D+18 On The Flanks And At Sea 1830-2359 Zulu 27 July, 1987

For NATO and Warsaw Pact commanders on the flanks and at sea, news of the exchange halted operations for a period of time as preparations for potentially yet another round of nuclear exchanges got underway. In each theater, these preparations were complicated by conditions exclusive to each respective theater of operation.

On NATO’s Southern Flank, emergency operations in and around Madrid were getting underway. AFSOUTH was involved in these, contributing specialized units and tons of material during the initial phases. Concurrent with this, operational measures were also underway. Defensive postures were adopted theater-wide as practically all active military operations ground to a halt. Other measures ranged from NBC protection to preparation and security for air, land and naval units tasked with a nuclear role in theater.

Similar activity was going on in Norway and in other areas of the Northern Flank. As was the case practically everywhere in Europe, fighting died down as the extent of the current situation was realized. Brigades, squadrons and warships on both sides awaited revised orders from higher headquarters. However, in places like Kolsas and Severomorsk, senior commanders themselves were waiting for updated orders and information from their own superiors in Brussels and Moscow.

At sea, plans for fighting a possible nuclear war at sea were enacted at once. For Strike Fleet Atlantic, this meant dispersing the formation and putting extra distance between warships to help raise protection against the effects of a nuclear blast. The three carrier battlegroups also started putting extra distance between themselves for the same purpose. On board Eisenhower, Forrestal and Kitty Hawk B-61 nuclear bombs were removed from the special magazines and uploaded to four A-6E Intruders on each carrier. The attack aircraft, as well as a number of supporting planes were then sent to the flight deck and placed on Ready 15 status, their crews in the squadron ready rooms reviewing checklists for flying with and dropping the B-61, as well as target information and other potential mission factors.

In the skies around Strike Fleet Atlantic’s carriers, the number of aircraft on patrol rose considerably. The number of Tomcats loitering at their CAP stations was doubled. Along with the additional fighters came more E-2C Hawkeyes and expanded fixed and rotary-wing ASW coverage around the groups. Last but certainly not least was the addition of more KA-6 tankers and A-7 Corsairs carrying buddy-stores, ensuring the fighters, Vikings, Hawkeyes and Seahawks could stay airborne for an extended amount of time.

Similar measures were taking place on and around US Navy aircraft carriers in other parts of the world from the Mediterranean to the Sea of Japan.

6 Replies to “D+18 On The Flanks And At Sea 1830-2359 Zulu 27 July, 1987”

  1. Re: B-61s on carriers, it would be interesting to know what the handling procedures were for special weapons. Were they regularly rehearsed, part of normal training for the red shirt ordnance crews, etc? Or were there special crews assigned to handle B-61s?

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Yeah, each carrier had its own nuclear weapons division, called a W Division, I believe. So there were both special crews and special protocol when it came to handling the nukes.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I had a cousin (well, I mean, he’s still around, but not on an aircraft carrier) who was at sea when the run-up to ODS was happening. This could be bullshit but he told me that their nuke status was changed to “ready”, but I never knew what this kind of thing meant…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’d assume that means the weapons were one step away from being armed. Not a status that was used very often by the Navy, or Air Force for that matter

      Liked by 1 person

        1. Well, considering the time, if Saddam had used chemical weapons against US forces, a nuclear response was the most likely countermove by the Bush administration

          Liked by 1 person

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