Planning and preparation took center stage in Severomorsk and at airbases and other military installations located from the Kola Peninsula to Arkhangelsk. Long Range Aviation and Naval Aviation bombers, submarines, surface ships and almost every piece of military equipment remaining in the region, and their crews were preparing a maximum defensive effort. Their target was the NATO strike fleet and accompanying amphibious force believed to be preparing to move deeper into northern waters and begin a coordinated assault on the Kola itself. The massed firepower of the enemy fleet and its proximity to Soviet territory made it a clear and present danger to the Soviet Union. One which could no longer be ignored or even allowed to exist.
As deputy fleet commander, Admiral Feliks Gromov watched his predecessor fail to act decisively against the collection of NATO warships gathering on the front doorstep of the Soviet Union. He disagreed then and shared his feelings with his superior when opportunity allowed. But Admiral Kapitanets was a bold, headstrong individual who held unshakable faith in himself. In his mind, failure to contend with the enemy warships and secure northern Norway did not rest with him. His plan was flawless, its execution suffering from incompetent officers and Moscow’s reluctance to provide Kapitanets with the tools he deemed necessary to make short work of the enemy forces guarding NATO’s Northern Flank.
Unfortunately for Gromov, his predecessor’s incompetence now served as an albatross around his neck. Kapitanets’ failure to deal with the NATO carrier fleet especially, handicapped Gromov as the final, decisive battle grew closer. The Red Banner Northern Fleet would have but one single chance to send the enemy carriers to the bottom of the sea. There were barely three regiments worth of Backfires available for his use. This number had been replenished from regiments in other theaters following heavy losses to the Tu-22M fleet earlier in the war. Practically every Backfire bomber in the Soviet inventory was now concentrated in a handful of well-defended airbases on the White Sea coast. Backfires, along with the remaining regiment or so of aging Badger bombers, would constitute the sledgehammer Gromov intended to strike the enemy fleet with. Submarines, both nuclear and conventionally powered boats, would also play important roles, but defense of the Motherland would depend on the bombers.
Red Banner Northern Fleet’s intelligence and operations officers were in general agreement regarding the so-called Strike Fleet Atlantic’s actions over the next twenty-four hour. The carriers would move north and begin air attacks against Soviet targets on the Kola, setting the stage for either a hostile landing of US Marines on west of Murmansk, or a reinforcement of NATO forces in the northern reaches Norway. His operations staff and intelligence officers were divided almost evenly on the two possibilities for US Marine employment. Gromov, playing devil’s advocate, put forth the possibility of the US Marine ships being a ruse. Most of his subordinates rejected the theory, asking rhetorically why NATO would waste a division of men as decoys when they could be used decisively elsewhere. A logical point, Gromov had allowed. Yet he was also cognizant that logic is something found only in lecture halls and laboratories where conditions are controlled. The Barents Sea in the middle of the Third World War was a collection of violence, unpredictability and innumerable wildcard factors.
By 1900, the Backfire and Badger crews were starting their preparations for the upcoming mission. Takeoff would come at 0200 local time. Gromov was finishing a hearty dinner when he was summoned to meet with the Northwestern TVD’s commander at his headquarters. When the admiral arrived, he found the theater commander seated at a small conference table with two middle aged men, one in a suit and the other in uniform. Gromov had never seen either before. Introductions were made and the civilian turned out to be from the Defense Ministry, the officer from the General Staff.
The man from the ministry wasted no time getting to the reason for their visit. “Comrades, we have been directed by the Defense Council to deliver this information to you personally. Earlier this afternoon we received alarmingly significant information from an intelligence asset in America. The American naval task force has been given orders by the White House to attack our submarine bastions beginning in twenty-four hours. Your orders have changed,” he tapped a stack of red folders placed on the table in front of him. “Sit down and we will explain in detail what this means.”
Author’s Note: One more North Atlantic post on Monday (I said Sunday originally but forgot it’s Mother’s Day) Then we’ll get to the Central Front and political entries….Moscow and Washington. The fuse is almost lit.
4 Replies to “The North Atlantic D+22 (31 July 1987) Part III (Bravo)”
I’m surprised the pair weren’t accompanied by KGB and GRU special-weapon officers.
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The big nukes are all out on the missile subs. No need for any GRU or KGB officers to prep them
Walker Spy Ring at work here, Mike?
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That spy ring did a lot of damage to the US Navy so yeah, the info they sold is being used by the Russians, definitely