The North Atlantic D+13 (22 July, 1987) Part IX

The fraying remains of dozens of smoke trails still crisscrossed the sky. Fragments of chaff blooms floated down through the air like metallic flurries. Closer in, more menacing columns of black smoke announced points where the Kingfish and Kitchens had broken through the multi-layered defenses of Strike Fleet Atlantic and scored hits. The battle was over, but evidence of it would linger for some time.

For the sailors, and officers of the two carrier forces this was not a time to reflect. There was still much work to be done. The surviving carriers started recovering the Tomcats, and other aircraft at once. Foch’s Crusaders trapped on board Kitty Hawk and would end up being attached to her airwing. On Blue Ridge, damage reports from around the formations were coming in. The strike fleet commander turned his attention to the condition of his stricken ships.

Forrestal was intact, but a Kingfish had been exploded by a Phalanx just under 500 yards off her starboard quarter. The force from the missile’s detonation caused damage. Two Mk 91 fire control directors were shredded by fragments from the Kingfish. Also inoperative was the Number 3 elevator on the starboard side. Repairs were underway, though it was unclear when, or even if, the elevator would be back in service. The hangar and flight decks were undamaged, however. Even more important, the arresting gear was intact. This meant Forrestal could recover her aircraft safely. Flight operations weren’t going to be disrupted.

John Hancock was gone. The Spruance-class destroyer took a Kingfish hit forward of her ASROC launcher. The impact of the 2,200 lb high explosive warhead detonated the forward magazine almost at once. A massive explosion rocked the ship from bow to stern. Within a minute what remained of her was going under, a widening pool of oil, and twisted sections of her superstructure atop the waves marking her grave. Search-and-rescue operations were underway, but the possibility remained high that Hancock had been lost with all hands.

USS Virginia’s fate was yet to be decided but for the moment things did not look good. A Kingfish detonated 200 feet above her deck, forward of her aft 5 inch mount. There were fires raging and at the moment they were out of control. She was dead in the water and starting to list to starboard. Dahlgren, and HMS York were moving in to aid with the fire, and rescue operations. The chief engineer aboard the cruiser had scrammed the reactor seconds after the Kingfish detonated. His actions removed the prospect of radiation leakage or worse.

Two of Task Force 21.3’s escorts had been lost. USS Vandegrift, a Perry class frigate and the Dutch Kortenar class frigate Jan van Brakel suffered direct hits from AS-4s. Both ships were still afloat, and blazing. Damage control and fire-fighting efforts by their crews were concentrated on keeping them above water long enough to transfer casualties off. However, it was clear neither would last for much longer.

Similar actions were going on aboard Foch. The French aircraft carrier was struck by two Kitchens amidships. The Soviet missiles pierced through the flight deck as if it were cellophane and detonated in the hangar. The explosions caused fires that rapidly reached  the aviation fuel, and armament storage areas. She was essentially a bonfire now, and it would only be a matter of time before she sank. Her crew, what remained, as well as two other task force ships were desperately trying to contain the fire while the wounded, and survivors were offloaded.

 Soviet losses were nothing short of murderous, with the overwhelming majority of them coming at the hands of F-14 Tomcats. Over sixty Badgers took off from their airfields just before midnight. Twenty had lived long enough to launch their Kingfish. Of the twenty, just twelve survived to make it home. Of the fifty-three Backfires, the launch percentage was more favorable. Forty-three managed to launch their Kitchens, however just ten survived the Tomcats. Along with the bombers, four Badger Jammers, two recon Badgers, and ten Bears would not make it home. Out of over 100 bombers less than two dozen would return to the Kola.

The damage inflicted on the NATO carrier force was not worthy of the losses sustained by Soviet Naval Aviation, and Long Range Aviation. The loss of Foch was a tragedy, but the stark truth was that Strike Fleet Atlantic could get along without her. The objective of the massive attack had been to prevent the NATO force from launching offensive missions against the Soviet Union. The only way to achieve this objective was to sink one or more of the US carriers that were a part of the force. But it was not to be.

The three American supercarriers, and their airwings were undamaged, and unbowed. Later in the day it would be their turn to launch attacks against military targets in the Kola region. The ramifications of the air-sea battle in the southern Barents Sea would be felt around the world through the rest of D+13 and beyond.

26 Replies to “The North Atlantic D+13 (22 July, 1987) Part IX”

  1. Damn miracle the frigates are still above the waterline. Heavy losses, especially the Hancock and Virginia. Is there enough SAMs left to resist another attack? AIM-54s? Or is the next move move in close enough for the HARM shooters and SEAD? I’ve done this attack in Harpoon and there is a LOT of defenses around the Kola.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I’m going to talk more about the UNREP and all of that in the upcoming Northern Flank. The air wing Tomcats have enough Sidewinders and Sparrows to escort strikes against the Kola. The magazines of the cruisers and destroyers, on the other hand, are a little empty right now. The task forces will be moving south to UNREP and then come back up north a bit to start strikes against the Kola, and the effort against the SSBN bastions forming up.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Great wrap-up, Mike. I can’t wait to read your treatment on the spanking the Alpha packages will be doing to the Soviets.

    As an aside, I don’t know if you played Twilight:2000 but in the “Going Home” module for that RPG, the John Hancock was one of the few US Navy vessels still operational in November of 2000 and formed the flagship of TF-34 “Omega” designated to take the surviving US troops back home.

    Late in the war the Virginia shot it out with Soviet guided missile cruisers in the southeastern Pacific, and although she won, the captain had to ground her somewhere (I can’t recall where) along the Baja Peninsula.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks, Bill. I think I’m going to do a narrative for one of the carrier attacks on Kola and put it in the ‘Snapshots of War’ category. I’ve been neglecting that one lately.

      I have played a bit of ‘Going Home’ and remember TF-34. Man, I loved Twilight:2000. One of the readers on here writes some excellent fanfic based on the game. I’ll have to send you a link to his site, it’s great.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Hmmmmmmmm…………. My thoughts on all of this follows- and its a wonderful mental exercise…

    83% attrition of the force launched (I count 22 of approx 129 birds on the raid came home) for one medium-weight bird farm and some small ships sunk. The FOCH’s birds can easily be spread out among the remaining carriers as its only 40 craft. IIRC, the Kittyhawk carried approx 85 (wiki says up to 90- I know that’s size dependent) and the Forest-fire was about the same load.

    No sir.. the amount of effort expended to sink 2 frigates, a destroyer, the french carrier and possibly the CGN (*if* they can’t get the fires under control. BIG maybe- money says no but ynk.) qualifies pretty much as a disaster for Soviet Aviation.

    And with all the NATO subs lurking, just waiting for something Soviet to show up, it would appear that the Allies almost own the North Atlantic. Soviet sub force is still a big threat…. but the SOSUS is still viable and with the Swedes in, some of the best sub-hunters in the world are in the game against a force that is going to be desperate to provide results… and desperation makes mistakes more likely.

    The question about enough SAMS to resist another attack is a valid one… but if I remember doctrine right, there should be some supply/ammo ships with these forces…. and each of the ships is supposed to have enough for three theoretical engagements before being dry.

    Realistically…. I’d say two. But the TF’s were fairly robust so three might be still legit.

    But yeah… The North Atlantic is now open… and extra air support for Norway and the Marines/Nato troops just became available.

    As for your comment about ramifications around the world:

    -All of the European Theater will feel the effects of this battle- some of it immediate (less than six hours to 12), some of it within 12-16 hours and within 24 for the Southern Flank.
    Norway within six to 12 hours
    Baltics/Northern within 12-16
    Central within 24
    Southern within 24 (though that’s a coin toss; could be longer but I’m torn on that thought. For reasons I can’t quantify.

    The rest of the fronts will be something close to 24-36 hours before this battle really affects them, if at all.

    I think it will more be a pause in Soviet ops as they figure out what they can shuffle to plug this monster hole in their Frontal Aviation regiments…. and that pause will allow Allied efforts to solidify and even push back.

    -Middle East: I have NOT forgotten the Saudi Oil Fields- and Soviet Support for the foray will pause hard…. and this will cost Saddamn’s forces. And mean the death/capture of those VDV boys for sure.

    Any pause in Soviet assistance… won’t go well for the Iraqis. While I didn’t think much of their army, their air force knows their jobs.

    -Med and Balkans: this area is in the effects within 12-18. It has the nearest assets not committed to a EU front and that can in theory be stripped of some assets. But the effects of any pulling of resources might give Satellite nations of the Pact an excuse to slack off some. Especially if they think they are being used as bullet sponges to minimize Soviet forces getting hammered.

    And of course…. there is Yugoslavia. *shudder*

    -Eastern Regions/China/NK: Soviet support might not be affected much here… but the Chinese may seize an opportunity to dogpile on the russians. I expect within 24-36 hours of the North Atlantic battle, there will be some shuffling of assets here and someone will make an error.

    Be it Soviet or Chinese that causes it…. an error will happen and shooting in earnest will result. And I’m not sure who is more nervous on that border. I’m really not sure.

    Rest of the World- minor effects but it will give some pause…

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Send me your resume. I may have a spot for you as a full time analyst. 🙂 Might have to move to DC though.
      I’m not going to comment on specific points simply because I don’t want to spoil things for any readers in the future, but your outlook is good. 🙂


      1. Sure. Contact me via FB and I can send. DC from where I live is only 3 hours-ish if I can’t telecommute.

        Gotta pay more than being an EMT….

        Liked by 1 person

          1. Works for me…

            As for playing with sirens…. yeah, its kinda nice. But you would be amazed (or saddened) by the number of folks who won’t get out of the way- or even cut us off…. Madness it is. Just madness…

            Liked by 1 person

            1. I ran with a volunteer fire company in Lancaster when I lived there the first time around. You’re preaching to the choir. LOL


    1. Well, the war isn’t over yet and I don’t want to spoil what may be ahead so I’ll just say this was a larger SNA vs USN engagement.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Also, I have a question about the Crusaders: how will the USN keep them flying without spare parts? Or will the French have had a replenishment ship on standby for that?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Well, unless a jet has a major problem the guys on the carrier can probably keep them airworthy short term. In the long run though, they’re going to have to get some spare parts and all out there via the COD

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Bill,

        To add to what Mike writes (and yes, I had to look this up.. Knowledge is power, right?)…

        Real World….. The F8U Crusader in 1987 was still in service within the USN but only as part of a USNR Recon squadron…. And that according to data, closed up shop in March 87. Given this is July 87 in the story, its is plausible that said shut down may not have happened. But that’s a big fat “maybe”.

        I’m fairly certain that in among the Aviation on those carriers, there is likely a AD/AE/AM 1st Class or Chief Petty Officer who knows a thing or two about those birds because they worked on them prior to it being retired as a fighter or on the reserve platforms. It was retired as a dedicated fighter in ’76 so its possible that 11 years later, there may me a few who know. Very plausible…

        And I’m pretty sure some of the French Aviation techs made it to wherever their aircraft went.

        Like Mike says, short term maint should not be an issue. Replacement parts might be- but if its something that can be cobbled together in one of the shops on the Carrier, that *will* happen until a proper piece can be acquired.

        In an emergency, I’m positive something can be gimmicked to put a unit back in service, if only temporarily.

        Only an opinion, mind you… but I’ve been witness to gear that never should have been in use in normal circumstances… being used until it finally kicked it and usable no more.

        (one of my plt’s gun tracks in Desert Storm blew a cam-cover off on the march in. We drove it for half the war before the engine gave up. Big old 12 Cylinder Detroit Diesel…)

        Liked by 2 people

        1. Good points. Especially the last one. Until the engine dies on a tracked vehicle, or the main armament is wrecked, its still a combat worthy vehicle 🙂


  5. Well here we go. First of all, what a pleasure to follow the history. I really enjoy reading your blog, although I was really disappointed that you surrendered Bornholm without a fight, after all there was supposed to be a weak brigade to be in Defence of the island.
    I hope we will see a stiffer fight on Zealand. But after nearly two weeks of preparing (and building fortifications!) for invasion the Royal Danish Army, including Hjemmeværnet, will give a good account of itselve. And I assume the same of the Bundesmarine and Søværnet. As one Dane wrote, there is a pretty good Plan for a layered Defence of Zealand.
    For me it looks like the Soviet war effort will run into very serious obstacles In week two of the conflict. My best guess is that they will fail (well have failed) in Norway, Baltap and Saudi Arabia. What for the casualties of the warpac allies? The political repurcussions of things unfolding will be very serious. Do you have an idea on casualties , civilian and military? Environmental impact of the fighting in the FRG, nuclear power plants, chemical industries and so on? Take this just as some minor input. I know there is a lot of work behind your writing . I bow my head,

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you very much for the post, Joachim. Yeah, I’ve taken some heat in leaving Bornholm undefended, but Zealand will be fought for, just as Jutland is. Good point too, the events today in the writing (D+13) will have a major impact, as I’ve mentioned before. And not only the naval battle we just saw but events to come in the writing.
      Casualties, as you can imagine, have been considerable. I have a rough estimate that should make its way into the writing soon. As far as the environmental impact on land, I haven’t really delved into that much. At sea though, the reactors from sub wreckages will be a major problem for years to come


  6. interesting part as the war has reached this point but took say two weeks to get every thing in place to launch the war it self the food and fuel rationing on the Warsaw pact home front should be reaching the pre riot stages and this costly navel air battle just sucking up more fuel for little show in DA is going to cost them soon as the home fronts

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You brought up a good point, Joseph. A lot has been happening on the home fronts and I’ve been a little lax in documenting all of it. I’m going to go back soon and talk about conditions in Poland and some other Pact nations as well as the US and some NATO nations

      Liked by 1 person

      1. that is going to be an important bit of data… I’ve mulled the Polish Question a bit during this story… and I touched on possible pushback from client states in my wall of text above.

        Given historical attitudes and partially restive populaces, there may be factions who see an opportunity to rise up and try for independence due to the pulling of resources that would otherwise help keep them down.

        I had a Scoutmaster for my Boy Scout troop who was involved in the losing side of the Hungarian Uprising as a young man. He talked a bit to my old man some about it… and I only heard bits of it. I was a kid and didn’t know enough to ask- though I knew OF the event.

        But yeah, Joe raises a really good point…. Satellite States may develop a case of Rebellion-i-tis if Moscow really hammers their supplies or pisses away troops. We know the Poles aren’t truly willing forces… the others may be similar.

        Your story but I *know* you are basing alot on real world info for tactics, strategy and attitudes…. and that you admit it is a factor along with Joe’s comment- really has me thinking on ramifications.

        And initial thoughts are NOT pretty.

        FOr any side really… but Nato getting this win along with that Thunder Run success will bolster morale on our home front.

        The Red side… has had a double whammy of the Thunder Run and the North Atlantic Massacre of their airforces… The upcoming battle of Zeeland (and what I think the results will be) and the Central Front push post-Thunder Run… is a reversal of fortune that will have more repercussions than restive states.

        Remember, Desperation can breed inspiration but it also more often breeds mistakes.

        One of my friends reminded me- (to paraphrase) Americans are masters of the Chaotic Battlefield or so its been said. By the Russians!

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Good observations. Especially one ones regarding the Eastern European satellites. We’re two weeks in and some of the anti-Soviet elements there are sensing an opportunity to move


  7. Mike, Your first paragraph made me stop and imagine what it would be like to be on one of those ships in the minutes after the last missile fell. As the thunder of the explosions rolled away and the sailors looked around to take stock, survey the damage, and realise they were one of the lucky ones. What a moment that would have been. Good writing mate!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, SeeBee. 🙂 I really enjoyed writing the entries for that battle and the aftermath. It was a lot of fun and I’m glad you enjoyed it too!


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