The Central Front D+15 (24 July, 1987) Part II

Precisely on time at 0100, the scheduled reconnaissance mission by the TR-1 tactical reconnaissance aircraft commenced. The aircraft, a variant of the venerable U-2, was an invaluable reconnaissance and intelligence asset. Therefore, its flight path was nowhere near the battlefront. The TR-1’s patrol pattern was essentially a fixed straight line established just east of the Rhine. This aircraft carried no cameras. It carried a side-looking airborne radar (SLAR) which pointed perpendicular to the line of flight and looked for vehicles on the ground. Generally, there was always a TR-1 airborne and on patrol, but owing to maintenance issues, a four-hour gap had developed late on D+14 where there was no coverage. To compensate, the current TR-1’s mission time was reduced to 120 minutes. It would be relieved early and return to its forward-operating base in Belgium where its data would be removed and sent up the line for analysis.

Soviet reconnaissance efforts in these early morning hours were more conventional and less dependent on technology. Small groups of reconnaissance troops and accompanying BRDMs probed the ground between friendly and enemy formations, searching for a small opening to slip through and gain access to NATO lines. These missions were generally regarded as suicidal since the soldiers inevitably revealed their locations the moment their reports were radioed back to higher headquarters. They were also crucial and necessary.

NATO units on the ground were also conducting their own reconnaissance missions. Lightly-armed British, West German and Belgian reconnaissance troops and their thin-skinned armored vehicles moved about on the same ground, searching for telltale signs of the disposition of Soviet forces. More importantly, they tried to uncover evidence that would reveal details of the enemy’s plan of attack. More often than not, the recon troops of both sides ended up stumbling into each other and never came close to fulfilling their missions. The first contact of the day came about from these chance encounters.

On the western side of the Leine, 47th Guards Tank Division was prepared for commitment. The entire division, as it stood following two weeks of war, was across the river and as first light appeared in the sky, its advance guard was approaching the positions of the 56th Guards Motor Rifle Division, which was fast approaching combat ineffectiveness. The motor rifle troops had been in heavy combat practically since the moment it crossed the Leine only a few days earlier. It could accomplish no more in its current condition. The 47th Guards would take it from here and was scheduled to jump off at 0720 and continue what looked to be the main attack towards the Weser.

To the south, 6th Guards Tank Division was seventy percent across the Leine. Its lead regiment, the 79th Guards Motor Rifle regiment had been stopped the previous night by a Belgian counterattack. Two tank regiments were now almost in position to resume operations against the Belgian division in place between 6th Guards and the Weser. The orders for the Soviet division were to occupy the Belgians and continue to produce the impression of a secondary attack until the follow-on divisions were across the river and fully prepared to start the true main attack towards the Weser, 23 kilometers southeast of where NORTHAG believed the main attack was now underway.

The data from the 0100 TR-1 flight, along with data from other reconnaissance platforms, arrived on SACEUR’s desk at 0500. His senior intelligence officer was also present to provide answers to any questions the man charged with the defense of Western Europe might have about the data. There were none. The still images of radar pictures and the accompanying summaries were enough.  He studied the contents of the folder closely. After fifteen minutes, General Galvin concluded that the data did not strongly support his notion that the main Soviet attack would be launched towards a point south of Hameln. The Leine crossing sites remained active, both northern and southern. The fact that the Soviet divisions now closing in on the river appeared to be moving towards Bruggen and Alfeld instead of Freden seemed to be the final nail in the coffin.

Yet for some reason he couldn’t explain or fathom, SACEUR remained dubious.

21 Replies to “The Central Front D+15 (24 July, 1987) Part II”

      1. What about Diego Garcia? 🙂 That is still an English possession I think. LOL Not sure if the time difference works for the sun never setting though.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Accurate term, and I believe it will also be applicable in the next major war. Electronic and TI surveillance isn’t always going to find a mobile enemy force maneuvering. At least not fast enough

      Liked by 1 person

  1. When everything seems to be looking like one thing and yet, you still have that itch like you are missing something…

    Its because you probably are and need to look Again.

    When I am training new EMTs, I tell them to listen to their subconscious… If you think you did everything and your hair on your neck starts to stand up or you get a sinking feeling, look again because you missed something…. usually important.

    Its been the same with night operations and recon though its more your physical senses than brain with data.

    Your senses know when something isn’t right… you just have to listen to them when they are screaming at you. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  2. As an old former LRS trooper, all I can say is that nothing beats human eyes on the objective, target, route, or area. Yeah those other systems can see what the Mk.1 eyeball cannot see, but they can also be spoofed in their own spectrums.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Well that’s interesting and quite conflicting with the info I had about the SLAR, which is that in ’87 there was no datalink. Thanks for mentioning this, I’m going to have to do some more research.


  3. I’ve always had the impression ground recon was risky simply because if you can put binoculars on the enemy, the enemy can put binoculars on you, and probably will first because you were likely the one moving at the time. But when you say “…the soldiers inevitably revealed their locations the moment their reports were radioed back to higher headquarters.” Are there enough DFing resources on a 1987 battlefield to jump on a couple guys in a scout car the moment they key a mic? I figured there would be much bigger fish for those resources to fry. (Pure layperson’s assumption on my part, of course.)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. When you’re talking about finding enemy armor and mechanized forces, you need a little more protection and firepower. A couple guys in a scout car can’t cover the amount of ground needed. Land formations usually have their own scouts and recon troops in platoon and company sizes. The US Army used (and still uses) armored cavalry troops. They go out and actively find the enemy’s location, strength, etc. And they usually get a few shots in on the bad guys too. Maybe delay them a bit.


  4. Scouts for Armored forces, at least when I was in Germany, were either HMMV or Bradley based.

    In the Armored Bn I was assigned to in 90-92, our scouts were in M3 Bradleys… and there was talk about transitioning to HMMV and motorcycle. Something that had been discussed before if I recall right. I vaguely recall talk about just supplementing them with HMMVs too, ditching the idea of the bikes… But it was talk at that time.

    Anything Motorized will likely have M151’s for recon vehicles or HMMV’s… and they really are quiet when all you hear is armored elephants…. And the Bradley sounds like a wounded hippo on a good day.

    My opinion on that last, of course. Your mileage will vary

    Liked by 2 people

      1. Not a problem. These are some dusty-ass memories, my friend. You would not believe the amount of virtual dust blown off of them. (If you have asthma, y’all be needing to stay away were it real dust, I assure you… 🙂 )

        As it is, the more I think on it, I *believe* in the ’87 time frame, 2/67 and 4/67 had HMMV Scouts…. transitioning to the M3 Bradley just before I got there. 5/18 Infantry was all Bradleys.

        This is an “I think” memory… as I recall some of the guys who been there for a while commenting on the wanting their wheels back. And it was also around the late 91 time frame of the talk about bikes and HMMV scout units.

        This is also before DoD decided Armored Warfighting in the Middle East was to be the priority because we *always* prep to fight the last war….

        You’d have better data on what they had, I sure. I just remember gear from when I was there along with (half) remembered conversations.

        Liked by 1 person

          1. not a problem. Like I said…. some dusty memories and they may be absolutely wrong. (time has a way of mucking things…)

            1990 when I got there was M1 105’s and M3 Bradleys. M1A1 and M3a2 were transitioned to after the war and before I left. I remember the big deal being made about it as our M1’s were being given to the Marines as we were leaving SA…. and the joke about the Jarheads always getting army cast-off gear.

            I was just a dumb private so fine details were not within my perview. Just rumor and whatever was heard. 🙂

            Bradleys are loud- louder than the Abrams at least…. though the M1s really are some quiet tanks. You would think a 62 ton monster would be noisy as hell… That turbine engine is killer potent. I’ve driven both… and in a straight line at low speed, the Brad is not that loud. But if you have to turn, the engine has to strain a bit which makes it louder.

            My impression/memory…

            Liked by 1 person

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