The Northern Flank D+15 (24 July, 1987) Part III

Through the morning and early afternoon, it was becoming clear the anticipated Soviet attack on Banak had been either delayed or cancelled altogether. The Royal Marines from 3rd Commando Brigade who secured the airbase initially had been reinforced with additional troops from that brigade, along with US Marines from the 4th Marine Amphibious Brigade. The NATO defenders extended their perimeter as far from the airbase as the present situation allowed as NATO airpower had struck the two Soviet regiments approaching Banak from the northeast. Earlier that morning, the lead regiment had stopped in place. Two hours later the other regiment followed suit. By 1300 reconnaissance flights showed elements of both regiments starting to move in the direction of the border. Banak’s defenders remained vigilant. More reinforcements were arriving and NATO airpower continued to strike the subunits of the 113th Guards MRD as the movement northeast gained momentum. NATO intelligence, however, remained in the dark when it came to unraveling Soviet intent.

The 113th Guard MRD had received a change in orders. What NATO was not aware of, and would not be for another twelve hours, was the substance of those orders and the importance they would have for the theater in the coming days. At 0900 a direct order for the 113th Guards MRD to halt in place was transmitted from Northwestern TVD (NWTVD) headquarters. It was sent at the direction of the theater commander, Colonel General Vladimir Arkhipov. Ninety minutes later a second secure transmission was sent to the division halting the planned attack to recapture Banak and ordering its combat elements to reposition farther east towards the Soviet-Norwegian border. At Arkhipov’s directive, NWTVD was shifting the posture of its forces in Northern Norway from offensive to defensive. In effect, the general was ceding control of the air over most of Norway to NATO and establishing new defensive positions closer to the Soviet border. The news positions, he was hoping, could be more easily supported by ground attack aircraft based on the Kola Peninsula.

The Soviet land invasion of Norway was a victim of obsolete planning and inept execution, doomed from the start. Arkhipov realized it within 24 hours of assuming command. The writing had been on the wall for nearly three days now. If he had his way the withdrawal would’ve begun then. Unfortunately, in the socialist workers paradise that was the Soviet Union in July, 1987 even a theater commander cannot alter the battle plan without permission from Moscow. That it had taken so long for him  to receive approval was another issue entirely. The Ministry of Defense and General Staff were operating at speeds more appropriate for the Second World War. In the present global conflict, events moved at lightspeed. Political and military command structures had to keep pace, a reality Arkhipov didn’t think Moscow understood fully.

As it was now, approval was given. Now the process of pulling his motor rifle, tank and airmobile troops from the fire could commence.

9 Replies to “The Northern Flank D+15 (24 July, 1987) Part III”

  1. If NATO susses him, it’ll be too little too late. They’ll be caught on the road and massacred in detail (c.f. “The Highway of Death” in ’91 in the Gulf).

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Point taken. They might have early on but they were tasked with doing so much…what are air losses like, “today”? I’m guessing maybe, 25-30% attrition?

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Their fighter force is down a bit more than that but they are moving more aircraft in. MiG-21s mainly. I’ll talk about that in D+16. As for bombers and ground attack fighters…..well, they have suffered heavily, and as far as the bombers are concerned, have very little to show for it


  2. To add to Bill’s comment and yours…

    If they are hit on the road while going into positions for defense, it will be messy as Soviet ADA has proven to be somewhat lacking unless the higher end systems.

    And those are around the important places.

    the 113th Guards are going to have to make the most of that 12 hour window you mention above…. And as for Airpower, Bill’s comment about the Highway of Death* would not be far off, though it would take longer due to not enough Air being available to do the job.

    Though with what I happened to see a pair of F16’s do with a pair of A-10’s do (and a Cobra flying looooow looking for stragglers/opportunity kills)… was damn brutal and that was on spread out forces.

    Given the Soviet columns would be on the road or fairly grouped together, Oh holy shit. I am pretty sure the havoc caused would be both real and stupendous. The Soviets might shoot something down but the exchange in men/material would be very much lopsided, depending on the birds doing the hunting.

    As you said, NATO doesn’t likely have enough birds to do both missions together… but an opportunity to negate Soviet Manpower/Combat Power in large amounts would get everything/anything available that can toss lead sent that way- even if its a Loach sporting sponson M-60/Ma Duces.

    Which was, more or less, what happened on the Highway of Death. Anything that was flying with ordinance hit that road…. and the carnage is what helped make the decision to end the war happen.

    So… If they road marching, they aren’t likely in a position to transition to dedicated defense. Likely. Not certainly…. just likely. And that might be enough.
    Though that 12 hour window is a looooooooooong time. Depending on how long it takes the Soviets to get to the planned defensive lines AND if they have the supplies/logistics to actually pull it off are the real variables that will determine if they can do it…. and do it without getting caught/hit.

    I don’t have that answer… but I am fairly sure if the opportunity were to show itself, *something* will hit that column- most likely a scratch-together mission of whatever could be routed that way without sacrificing another mission. Just my thinking,

    *(I drove down that road about a month or so after. Wow is a word… and not enough of one to describe what I saw within a football field to either side of the highway.)

    Liked by 3 people

    1. It truly was a ‘Highway of Death.’ Not happy with the way the media sensationalized it. Made our aircrews look like blood thirsty animals. Not the case at all.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. My dude… I know that was the case for most of y’all.

        There is always one though that is a RL personification of Cadet Captain David Shawn from “TAPS”. And they always seem to wind up being what is held up as the norm instead of the outlier.

        But up until that event, no one really knew the true capability of our ground attack assets. On paper, we thought we knew how good or bad our stuff was and planned around it… but in practice we didn’t* know for the longest time… and to us crunchies on the ground, every piece of armor y’all smoked/transportation of enemy infantry destroyed was one less we had to deal with. To the average grunt, its us or them that was surviving. 🙂

        Its not anyone’s fault really that our stuff and ability was that much better than them. Dude… I remember sitting in a theater on my Kaserne in Germany for a briefing and being told we were getting ready to fight the 4th largest army in the world on their turf and how tested in battle they were. “Look to your left and right… one of you may not be coming home…” was absolutely said.

        Really… what we did as a coalition was not supposed to happen the way it did as compared to what was expected, given the believed capability of Soviet Gear and Soviet Style doctrine/training with the Iraqi experienced troops, they should have done far better than they did. Go figure.

        So… no, what happened on the highway of death… should not have happened but sometimes, over performance does happen AND sometimes one forgets “keepin’ up th’ skeer” does not have to be done as long and hard as planned….

        And all too often, raw emotion comes into play too. When it does, you gotta hope cooler heads are in charge and looking at EVERYTHING, with the ability to go “Ok… back off; lets see what they are gonna do now they know the can’t stop us…”

        At least one would think so. Maybe I’m wrong or maybe I had some thoughtful commanders. *shrug* I really don’t know.

        As for what the allied had available for fighting in Europe…

        NATO really did have some of the best Air To Mud units in the world, between the A-10, Tornados, Jags and the like. And a war in Europe is pretty much what they were intended for. And how effective some of those platforms were in ’91… well, I remember reading that there being some serious surprise on that.

        As well as shock as to how resilient the A-10 really was.

        So, the French gear coming in.. is also solid- and they should be hitting WP by middle to End of Day in Central Front D+15. Doesn’t mean too much for the Northern Front…. other than potential assets to be freed up for use here from either the UK or Naval Air that might have been tasked for the Baltics. Which would be huge, really.

        Just thoughts…. and at some point, we really need to sit and chat about this stuff off line.

        *(also goes for ground equipment too. Remember, the DIVAD/Sgt York was supposed to be awesome but really wasn’t… Flip side, everyone thought the Bradley was gonna suck and it actually worked well. Still sounds like a wounded buffalo when it turns though…)

        Liked by 2 people

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