The military paradigm on the Northern Flank had shifted almost completely by the pre-dawn hours of D+16. It was the Soviet Union that was now on the defensive in the air, at sea and on land. NATO was now conducting offensive operations in preparation for the time when a coordinated offensive would be launched to clear the remainder of Norwegian and Finnish soil of Soviet troops and equipment. AFNORTH and NWTVD were entering unfamiliar territory. It was becoming clear in the first part of the day that the men in Severomorsk and Kolsas were winging it, so to speak. The transitions from offense to defense and vice versa began with tentative, almost stumbling steps.
AFNORTH’s first overall objective was to clear all remaining Soviet troops from Norway. This task was far more difficult than it initially appeared. The NATO forces in the far northern reaches of Norway were light almost entirely made up of heliborne light troops. Royal Marines and their American counterparts. At present, they had neither the combat power, or numbers to attack the Soviet motor-rifle division now regathering to establish a defense closer to the Norway-Soviet frontier. With Banak now entirely in friendly hands, and the chances of a major Soviet counterattack against the airbase practically zero, AFNORTH intended to start airlifting more US and Royal Marines north later in the day. This would be followed up by moving elements of the US 10th Mountain Division, which had a brigade in central Norway, to Banak. Concurrently, Brigade North and heavier elements of the US 4th Marine Amphibious Brigade were to start the trek north. AFNORTH’s objective was to have a sizeable land force positioned in the north and prepared to conduct offensive operations within 36 hours.
Northwest TVD’s ground forces in Norway and Finland were not going to be advancing another kilometer into enemy territory. That decision was made on the previous day by theater commander Colonel General Vladimir Arkhipov. The objective was to keep NATO troops as far away from Soviet territory as possible until reinforcements arrived. At present, there were three divisions moving to the Kola from the interior Soviet Union. The first of which would not arrive for another five days. Until then, two understrength motor rifle regiments made up the theater reserve and Arkhipov was not committing them unless NATO forces crossed into the Soviet Union. The theater commander was fiercely determined not to allow this horrifying scenario to become reality. Northern Norway was a land of rough, difficult terrain that overwhelmingly favored the defenders. 113th Guards Motor Rifle Division had learned this lesson earlier in the conflict. Now the time had come for the division to apply these lessons and transform the northern-most area of Norway into a heavily fortified landscape capable of bleeding NATO forces white.
The enemy’s air forces were a greater concern to Arkhipov for the moment though. Even though NATO aircraft could not physically take territory away from his forces, they could weaken the defending motor-rifle troops enough to guarantee their defeat when ground combat began again. To help counter this, Arkhipov moved a number of long-range SAM batteries closer to the frontier, and authorized the movement of whatever mobile air defense units that could be spared into Norway. Unfortunately, Arkhipov was limited with the amount of aid he could offer. Air defense of the Kola remained a higher priority and every gun and SAM was needed to protect the airbases and naval installations there from NATO air attacks. The NWTVD theater commander was satisfied he had a workable plan in mind to deal with the growing threat posed by enemy land forces.
NATO airpower was another matter entirely.
5 Replies to “The Northern Flank D+16 (25 July, 1987) Part I”
Soviets doctrine does not lend itself to Defense, as I recall.
Granted, the territory in northern Norway is excellent for defense…. but I’m not sure they will be as successful as they wish to be.
Its going to be very messy, to be sure. But but with what Norwegian forces are available plus US/UK Marines with their gear and ample Air Support, pushing them out will be doable. Add in some efforts from the Swedes…. and well, holding that ground will be difficult.
The Finns may also take opportunity to lash out at them, distraction or opportunistic.
How I see it.
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At least isn’t the terrain at good for hiding from/defending against airpower?
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It is. Rough, rocky and not very flat
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Ussr ground forces movement feels slow to me on this front. 14 days and there not even at banak?
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Yeah, it was very slow and clunky. Airborne attacks did not meet their goals, the air war was a draw at best and the motor rifle divisions moved far too slowly. Destined to fail, basically