Central America/Caribbean D+11 thru D+13 (20-22 July, 1987)

D+11 (20 July, 1987)

Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega condemns Cuban leader Fidel Castro during a 90 minute speech. He accuses Castro of ‘cowardice’ and ‘betraying the revolution.’ Ortega vows that Nicaragua will continue the fight against American imperialism, and promises to assist Manuel Noriega in evicting the Americans from Panama. A short time later additional Nicaraguan troops, and armored vehicles leave their camps headed for the Honduran border.

Back-channel discussions between US and Cuban officials begin discreetly in Miami.

US Southern Command intelligence estimates a major Nicaraguan ground offensive will take place against Honduras in the next 36-48 hours.

D+12 (21 July, 1987)

Shortages in food and other basic necessities sparks riots and violence in Jamaica. The Jamaica Defense Force (JDF) is deployed to support the national police force.

A second wave of reinforcements prepare to depart the United States for Southern Command’s AOR. Two more infantry battalions of the 7th Infantry Division (Light) will leave Fort Ord for Honduras, and three more Air National Guard squadrons receive their warning orders.

US Army Special Forces A-Teams in Nicaragua, working in tandem with Contra rebels conduct operations to slow down the Nicaraguan armor now en route to the Honduran border.

Battlegroup Romeo moves to a point 110 miles off Nicaragua’s west coast.

Anti-US demonstrations in Panama turn violent. Outside of Fort Clayton shots ring out as crowds attempt to rush the gate. US Army MPs return fire and use tear gas to disperse the crowds.

D+13 (22 July 1987)

At 0200 hours local time Battlegroup Romeo fires ten Tomahawk missiles (Land Attack variant aka TLAM) at targets in Managua, the Nicaraguan capital. Two of the missiles come from the destroyer USS Merrill, the remainder are launched by the USS New Jersey. Thirty minutes later explosions are seen, heard, and felt around the city. Three government buildings, and Daniel Ortega’s residence just outside of Managua are struck by US cruise missiles. Two hours, later as dawn approaches, USAF A-7 Corsairs and F-4E Phantoms flying out of Howard AFB attack two of Nicaragua’s largest airbases.

The 40 remaining Soviet military advisers in Nicaragua are airlifted to Cuba.

Cuban officials affirm the US suspicion that Castro’s 18 July speech was a signal that Cuba will not launch attacks against US territory, or American forces in the region. Cuba is not a participant in this war, they stress.

In Panama City, the first major anti-Noriega protests take place, catching the Panamanian leader, and his supporters off guard. Afternoon demonstrations are attended by an estimated 40,000 Panamanians in the capital. By evening clashes take place across Panama City neighborhoods between anti-Noriega elements and paramilitary militia units loyal to the president.


23 Replies to “Central America/Caribbean D+11 thru D+13 (20-22 July, 1987)”

  1. While this is not an ORBAT, for those interested, here’s what Nicaragua can bring to bear…

    The FSLN military had approx. 80000 in uniform during the height of the Cold War. They can field maybe two brigade strength of armor, but most of that would be T55s and PT-76’s.

    They have some 200 BTR-152 transports, 20-30 BTR-40 (which are modernized BTR-152s), and 80-100 BTR-50’s. There is a negligible amount of BMP-1s in service.

    Organic tube artillery consists entirely of towed guns, ranging from 76mm to 152mm D-20, and just about everything in between. All totaled they have approx 500 guns.

    They can also field 150 BM-21 “Grad” MLRS, as well as a towed MRL, the Type 63 (unknown numbers).

    Air defense consists of Soviet-supplied SAMs, including SA-7, -8, -9, and -14. ZSU-23, ZU-23 quad mounts, ZSU-57-2 and ZSU-23-4 totaling around 90 gun-units. How many of the mobile units will accompany their divisions south into Panama is a good question; they can’t leave the nation’s air-spaces undefended.

    They also have KS-19 100mm AA guns in inventory, although how useful these are in a modern war without accurate fire-direction radar systems is anyone’s guess.

    They of course have a lot of trucks (trucks and jeeps are the national animal of most Central American countries), so a good deal of these troops are “mobile”.

    Their airforce consists of a handful of antiquated MiG’s. Promises of “updated” jets in the form of MiG-21’s were never realized, so they have only a handful of T33s (are those the most ubiquitous damn things in the air?), MiG-17 “Fresco” jet fighters. The only genuinely formidable thing they can put in the air are the much-feared MI-24 “Hind” D helos, which will probably go forward with the invasion force, or at least stand by to support local activity in the FEBA.

    On the seas, they have a pitiful number of skiffs and motor launches which can mostly be ignored/shelled to fragments by New Jersey.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I did not! That’s a hell of a long stretch to wait for air support. If that’s the case now, those Nicaraguan MiG pilots might find themselves as “fraternal socialist guests” of Cuba for the duration of the war. And the jets, too.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Bill,

      Do you have access to what Honduras had at that time frame, approximately? I’m curious- especially as up until the mid 70’s, they were still using F4U-7 Corsairs when they then acquired some Dassault Super Mystere and CanadaAir Sabres.

      Does Honduras have a chance against Danny’s Boys?

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Sorry I missed this, John. Let me see…

        Now, interestingly, the US gave Honduras a bunch of F-5s to emphasize Air Superiority (which in that theater, an F-5 is capable of). The F-5 is a very handy, able fighter with a decent payload, that even includes smart munitions (laser Mavericks, although they have to hand-off to spotters, and TV guided variants), and laser guided bombs (ditto). So it’s a good bird, and the Hondurans have some. How many I don’t know.

        They also have some Cessna A-37E Dragonfly CAS birds, that were very capable in Vietnam just 10-15 years earlier.

        On the ground, it’s less clear. Regular troops seem to be around 60000 strong, but you have to account for lots of paramilitary Contras doing anti-communist work there. In the 1980s, the US had troops on the ground in Honduras already.

        Equipment-wise, the Hondurans have roughly 200 various armored vehicles: the bulk of these are Saladin armored cars, some Scimitar, and Scorpion. My source doesn’t specify if they were up-gunned Scorpions with the 90mm Cockerill main gun however, note this:

        “Yet the Iranians eventually had to yield in the face of Iraqi pressure. Their Scorpions’ 90 mm guns did not hold their weight against the T-62 tanks’ 115 mm guns. ” – from an account of their use by the Iranians.

        However, given that most T54/55 stocks given/sold to Nicaragua in the 1980s were broken out of Soviet storage and refurbished, I doubt highly that they were armed with 115mm guns and instead had their homogeneous 100mm D10T main guns, so the Hondurans might stand a chance. Emphasis on “might”, as the Nicaraguans definitely have the weight of numbers.

        But remember too that the Nicaraguans effectively have NO Air Force as of now, and those F5’s tasked for strike missions can make life miserable for the grunts in the jungle. Moreso the AT37E’s.

        Sorry that’s less of a force-power roundup, John.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Regarding the Saladin, Scorpions, and Scimitars vs. T-54/55s, in a head on toe to toe fight by crews of equal skill, it would be a bad day for the light armor. The 90mm Scorpions could penetrate the frontal glacis armor of the T-54/55 at medium range and closer with sabot rounds, but not the turret frontal armor. The 76mm low velocity guns would be door knockers in the frontal armor arc of the MBTs. The Scimitar’s 30mm gun can penetrate the MBT hull sides with flank shots, but that depends upon an ideal shooting position. The T-54/55 can defeat the light armor at all standard combat ranges with their 100mm main gun, as the light AFVs are only armored for protection against small arms, heavy machine gun fire in certain areas, and artillery fragments.
          TOW Cobras of the 7th ID will be the best counter to Nicaraguan tanks, with other older anti tank weapons such as recoilless rifles. Ground troops wire guided ATGMs are going to be of limited use in the jungle due to their constraints.

          Liked by 2 people

          1. Yeah, the Cobras are the best anti-tank platform down there. Roads can be pre-sighted for Dragon use but in the jungle…no way.
            Scimitar is a good vehicle. Brits built a good one. Saladins, not sure but if you crew it with able troops they’ll do damage.

            Liked by 1 person

        2. I missed this too. Been a busy time.

          Thanks for the information on this, sir.

          RE: T-55 versus 90mm tank guns… I think they will do ok as long as the Hondurans don’t miss much. Its only a few years later that we discover 25mm Sabot/AP on the bradley would kill T55’s and tear up T62s (sides on these). So as long as the Hondurans remain steady and get some licks in, I suppose they will be fine.

          The 90 is a much bigger round than the 25… though them titanium “darts” are a thing to see in person. (I happen to have three…) So if the Honduran gunners can get 50% or better hits in their initial volleys, it can deflate Nicaraguan morale enough to possibly cause a panic.

          As I recall some reading on their overall training and competence down there, holding up against an equal foe with good training and motivation does not favor the Bully Boys of Ortega. Not saying the Hondurans are *that* good but they are fighting on home ground with US advisors. That can be a big difference right there. And if they can pop the Nicaraguans in the mouth hard early on, it *will* be telling.

          And adding in the CAS…. Those A-37s are likely either CIA (Air America perhaps?) or likely former Vietnam pilots hired by Christians In Action to help the Honduran Air Force with training. If so, then they are going to be a royal pain for the Nicaraguans. And in some cases, catastrophic for them. Only an opinion mind you…. but I’d like to think a semi-informed one. More so with the data you provided. (thanks again!)

          The Contras know their shit…. but are they willing to get stuck in against a larger foe like a moving army? Small attacks were their thing- are they capable of putting together something that can hit a big column? I’m certain they could slow them down…. which would be a big help.

          Liked by 1 person

    1. Some things haven’t changed very much. Here we are in 2020 and Castro’s successor is doing much of the same. Then there’s Ortega back in power in Nicaragua. And of course our good friend Maduro in Venezuela.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Ortega getting back in power always weirded me out. Like…okay, his successor, a genuinely decent person (comparatively, anyway) who democratized the whole country and opened it up to the world rather than being a satellite state of the USSR…and they just voted Ortega back in, and he started the same old shit again.

        Except, of course, with no USSR to back him and at the time China not giving a damn, he was pretty toothless, instead of the red menace he was during the 80s.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. True enough. Ortega came back to power with the same line of crap disguised as something new. Now the country’s a mess again. Sham elections, Ortega and his wife taking absolute power. Unfortunately since Nicaragua isn’t being backed by the Russians or Chinese this time, nobody cares about him or Nicaragua. Sad for the people there. But for him….well, he’s a kid in a candy shop.

          Liked by 1 person

    1. Very similar in some ways. Let’s be honest in the mid to late 80s, the Nicaragua/Honduras border was the major flash point in Central America. Came very close to igniting in ’88


      1. Nope, no violations. Youtube links are okay. This is one of the best briefings I’ve ever seen. Concise and to the point. Imagine my surprise when I discovered that briefings aren’t anywhere as neat in the real world. 🙂


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: