The North Atlantic D+15 (24 July, 1987) Part II

Revised order sets were transmitted from Norfolk to Strike Fleet Atlantic and the affected NATO attack submarines operating in the Norwegian Sea and Barents. The effect on Allied naval operations in the north was immediate. On board the three US aircraft carriers in the area final preparations were underway for the first round of airstrikes against targets in the Soviet Union. SACLANT’s directive put these missions on hold, for the moment. Aircrews returned to their ready rooms to wait. The three airwing commanders were ordered to chopper over to Mount Whitney and discuss with Strike Fleet Atlantic’s staff how the change in orders would affect air operations over the coming 24 hours.

Strike Fleet Atlantic’s commander wasn’t exactly thrilled with the new orders for his fleet, or the rationale behind them. Moscow’s warning not to attack the SSBN bastions or continue heavy air operations over the Kola sounded more like attempt to buy time and give Soviet forces in the north an opportunity to catch their collective breath. From his perspective near the tip of the sword, COMSTRIKFLTLANT saw the Soviets as growing desperate. The war was going badly for them in multiple theaters. Their Northern Fleet had suffered heavy losses in ships and men, and the same held true for their Backfire and Badger forces. Now carrier-based air power was succeeding in taking the war directly to the Soviet homeland. Convincing the White House to rein in its carriers went a long way towards giving the Soviets the opportunity to finish dispersal of their SSBNs and opened the door to them using their sea-based strategic forces down the line to bring about a favorable negotiating position. He didn’t see a realistic path forward for the Soviets to win the war. However, Moscow could still create a situation where both sides lose.

For the time being, Strike Fleet Atlantic would not be venturing any farther north. The Intruders and A-7s would not be paying a visit anytime soon to the ASW surface groups and attack subs now deployed as a barrier between the US carrier groups and the bastion areas. NATO submarines, on the other hand, were not under similar restrictions. The attack subs already in the Barents Sea were receiving orders to continue their previous activities. Some submarines would continue shadowing the ASW groups while others probed at the bastion defenses in an effort to gain an accurate picture of the enemy defenses.

By the late morning, air wing commanders and strike fleet staff came up with a revised air plan for the rest of the day. Kitty Hawk’s air wing was tasked with hitting the docks and naval facilities at Pechenga, along with suppression of air defenses in the area, escort, and other supporting tasks. Higher value targets like the naval base at Severomorsk, sub pens at Polyarny and bomber bases were prohibited for now. The senior officers understood and accepted it for what it was. Yet the reality of the moment prompted memories of Washington’s interference and micromanagement of Rolling Thunder back during the Vietnam War. Circumstances were somewhat different now, but more than a few of the officers who had flown over North Vietnam in the late sixties wondered if something similar was coming to life here and now.

Author’s Note: Shorter entry today. D+15 in the North Atlantic is a transition period to the next phase of operations. I’ll wrap up it up on Saturday (likely another short entry) and then we move to the Baltic Approaches which will not be so quiet. 😊 -Mike

11 Replies to “The North Atlantic D+15 (24 July, 1987) Part II”

  1. I feel for the group commanders, but there’s no way Reagan will waste lives like Johnson (and Nixon) did. He just doesn’t want Anchorage getting bombed.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. If I were the Western Theater of Operations commander, i would be worried, because, sure, no more attacks in Kola, but they may start hitting the Baltic and Buelorussia after a couple of days of transit.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Feel like they should still go after the bomber bases (protect the fleet) and leave the fighter bases and strategic assets alone. Make the case that they’re only going after big offensive systems.

    Or am I way off here…new to this.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. The threat remains…. and the important distinction is the Subs are not restricted from doing *their* work, they are just Weapons Tight right now.

    When the Word is given about Weapons Free, it is going to be a big mess for the Soviet Undersea assets. NATO won’t get them all if it comes to that… nor will they be unscathed…. but it will not end well for the Red Subs.

    As to Jose’s thoughts… pretty valid. But logistically, only a little bit will/can be freed up to hit elsewhere.

    Just because one cannot hit an area right now does not mean one removes assets enmasse to another front/location. Smart commands will free up some of what may be excess to another theater/front to bolster the recipient and not degrade capability too much in their AoR incase situation changes.

    Because it will. Only a fool thinks otherwise.

    And yep- CnC West has his focus on Germany and the headaches (yes plural!!) to his rear in Poland AND Moscow.

    Liked by 1 person

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