The Northern Flank D+13 (22 July, 1987) Part I

The plight of the surviving Backfires and Badgers that morning was not yet over. As the aircraft approached the northern coastline of the Kola Peninsula they were directed by the regional air defense center to head back out over the sea and establish a holding pattern. No reason for the change was given, but two battle-damaged Badgers were cleared to land at Olenya. As the bombers approached the field the flight crews could see smudges from exploding flak dot the sky, and columns of smoke rising from the direction of the field. Unaware of it at the moment, these pilots were witnessing the first major NATO air attacks against Kola targets while they were in progress.

Operation Midnight Sun commenced at 0200. The raid warning transmitted by special operations teams staked out around a number of Kola airbases raised hopes that the first wave of NATO fighter-bombers could hit the airbases and cause significant damage while the Backfires and Badgers were off. Thus leaving the Soviet bombers to return home to cratered runways, and burning hangars. The initial attack force was comprised of twelve USAF F-111s and an equal number of RAF Tornados. Their targets were the airbases at Olenya, Monchegorsk, and Afrikanda, with one flight of -111s, and one of Tornados assigned to each one.

The fighter-bombers took off from Bodo at 0200. Their initial flight path took them east over Sweden, and then Lapland where the flights separated as they reached their ingress points, and descended to lower altitudes. As they crossed the Soviet border, 30 miles behind them the weapon system officers on board two EF-111 Ravens flipped on their AN/ALQ-99E jammers and went to work. The F-111 and Tornado crews used the valleys, rivers, and other terrain on the peninsula to mask their approaches. Between that, and the standoff jamming, the Soviets were in the dark practically until the first GBU-16 slammed into the control tower at Afrikanda. Only then did the air defenses start to come to life, and even then it was practically too late. The US and British fighter-bombers did not spend any more time over Soviet soil than was necessary. The -111s released their laser guided bombs at hangars, munitions depots, and other targeted structures at all three airbases while the Tornados swooped in and dropped cluster munitions on runways, and flight lines before egressing at treetop level, on afterburner.

As the fighter-bombers streaked away, MiGs were rising from airbases across the peninsula. Ironically enough, one of the bases attacked was home to a regiment of MiG-25s: Monchegorsk where a number of Foxbats were left burning on the flight line as the surviving aircraft started to scramble into the morning sky. Over Lapland, the EF-111s remained on station until the last of the attack aircraft were over the border. Then they shut down their radars and followed the F-111s, and Tornados home. With the jamming having now subsided, eight MiG-25s screamed southwest to give chase. These fighters were met by a wall of Swedish Viggens and USAF F-15 Eagles waiting patiently over northern Finland. Missiles filled the air and a fierce, but brief air battle broke out which saw the destruction of five MiGs and three Viggens. The surviving Foxbats then abruptly turned around and headed for home.

The first missions of Operation Midnight Sun had been flown. Unfortunately, the carrier battle in the northern Norwegian Sea created a hole in AFCENT’s air tasking order for the next part of the day. Carrier aircraft had been slated to fly the next round of missions against targets around Severomorsk. These were scrubbed as Strike Fleet Atlantic needed time to gather itself and conduct rescue operations. By mid-morning the carrier task forces were steaming south, deeper into the Norwegian Sea in order to conduct UNREP operations and transfer the more critically wounded sailors to the beach.

By 0600 events to the south were also having an undesirable effect on NATO operations on the Northern Flank. In the Baltic, Warsaw Pact forces had launched their long-awaited air and amphibious attacks against Denmark. The first amphib landing took place on the Jutland peninsula after dawn and was 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, and no Soviet warplanes even came close to penetrating Norwegian airspace. However, 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. Later in the morning, Norway-based NATO fighters would start playing a larger role in the battle raging on the other side of the Baltic Sea.

27 Replies to “The Northern Flank D+13 (22 July, 1987) Part I”

  1. So far, about what I expected really.

    The negative effects on NATO ops will have a good mitigation because of assets that arrived on D+11-12 and being committed now…. IT will still be a thing but not as much as what is about to befall the other side.

    Given what I *know* with whats revealed up to now, My guestimate is by 1800, NATO naval Air will be back in the thick of it and striking WP forces in Norway and the Baltic. And it will likely cause the relief of some WP commanders by the Defense Ministry (or the Politburo via KGB).

    That Invasion is going to face some serious efforts to sink it. And I really do not think the Soviets have a good enough plan. Had they the air assets for their original plan and stuck to the original time table, I sincerely think they’d have pulled it off, albeit with some serious losses.

    Now? No. Too much reduction in support assets, no control of air AND no control of the sea lanes (at best, a modest contesting. At BEST…) and the delays in launching (giving NATO time to reinforce) means to me that this is not going to end well for either the initial wave or the first two follow-on waves.

    Two more waves cause, iirc, the Soviets have a habit of throwing men at a problem… no matter how bad an idea it might be. As a third wave of troops gets hammered, I think there will be a retreat- and the men that are still on the beach will be forced to surrender. They aren’t fanatics…. or the VDV.

    IF (and that “if” is a huge one…) they manage a landing force large enough to matter, it will make the six hours that Operation Jubilee of 19 August 1942 managed to pull off look like a smashing success story. I sincerely think it will be that bad for a number of reasons.

    I think I said as much about the losses before the Air/Sea battle for this engagement. And my opinion/analysis has not changed; its just gotten a bit more firmed up with a higher expectation(?) of Soviet losses. And that’s because of that Air/Sea Battle losses by Frontal Aviation and the addition of more NATO Air assets to hit them on the way in as well as when they are landing.

    Ick. Just…. ick.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. addendium- Even with the Airborne Ops into Jutland, it won’t be enough. A help… but it won’t be enough.

    This operation will be repulsed by 16-1800 or so. 2200 on the outside.

    Liked by 2 people

      1. ….
        …Gah! I’m gonna go broke eating all this popcorn and drinking the diet coke….

        All joking aside, I am damn curious as to how close too. I mean, the info *is* there. Even back then, it was there though there wasn’t enough known data to support suppositions.
        I mean, I remember how tough everyone thought the Mig-29 was as well as the T-72. Then came the fall of the Wall and Desert Storm… and we learned a few things about both.

        I really look forward to the next few chapters.

        (fb profile has a Star of Life with a mourning band on it. We lost an EMT from a neighboring outfit to Covid. Older gent, he had other morbidity going on due to being a cancer survivor; but it was the bug that caused his death)

        Liked by 1 person

        1. True. We learned that the Russians weren’t the ten foot tall giants we thought they were. But training as if they were almost invincible is what made our forces so strong and resilient. You saw it first hand in Desert Storm. That was the finest army we’ve ever fielded, I don’t care what people nowadays like to say about the present military.

          Very sorry to hear about the EMT from one of your nearby towns, John. Despite being a cancer survivor, and knowing he was high-risk he still answered the call. Men like that deserve statutes, not athletes who spent their entire lives playing a game.

          Liked by 1 person

  3. Mike, do you have a D-Day like ORBAT plotted out for the Soviets hitting the beaches in Denmark? It’s a little drilled down compared to your big picture look, generally, but I would be keen to know how individual regiments are faring. In the ’80s the Soviets would have at the start of the war about 20 “Aist” Class LCACs, assume 1-2 with downgripes and given that there’ve been no major amphib. operations, we can assume no losses. I’m not sure what the regimental disposition of them was (e.g., which units had them) but since they’re making bolder and bolder (and commensurately more desperate) gambles, I could see them quickly assembling the bulk for this operation: all in.

    The ability to quickly hit the beach in Denmark via those vessels could be key; nobody wants to be in command of a Dippe-like disaster where units are cut off without hope of resupply or evac on the beach, but IIRC during the cold war the Danes invested heavily in shore batteries for just such a happening. In this period, the Danes had MOBA and targeting capability for Harpoons. The Soviets will look to suppress these, but they’re going to take a toll on that landing force as they can shoot and scoot. A Harpoon vs. an ammunition and fuel laden LCAC…the Harpoon will win, every time.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I can send you over what I have probably tomorrow. Baltic Approaches are coming up fast so I need to dig it out anyway. Facebook, email, or something else as the delivery platform. Whatever works best for you.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I admit to being curious as well. For both sides really…. I can wait though. Perhaps over that beer whenever you get out this side of the Delaware.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Well, I’m headed over the Delaware tomorrow but only for the day unfortunately. I do have to hit Cabelas soon though and I believe that’s right down the road from you. 🙂


        1. Sounds like a plan.

          Hopefully we can do it soon and hopefully the weather holds up. Got out to PA today and was greeted by some heavy t-storms in the afternoon.


  5. Good morning everybody. Stay healthy and play it safe over there! No risks!
    That said we have a East German MR regiment trained for Amphibious operations, the polish Marines and an Soviet Marine “Brigade”. I do not remember how many airborne forces already are committed but there is potentially the polish polish airborne “division”, an East German battalion and what the Soviet have left.
    The danish ground forces are also set. Two brigades and three regimental battlegroups (not sure about the numbers, my sources for the time being not accessible) and not too few home guard units. I remember the Royal Guard Bataillon mushrooming to nearly double size to defend Copenhagen.
    Though equipment on Zealand is really outdated!
    What will be interesting to see is, whether you have any diversions left in your pocket. Geography limits possibilities, but as Schleswig-Holstein is occupied the left flank is open and the reds might be tempted to land on Funken. Even more so as Sweden is on their right flank and a real naval threat.
    That might cause NATO some problems, since Funen is thinly manned on the ground.
    And there is a fort with some old naval German guns on Langeland which can do some real damage.
    For the Soviet the problem will be to keep the beach head supplied and deliver follow-on forces. One German source mentions that the East German ASW ships face machine problems, when going slow, which is an obvious problem When listening after subs …
    Another thing is what NATO can pour in as reinforcements and whether the evil Swedes contribute some ground forces, not like 1864 … But that is another story.
    Seen from an operational point of view, this is one of the most interesting scenarios in the Cold War, if anyone is interested in my opinion…
    And finally let us all hope that someone finds a cure for COVID and we all can go back to normal live.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Very useful information, Joachim! Thank you 🙂 And yes, let’s hope COVID diminishes in the coming weeks so life can return to what it was just a few short months ago


  6. its interesting how the soviets’ operate. i.e.. mid air refueling is only for bombers pre 90ish fighter were on their own and very dependent on a functioning air field, separate from the bombers and fighters were the air defense branch Sam’s and the interceptors protecting mother Russia so the loss of a operational air base and as many fighter/bomber and such they are going to be spread thin with a estimated total aircraft for the Pacific being about 1000 and US and Allies combined out number that cant pull from their southern front already not good if they pull any they are throwing away their troops in the caucus battles and cant pull from the interceptors cause that would leave holes for conventional bomber attacks on interior bases and infrastructure important to the war effort not to mention already not enough transport air craft to more large airborne ops with little to no fighter cover demark operation is going to sink long term air born ops and if NATO can with the help of their air power clear out the Warsaw pact navel forces in the Baltic then its all about over. they can start bombing Poland then it would be a matter of time as lose of supplies coming thru Poland how long can the front line units hold out.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You’re right. The mindset was completely different and the Soviet way of war really bore little resemblance to the way the West fights


    1. The fleet was bigger and spread out differently. That has to do mostly with different priorities and such. This is useful though. Thanks for digging it up!


  7. Yeah found a paper from Helsinki some or other putting it some where in the park of 700 ships out of that 130 are polish about 100 east German rest Russian with the peek of ships being mid 90’s (93/94) then a big drop as some were sold off to other countries and others just scrapped

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah, around that time they just tied most of their navy to the dockside and forgot about it. Still hasn’t fully recovered from that either, honestly. Modernization efforts and new platforms just aren’t meeting the mark


  8. Mike, just curious about something: given that Red knows there’s a world of hurt coming from the North Sea, why wouldn’t they have IL-76 Mainstay aloft? They should have been up and should have seen the Varks and Tornados coming in time to alert the local air defense network and get some fighters aloft.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I should’ve included the Mainstay in the last entry, I just didn’t want to get into too much detail. There was one up but between the jamming and low level ingress, the scrambles were a bit late to catch the -111s and Tornados. I ran the sim from the NATO side and Ivan was late. I ran it again from Ivan’s perspective and the same thing happened.

      BTW, next post will be up this evening. Today’s a travel day so I’m not going to be able to wrap it up until later on.

      Liked by 2 people

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