Western Pacific D+24 (2 August, 1987)

  • The time zone differences between Greenwich, UK (GMT/Zulu) and the Western Pacific in 1987 was 9-10 hours. This meant that as the NATO retaliatory chemical attacks were underway and GSFG headquarters at Wunsdorf was struck by an air-delivered nuclear gravity bomb in the opening moments of midnight D+24, it was mid-morning in Tokyo and Seoul. The rest of the day saw a consistent heightening of tensions as news from Europe and the rest of the world deteriorated with each passing hour. Near panic conditions developed in Tokyo, Singapore and other major cities as large numbers of people decided to leave urban areas practically at the same time. Public transit systems and highways could not stand the strain in many instances.
  • On the Sino-Soviet frontier a number of small skirmishes broke out in the early morning hours. Engagements took place between passing patrols and vehicles in most instances.  They did not escalate, fortunately enough. As the day continued on, Moscow and Beijing recognized the inherent danger and uncertainty building along their shared border. With nuclear weapons being used in Europe, neither side was eager to risk escalation in the Far East.  Soviet and Chinese ground forces were wisely ordered to back down. A de-escalation developed and held firm through the remainder of the day.  
  • As the hours passed by the international situation worsened. Soviet and US naval forces in the Western Pacific responded accordingly. All Soviet SSBNs had long since departed Petropavlovsk and are positioned in the Sea of Okhotsk bastions guarded by attack subs, ASW aircraft and surface ships Defensive air patrols over and near the bastions increased considerably. Ashore, Voyska-PVO bases eventually reached their highest alert status as air defense interceptors initiated heavy combat air patrols over suspected ingress routes for US strategic bombers. South of Vladivostok in the Sea of Japan, the battlecruiser Frunze, carrier Minsk, and their escorts were positioned to defend the Red Banner Pacific Fleet’s homeport.

The US 7th Fleet now had four aircraft carrier battlegroups on hand. Midway and Ranger in the Sea of Japan. Enterprise and Independence in the North Pacific. Each carrier, as well as a large number of their battlegroup escorts had nuclear weapons available in abundance.

  • USAF nuclear preparations ramped up by the afternoon. Victor Alert aircraft were poised and ready at bases in South Korea, Japan and the Philippines. At Andersen AFB on Guam, nuclear-armed B-52s were dispersed to airfields on neighboring islands. When SAC raised its alert posture even higher the B-52s and accompanying KC-135 tankers on Guam and the Northern Marianas were scrambled and flew to their positive control points over the North Pacific. Navy A-6 Intruders armed with B-61s are also launched from carriers late in the evening. Under SIOP, Midway and Ranger’s Intruders were tasked with striking Soviet naval facilities in Vladivostok. The main target for Enterprise and Independence’s bombers was the submarine base at Petropavlovsk. Fortunately, the situation stabilized and all aircraft were recalled to their home carriers and land bases.

6 Replies to “Western Pacific D+24 (2 August, 1987)”

  1. re: Guam B-52s dispersing to other airports in the N. Marianas, I was skeptical but sure enough there are modern long-distance runways at Rota, Tinian and Saipan. I wonder if these airports were intentionally designed to accommodate SAC dispersal units in wartime.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I won’t steer you wrong intentionally 🙂 I’m not sure about the airport designs and dispersal but it’s definitely worth checking out. I’ll report whatever I find out

      Liked by 2 people

  2. This was a nice, succinct way to acknowledge what would have been going on in that timeframe.
    I was wondering about dispersals as well. Tinian/Saipan is 8600/8700ft. A Lancer would be good could do 5000 if needed, but I had to look it up to know about a BUFF.
    “Assuming flaps down, 8 engines, a 200 foot line-upAssuming flaps down, 8 engines, a 200 foot line-up distance and no wind, a maxed-out B-52H (488,000lbs brake release gross weight) at 500 feet pressure altitude, OAT of 60 degrees F and using TRT of 1.71 EPR on a level, dry runway should have a takeoff ground run of approximately 8000 feet. Under the same conditions except using partial thrust of 1.67 EPR, the ground run increases to approximately 8600 feet. ” (from B-52 Stratofortress Assoc.)
    Looks doable, under favorable conditions. Elsewhere, I read that even a BONE needs a waiver id it’s going to land under 10,000ft.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I have some friends who did rotations out to Andersen in B-1s and B-52s. They never did anything with the dispersal fields but I’m sure those were as nerve-wracking of landings as the info from above makes it seem like.
      Fighters are much easier to land 🙂


  3. Having known plenty of squids in my time who served on carriers, not having to stand Alert-5s (would they go to Alert-15s or even Alert-30s?) would do worlds of good for the nerves, hearing, and overall mental condition of everyone on board the flattops 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’d assume the whole air wing would be at Alert 5 for the most part. And yeah, that many launches in a short period of time will rattle nerves from bow to stern. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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