The North Atlantic D+21 (30 July, 1987) Part III

0545 Hours– COMSUBLANT presents his command’s latest estimates on dispositions and defensive strength of the Soviet SSBN bastions to the National Security Council. The ballistic missile submarines assigned to the Red Banner Northern Fleet were all at sea by 0100 hours of D+21 with the exception of four submarines down for long-term maintenance. The SSBNs were divided between two bastions, one situated in the Kara Sea and the other in the northern reaches of the Barents, close to the border of the Arctic Ocean. The defensive belts were made up of various minefields, conventional and nuclear-powered attack submarines and powerful ASW surface groups. COMSUBLANT predicted a decisive attempt to penetrate bastion defenses and neutralize the SSBNs would take seventy-two hours at minimum and bring about significant losses to NATO SSNs, surface ships and aircraft.

0720 Hours– Intercepted communications between Red Banner Northern Fleet headquarters and two Soviet attack submarines reveal a large underwater explosion was detected 220 miles north of Svalbard. A short time later the Permit-Class attack submarine USS Jack SSN-605 fails to check in.

0900 Hours– Strike Fleet Atlantic begins fixed-wing ASW patrols between Bear Island and the northwestern Norwegian coastline. They are soon joined by land-based USN P-3 Orions operating from Norwegian airbases and Royal Navy Sea King helicopters from the HMS Illustrious group, now patrolling the North Cape waters and acting as a gatekeeper for the larger NATO formations to the west and southwest.

0955 Hours– The II MAF amphibious task force and USS Coral Sea battlegroup start steaming away from the Norwegian coast on a course track taking them northwest, away from littoral waters and towards open ocean.

1145 Hours– Strike Fleet Atlantic is informed that air operations over the Kola Peninsula can resume at 0030 hours.

1300 Hours– For the remainder of the morning and early afternoon, Soviet reconnaissance aircraft scour the northern Norwegian Sea and nearby sections of the Barents in search of signs of the NATO formations. Heavy US Navy air patrols in the north lead to lost aircraft and a growing suspicion that the enemy carriers are currently positioned southeast of Svalbard and moving deeper into the Barents Sea.

1650 Hours– A Tu-16R Badger detects a small formation of unknown ships 82 miles northeast of Hammerfest. The information is radioed in and less than five minutes later, contact is lost with the Badger.

1725 Hours– The HMS Illustrious task force is attacked by eight Su-24 Fencers that masked their approaches by flying at very low altitudes. They cause no damage or casualties to the British carrier but caused heavy damage to the Type 22 class frigate HMS Brave. Late in the evening after several hours of damage control efforts, the Abandon Ship order was given, and Brave was scuttled.

1948 Hours– NATO ASW air patrols continue into the night. S-3 Vikings from the US carriers have made two confirmed kills. One Tango class submarine and one Foxtrot.

2330 Hours– Kosmos 1867, the last surviving Soviet  RORSAT (Radar Ocean Reconnaissance  Satellite) passes over the Strike Fleet Atlantic. Twenty minutes later, the data recorded by the satellite’s sensors and cameras was analyzed and discussed in Moscow. Minutes before midnight orders were transmitted to Severomorsk and four airfields serving as homes to Long Range Aviation and Naval Aviation bomber regiments.

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