, how do you handle such events? I know a lot of actual combat you game out, but when it comes to strategic brinkmanship, what’s your methodology? Do you have a desired plot arc you generally follow, do you try to parse it through logical world events, do you consult with other historians…? Inquiring minds 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Laying all of that out was tricky, Bill. When it came to the strategic brinkmanship I fell back on my doctorate, and consulted some of my old professors, and classmates from Princeton who are now working on the academic side of the International Relations field. Game Theory was quite useful, as were a lot of models. Graham Allison’s model was especially useful. His book Essence of Decision was excellent.

      So I used that as a basis, analyzed the players, and governments in power at the time, logical world events, etc and came up with a workable arc, so to speak. But at the end of the day, a few of the findings just did not sit right with me so I modified them, in some cases because they would not fit neatly with what was happening on the battlefield at the time.
      Hope that helped a bit. Keep the inquiries coming and I’ll answer them as best I can 🙂


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