The Soviet air strikes against Brigade North positions, Banak, and Andoya earlier in the afternoon underscored the need for more ground-based air defenses. They also served to impress upon NATO commanders the fact that Soviet air power could still operate effectively when allowed to concentrate their assets against a handful of targets. The HAWK batteries, and Stinger teams at Andoya, as well as the Redeye and RBS-70 teams in Brigade North were adequate against the limited number of Fencers they’d faced. But if the number of attacking aircraft had been higher, the air defenses might’ve been overwhelmed. LANDNON (Land Forces North Norway) was working to move additional SAM defenses, and anti-aircraft guns to augment Brigade North while II Marine Amphibious Force (MAF) was doing the same for the 4th MAB.
Andoya continued to undergo repairs through the afternoon in order to prepare the airfield to begin fixed-wing air operations. The Fencer attack had put a dent in the timetable but II MAF was confident it would have at least two squadrons of US Marine Corps warplanes, and AH-1 Cobras operating out of Andoya by the following evening. Also, during the day elements of the Andoya assault force were airlifted to Banak to reinforce the Royal Marines of 3 Commando Brigade. Their orders were to expand the perimeter around Banak in preparation for the expected Soviet ground attack.
That attack was anticipated to come from elements of the Soviet 131st Guards Motor Rifle Division. The division’s regiments were spread out across the north of Norway and in the hours after the Soviets realized Banak was now in NATO hands, two of the 131st’s regiments started moving towards the airbase. NATO air attacks managed to delay the motor rifle regiments in the past day but now it appeared that a ground attack would be coming within the next twenty-four hours despite the continuing pressure from the air.
In the waters off the northern Norwegian coast Soviet and Royal Norwegian Navy fast attack craft and frigates met in a series of brief but violent engagements throughout the second half of the day. From Hammerfest to Vardo Norwegian warships probed the coastal areas for soft spots in the Red Banner Northern Fleet’s skirmish line of FACs, frigates and minefields that covered the continuing movement of ballistic missile submarines from Polyarny. The effort was unsuccessful, however, it did mark the return of Norwegian surface ships to northern waters after a long absence.
A trio of US Air Force officers arrived at AFNORTH headquarters at Kolsas in the early evening. The three officers, all O-5s with command pilot ratings, were met by the contingent of US and allied air officers responsible for planning Allied air operations over Scandinavia, and the Kola Peninsula. Together, the group went to one of highly secure vault rooms to begin planning the D+15 air tasking order, and integrating the tactical sorties with the planned SR-71 Blackbird mission. The Blackbird was scheduled to make landfall on the Soviet coast at 0425 hours local time on 24 July, 1987.
4 Replies to “The Northern Flank D+14 (23 July, 1987) Part III”
Even though you’d never hear it from the “Dragon Lady” folks at Alconbury, the Mildenhall Blackbird det kept the planespotter’s lot off the 1101 full whenever they flew. Until the det left they would work one into the Mildenhall air show (your tax $ at work!).
Late 80s early 90s were great for airshows- it wasn’t unusual to see everything from Drakens, Hunters, and G91s to the United Nations of the F-16, Eagles, and the mighty Hornet, That was before the heavy hitters came over- Varks, Tornados, and a BUFF in the weeds. All that paled before a single black plane screaming down the runway trailing fire from its exhausts and word on everyone’s lips; Blackbird
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The planespotters are still very active over there even these days, believe it or not. Especially in the summer when airshow season kicks into high gear. The Air Tattoo and Farnborough are huge draws. No Blackbirds now but folks love to see the F-35 and the Raptor, among others
I have a buddy who got picked up for the LEAD program, got UPT and Fighters (I also saw him clean out the e-club slots a few times!) He ended active duty working the F-35 program at Eglin. From what he could share it sounds like a real paradigm changer!
The new toys are cool, but I’ve got a soft spot for the old Phantoms, 111s, and of course the Blackbirds. One of the “cool factor” moments was watching a two ship of 111s depart Lakenheath in afterburner about 5 on a January afternoon.
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I don’t know much about the -35 but from what I’ve seen and heard, your buddy is right. Now as far as the -22 goes, it’s the best fighter ever produced and can kill anything in the air today or in the next 20 years with ease.
Not much beats a morning or afternoon launch from Lakenheath. It’s as cool inside the cockpit as it is standing on the ground.