COMSTRIKFLTLANT’s suspicions about the real purpose behind Moscow’s bluster and threats regarding continued US and NATO air attacks against Soviet military targets on the Kola turned out to be accurate. The Red Banner Northern Fleet and other air and sea components of the Northwestern TVD had taken advantage of the pause in Strike Fleet Atlantic’s operations to reinforce, resupply and revise tactics as much as the window allowed. ELINT platforms and human intelligence from inside of the Kola itself in the later hours of D+15 confirmed these activities were taking place.
The surge of Soviet ballistic missile submarines from the northern ports was completed by late in the evening on D+15. The SSBNs were now present at their respective firing positions. These positions sat behind multiple trip-wire lines of strategically-placed mines, attack submarines and surface ships. The number of land-based ASW aircraft patrolling the approach areas to the bastion was gradually increasing. If these moves were not enough to cause renewed alarm aboard the Mount Whitney and back in Norfolk, reports of Backfire and Badger bombers landing at airbases on the Kola were. The numbers and strength of the new arrivals was yet to be determined, but COMSTRIKFLTLANT knew it would be a big enough number to renew the long-range bomber threat to his carriers. He’d already lost one to the Backfires and had no intention of losing any more. Unfortunately, his hands were effectively tied for the time being.
The Kola was off limits as of 0200 hours local time. This would be the case until Washington decided otherwise. Meanwhile, Strike Fleet Atlantic’s carriers continued to steam southwest, putting more distance between themselves and the Kola for the time being and increasing the amount of combat air patrols. Carrier air wing staffs updated their targeting lists as preparations continued for when the Kola again became fair game. The airbases serving as homes to the latest infusion of Backfires and Badgers would be the first targets hit when the curtain went up again.
Author’s Note: This entry was cut short. I left my tablet at Starbucks this morning and decided to wipe it clean remotely just in case someone sauntered over to where it was and tried to walk away with it. Needless to say, the original North Atlantic D+17 Part I entry had been on the tablet, all set and ready to go. So I’ve reconstructed as much of it tonight as time will allow. I’ll try to stuff the rest of Part I into Tuesday’s entry as well but if that doesn’t work, I’ll have to do a Part III on Wed or Thursday. On the bright side, I got my tablet back. 😊 – Mike