Baltic Approaches D+13 (22 July, 1987) Part VI

1230– The Soviet amphibious group passes 20 miles south of Bornholm. Earlier in the morning the damaged cruiser Alexander Nevsky was detached from the group as its maximum speed was reduced to less than ten knots. The ship was becoming a liability. One of the surviving frigates of the Surface Action Group was tasked with escorting the cruiser back to port.

16 miles behind the Soviet amphib group was its Polish counterpart. Both groups continued moving west at 15-16 knots, roughly six hours behind schedule. At the present rate neither one was expected to reach the vicinity of their intended landing beaches until long after dark. This was something the Red Banner Baltic Fleet’s commander Admiral Vitaliy Ivanov had hoped to avoid. An opposed landing after running a gauntlet of enemy ships and submarines was difficult enough in daylight hours. Doing so after dusk would be a complex, and dangerous task at the very least.

1300– Fighting on Mon intensifies as East German troops come into contact with elements of the 3rd Zealand Battle Group which have recently arrived on the island. The main area of the fighting is the villages of Stege and Lendermarke. The Danes are struggling to keep the East Germans contained on Mons until the remainder of the 3rd and additional reinforcements arrive.

1400– This time it was the Danish Navy’s turn to strike. The 2nd Squadron (FGE Frigate Squadron) and 4th Squadron (TBE Torpedo Boat Squadron) conduct a coordinated Harpoon missile attack on the Soviet amphib group. The effectiveness of the US Harpoon missiles was considerably higher than that of the Exocets used earlier in the day by West German naval forces. Of forty missiles fired, half make it through the dense curtain of SAMs and find targets. Three amphibious vessels are sunk (2 Ropuchas, 1 Alligator) and a further three damaged. One destroyer and one frigate each are also destroyed, with four other escort warships absorbing varying degrees of damage. After expending their Harpoons, the Danish ships move in to conduct torpedo and gun strikes.

1420– The Soviet escort force fires its last remaining anti-ship missiles at the Danish squadrons with disappointing results. One enemy frigate is sunk, and another damaged. One of the Danish fast attack craft in the 4th Squadron is hit and sinks with all hands.

1435-1500 The 2nd Squadron breaks off its planned second attack and withdraws west to reposition itself. 4th Squadron continues in, commencing its attacks with torpedoes and 76mm naval gun fire. Limited damage is inflicted. No Soviet ships are sunk, but three more vessels (two warships, 1 amphib) receive battle damage. Three of the Danish Willemoes-class missile boats are destroyed.

Next come the Harpoon missiles from the two land-based batteries located on Zealand. These were not attacked earlier in the morning by East German warplanes. Two Krivaks and the Ivan Rogov are hit. The frigates sink within fifteen minutes of each other.

1530– NATO warplanes make their first appearances over Mon, providing close air support for Danish troops. The Danes are struggling to keep the East Germans from spilling over onto Zealand, especially since there are additional Pact landings likely in the coming hours.

1610– The losses and damage to the Soviet amphibious group force Admiral Ivanov to postpone further Pact landings. The Soviet group is ordered to disembark its naval infantry onto Bornholm, while the Polish group receives orders to seek shelter in the nearest East German or Polish Baltic port.

1800– Surviving escort warships and amphibious vessels approach Ronne on Bornholm. The extent of Soviet losses at sea on this day start to become apparent. In all likelihood there will be no further attempt to move Soviet and Polish naval infantry troops to the Zealand beaches.

1945– Danish Home Guard units and the 3rd Zealand Battle Group are pushed off of Mon. The island is now entirely in East German hands. However, expanding beyond there into Zealand may prove to be too much for the 29th Motor Rifle Regiment. Unfortunately, the regiment’s commander has not been told when to expect the arrival of his unit’s sister regiment.

2000-2359- The remainder of the night passes dubiously for both NATO and the Warsaw Pact. There is much uncertainty for commanders around the Baltic. For NATO it remains unclear if more Pact landings are coming. Swedish reconnaissance reports have confirmed the presence of Soviet amphibious ships at Bornholm, and a West German submarine radioed in news that the Polish amphibious ships were moving back east. After receiving this report, NAVBALTAP issued orders for all NATO naval units to refrain from attacking Polish targets unless in self-defense. Within an hour traffic went out from AFNORTH to all NATO air, land, and sea units in theater issuing similar orders.

There was a desire at NAVBALTAP to go after the Soviet amphibious group and the docks at Bornholm. Unfortunately, D+13 had been a day of heavy casualties for the West German and Danish navies. The assets simply were no longer available, and AIRBALTAP had its hands full contending with close air support missions in Jutland, reshuffling squadrons, and reestablishing heavy combat air patrols over Denmark in preparation for whatever might be coming next.

The day ended for NATO and the Warsaw Pact on a quiet, reflective note of ambivalence. But both sides recognized that the lull was only temporary. Soon enough the war would resume again.

28 Replies to “Baltic Approaches D+13 (22 July, 1987) Part VI”

  1. Hmmm….
    Navy side of things:

    About an oversize bn’s worth of lost men and combat equipment in the three amphibs sunk (depending on loadout) and a few other amphibs damaged (unknown how bad but safe thought is 50% men/material loss on those cause damage of most any sort to an amphib hurts…)

    at least four ships (Destroyer and three frigates) sunk, twice that damaged to some degree or another (iirc, soviet doctrine was anything over 50% funtional was battle-worthy) in this exchange…

    …. at the cost of a substantial percentage of Danish combat power on the water.

    IF the Soviets elect not to try again, the losses are worth it and the current forces on Mon will run out of supplies by D+15 unless an order goes down to recover gear if possible. The Soviets took it on the chin here, as expected… and the safe plan of action (don’t try again) dooms the East Germans on the beach.

    Not-so-safe is to try for a speed (?) run to Mons and land at the beachhead instead of a new one. Which has its own logistical issues because of terrain and other items.

    LAND stuff.

    That the two companies held out until late evening from being given the boot against all that combat power… is actually more a success for the Home Team than one might think.

    Holding out as long as they did enables some true blocking forces to set up on overwatch of the bridges and that shoreline. BMP’s might be able to make that crossing but I don’t see BTR’s doing it.

    And that’s saying the East Germans have enough of them and Arty for smoke available to even entertain the idea.

    the 29th…. had the ass to take the island and I think it was always an outside shot at the bridgeheads. A very low probability one though. But if they were bled as much as I think by the Danes with their monster defense actions, the 29th could take the bridges and have ZERO left for prosecuting anything more.

    They *need* those reinforcements. And given losses and the possible gauntlet in the morning weighing on the naval side, they are 80% likely to not get them.

    Only 80% ’cause sometimes orders override sense… If a push is made to get the followon in, they will get the bodies to get across the channel and expand out. But it won’t be much more than that.

    Looking at a map, I don’t see anything outside of a multi BN push on both bridges gets them off the island and running towards Copenhagen.

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  2. The NATO forces did a nice job of attrition. As I said before, it wasn’t the brightest move for WP forces to make this late in the game, with NATO forces alerted and dispersed. The geography of the area virtually removes any chances to do much of anything other than move in directly. This plays to NATOs advantage and allows their units to plan their ambush to a T. It was like shooting fish in a barrel.

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    1. Agreed. The Baltic is too small and cramped. Especially from Bornholm west to the approaches. NATO played it well. NAVBALTAP had a plan and it worked well. Once the Pact ships were past Bornholm you’re right, fish in a barrel

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      1. For this to work it needed to happen on D+1 after Bornholm was taken on D-Day. All that’s happened now is that it’s cost the Soviets a couple of motor rifle and para regiments. While they can afford the light naval assets they lost as they can afford to trade fast attack craft and frigates with the Danes and the Germans on a 1 to 1 ratio and still come out on top they can’t replace the landing craft

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        1. I think the Pact took too long in seizing Bornholm and it was done haphazardly, and far too late. For this to have worked the way the Soviets and their allies intended, air superiority needed to have been established over Denmark by D+2 at the latest, and then send in the amphibious force. It didn’t though and now they’re paying the price.

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          1. Does no one on the Warpac side have the clarity of thought to push an operation through without it being a huge mess? First the paradrop into Saudi and now this Danish stuffup. I also think the Polish defection was a bit too fait accompli. The poles have no great love for the Russians but divisional and regimental commanders in the Soviet system are unlikely to be the ringleaders in a mutiny. I think it more likely that individual companies and possibly battallions arrange their own unofficial ceasefires and then allow themselves to be captured by the other side – possibly after a few overzealous captains and lieutenants are fragged by their own troops.

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            1. Soviet officers aren’t taught initiative the same way Western officers are. That’s where the trouble begins. The political system didn’t help much. In short, Soviet officers were discouraged from thinking for themselves. Some managed to get beyond that and thrive. Most, however, didn’t and were on autopilot even after the shooting began.

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  3. A few comments:

    Great and exciting as always. Do you use any software/game to simulated this part of the war or is it educated guesses ?

    1) While most of the Danish Fleet is done for, there are still a few assets left.

    First of all are the minefields. This was a cornerstone of the danish strategy against WP invasion. The are multiple, layered and complex minefields in front off all the good invasion beaches and a few “random” ones further out. The biggest fear of the danish naval planners, was that they would not have time to deploy these fields. But 2 weeks are more than enough.

    Second, there are still a number of danish subs lurking around..

    Third, while i think that the entire danish arsenal of harpoons has been expended, it might be possible to transfer some from a allied nation- if so, the shore based launchers are still a threat.

    Fourth, i wonder how Stevnsfortet are doing?

    https://www.google.com/maps/place/Koldkrigsmuseum+Stevnsfort/@55.2028743,12.1903139,10z/data=!4m5!3m4!1s0x0:0x9e2cf8a882372d12!8m2!3d55.264555!4d12.4096971

    2) Very good defensive fight by those Home Guard companies. There would be a third HG company involved if the whole of Møn was occupied – and the bridges feel under a 4th HG company. Not powerful units, but there could be a couple for hundred “partisans” loose behind NVA lines.

    3) The 3rd Zealand Battlegroup is a light brigade – and it can call upon local reinforcement from the Territorial Region. I think the NVAs days on Møn are numbered – unless they receive urgent reinforcement – and not less than regimental size.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Christian.

      Yes, for the naval and air action in the Baltic Approaches I’ve used Command Modern Operations, a computer game/simulation, and I’ve also tried out the tabletop game Red Storm: Baltic Approaches. Its a good game but I prefer using the Command system. It’s very detailed. For the land fighting I used Steel Panthers Brigade Command and Steel Panthers MBT.
      I combined the game results/data with research, and throw in a few educated guesses. Especially on the air side. I’ve flown in that area and experienced first hand just how tight the Baltic can be.

      Yes, the minefields are still there and largely untouched so there’s at least one layer of defenses remaining.

      One or two Danish subs remain, as well as a couple West German subs in the Baltic.

      I’m thinking that a one or two C-5s filled with Harpoons might be viable. That would put the land-based launchers back into play at least.

      The Home Guard fought well. Now that Mon is in East German hands those Home Guardsmen left behind can start to make their presence felt. 3rd Battlegroup is very light with only a few tanks. I think they can hold the East Germans on Mon but if the GDR troops are reinforced, it will get interesting.

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  4. If the Soviets realize how badly they’ve damaged the surface groups of the Danes and West Germans, they might do well to push reinforcements. Yeah it’d be a hard sell to the Kremlin but it’s a very, very close thing along the whole coast there. They could get the East Germans dug in like ticks, and get a strong beach-head going in Bornholm.

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    1. Good points. The issue will be for the Soviets in determining if Denmark is worth another effort. Right now they seem to be just throwing assets away. Not getting much in return

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Well, it’s like an Omaha Beach setpiece, but writ large. The Soviets can pull (or sacrifice) the beach-heads, and that means that the whole thing was an exercise in futility that just wasted otherwise valuable naval infantry. But if they say “damn the torpedoes” (or “damn the cruise missiles”) and reinforce the Bornholm and Mon bridgeheads, they can draw off at least a division’s worth. Plus it’ll keep NATO guessing and potentially lessen the impact of having 4-5 carriers breathing down their neck in the North as NATO tries to dislodge them from their landings. Even if in the long run they don’t gain & conquer ground, it’s something else for NATO to worry about. If it were me, I’d reinforce and try to expand the landings, making the above case to the Kremlin.

        NATO has a lot to think about, a lot to ponder, in the next 8-12 hours. If they have that much time! The Poles, at least the airborne units, are obviously trying to sue for a separate peace. But “Red Storm Rising”-esque fantasies aside, they can’t turn their guns on their Soviet masters. Each of those men has a family back home, and the Soviets are *right there*, and they’ve certainly got enough Category “B” divisions to make civil Poland absolutely miserable.

        Man, this is a lot to consider.

        Mike would I be wrong in thinking that for the Soviets the whole WWIII War Plan is Central Europe with other theaters, even nearby ones, being side-shows? The reason I ask is this…

        If they can soak the air/sea losses in Denmark, and can stomach the carrier groups near the Kola, but still get big gains in the center and south, then all else is vanity…but they can’t look at it like that, can they? I mean, NATO can slam shut like the jaws of a steel trap if they just keep extending salient after salient into W. Germany and Belgium, without paying attention to the northern flank and Med. Although I guess the Med at this point is a fait accompli for NATO control…!

        Gah, I could go nuts trying to get my head around it all.

        This is why when I was a kid I’d play F-19 Stealth Fighter and Gunship on my C64, and not the SSI wargames! 🙂

        Liked by 2 people

        1. F-15E Strike Eagle was my Microprose cocaine as a kid. Playing that for hundreds of hours eventually led to the chance to do it for real. I owe Microprose 🙂

          Germany is what it’s all about, but some of the peripheral theaters like the Northern Flank, and Baltics would help the Pact effort in Germany if they could be neutralized. Admittedly at this time, the war is not going great for the Soviets anywhere but Germany, and things there are really hanging in the balance.

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              1. I know – was reading about that! Not sure it’ll be the same as flying those missions off the deck across the North Cape. Then reading that weighty manual …
                That being said, when Mrs Luke isn’t watching I’ll be getting a new PC!

                Liked by 1 person

      2. It would have been really nice for WP, if they had a couple of powefull airborne units right now… airlandings in Southern Zealand would have been perfect.

        Or

        Use East German airborne units to support the troops on Møn.

        Short flight from Rügen, put down an regiment – and use them to deploy Ground based AA.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Right. Too bad this operation wasn’t properly thought through. There were some areas where the situation could’ve been exploited properly for the Pact’s benefit

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      3. I’m thinking the real problem for the WP is two fold: 1) finding enough units to make a difference and 2) find the amphib/lifts and escort vessels to get them all the way in.

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        1. At this point in the war, yes. Fresh naval infantry and airborne units are scarce. So are ‘phibs and escorts too. The Baltic cupboard is pretty bare at the moment.

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  5. I am very late on this one. But there is one thing I need help with. Are there any credible studies of the performance of the Exocet vs. Harpoon. I remember in the Falklands the Exocet was a real nuisance for the Royal Navy. May be someone can help me out? And if anyone is interested, Peter Bogason (koldkrigeren.dk), who has written a very informative on the Danish Navy, Christian probably can confirm, has started a research project on Baltap.
    And for all of us, let us defeat the second COVID wave, hope for a cure and stay safe in the meantime. God bless you all

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Good question. I’m going to take a look and see what I can find. I’m including one report from the Air War College that seems pretty good. I’ll send more as I find it. I’ve heard of Bogason but would love to learn more about his research project.

      Click to access a202045.pdf

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  6. wow, thank you so much, I will have it downloaded asap. Regarding his project, you can find his ideas on his homepage, in English. But I can help you out, in case you get lost. You would like his book ……

    Liked by 1 person

    1. No problem at all. I’m going to check out his page tomorrow and I’ll get back to you. Might need some of your help. 🙂

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