British defence planning and Britain's NATO commitment 1979 - 1985

LD17

MIA
@Yokel
All eight wouldn’t be “up North”
The plan was to have 15 Deployable Carriers (which entailed more than 15 as at least 2 were in deep maintenance or RCOH)
Norwegian Sea (2nd Fleet) = 4 Carriers & 1 BB
Med (6th Fleet) = 4 Carriers & 1 BB
WESTPAC (7th Fleet) = 3 Carriers & 1 BB
IO (later 5th Fleet) = 2 Carriers & 1 BB
NORPAC (3rd Fleet) = 2 Carriers

At least two RN Invincibles would be the “Anti-Submarine Strike Group” to keep the Soviet Subs away from the Gators and the big show, the NATO Strike Group of 4 Carriers. By the late 80’s the plan was for the ASW Strike Group to sanitize the Norwegian Sea up into the Fjords, they had certain ones picked out to shelter one of the Big American carriers each. The idea was to let the Soviets come at them, use the mountain clutter to defeat the Backfire attacks and attrite them. Once they had Northern Norway secure or if the Soviets sortied the Northern Fleet, the Strike Fleet would surge out to meet them. There were apparently extensive plans, that once Soviet Naval Aviation/Northern Fleet were attrited, the Strike Fleet would head North and start going after the bases in & around Murmansk.
 

LD17

MIA
Forgot to add in the previous post, it wasn’t planned to have any Carrier support for the convoys, air cover was to be provided by the escorts ASW helos as well as ASW helos embarked on STUFT ships (there were plans for container ships to be converted ala Atlantic Conveyor). The idea was the Soviets would panic once they saw all the ships up in their front yard in the Norwegian Sea and they would attract the Subs & Backfires, leaving the convoys (hopefully) relatively unmolested.
 

Yokel

LE
@Yokel
All eight wouldn’t be “up North”
The plan was to have 15 Deployable Carriers (which entailed more than 15 as at least 2 were in deep maintenance or RCOH)
Norwegian Sea (2nd Fleet) = 4 Carriers & 1 BB
Med (6th Fleet) = 4 Carriers & 1 BB
WESTPAC (7th Fleet) = 3 Carriers & 1 BB
IO (later 5th Fleet) = 2 Carriers & 1 BB
NORPAC (3rd Fleet) = 2 Carriers

At least two RN Invincibles would be the “Anti-Submarine Strike Group” to keep the Soviet Subs away from the Gators and the big show, the NATO Strike Group of 4 Carriers. By the late 80’s the plan was for the ASW Strike Group to sanitize the Norwegian Sea up into the Fjords, they had certain ones picked out to shelter one of the Big American carriers each. The idea was to let the Soviets come at them, use the mountain clutter to defeat the Backfire attacks and attrite them. Once they had Northern Norway secure or if the Soviets sortied the Northern Fleet, the Strike Fleet would surge out to meet them. There were apparently extensive plans, that once Soviet Naval Aviation/Northern Fleet were attrited, the Strike Fleet would head North and start going after the bases in & around Murmansk.
In wartime the Atlantic would have taken priority over the Mediterranean. The Norwegian Sea is part of the Atlantic so eight CVA/CVN in the Atlantic theatre is not unrealistic.

I refer you to this thread, which was inspired by a US Congress report into the requirements for Atlantic sea control. In addition to the carriers themselves, convoys, amphibious forces, and underway replenishment ships are listed as things that need defending (including by carrier aircraft). The Congressional report is here.

The US Sea Control Mission

In particular I refer you to former US Navy Naval Flight Officer ECMO1's comments:

...the primary mission for the CV/CVN in the North Atlantic was not ASW (it was an additional role) but rather AAW to prevent the Backfire/Bears from attacking the convoys. The A-6/A-7s were the organic tankers to push the F-4/F-14 CAP stations out to a range to shoot the archer, not the arrows. Obviously, those roles swapped a bit when you started facing a surface threat or got close enough to land to start contemplating strikes against those Soviet Naval Air Arm airfields.

Forgot to add in the previous post, it wasn’t planned to have any Carrier support for the convoys, air cover was to be provided by the escorts ASW helos as well as ASW helos embarked on STUFT ships (there were plans for container ships to be converted ala Atlantic Conveyor). The idea was the Soviets would panic once they saw all the ships up in their front yard in the Norwegian Sea and they would attract the Subs & Backfires, leaving the convoys (hopefully) relatively unmolested.

@ECMO1 will dispute that. There may have been plans to rely on STUFT, but experience from 1982 called this into question. I suspect @Not a Boffin and @jrwlynch may also have things so say. Subs and Backfires were what the CVS/Sea King/Sea Harrier were for.
 
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Sorry.

Honestly the only thing I'd say is that while plans from the Eighties may still be valid in many aspects, looking at current threats and ways of operating are more important.

Refighting the theoretical battles of the seventies and eighties and their associated ORBATS is IMO of limited value.
 

Yokel

LE
Sorry.

Honestly the only thing I'd say is that while plans from the Eighties may still be valid in many aspects, looking at current threats and ways of operating are more important.

Refighting the theoretical battles of the seventies and eighties and their associated ORBATS is IMO of limited value.

It is of historical interest more than anything. NATO deterrence back then was an all arms affair, which seems to be disputed by some. Of course we know that the Soviets saw things differently from NATO, but NATO matelots played a part as much land based colleagues.

There are parallels between back then and things you might find in the Fire and Ice paper from the Human Security Centre.
 
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LD17

MIA
In wartime the Atlantic would have taken priority over the Mediterranean. The Norwegian Sea is part of the Atlantic so eight CVA/CVN in the Atlantic theatre is not unrealistic.

I refer you to this thread, which was inspired by a US Congress report into the requirements for Atlantic sea control. In addition to the carriers themselves, convoys, amphibious forces, and underway replenishment ships are listed as things that need defending (including by carrier aircraft). The Congressional report is here.

The US Sea Control Mission

In particular I refer you to former US Navy Naval Flight Officer ECMO1's comments:

...the primary mission for the CV/CVN in the North Atlantic was not ASW (it was an additional role) but rather AAW to prevent the Backfire/Bears from attacking the convoys. The A-6/A-7s were the organic tankers to push the F-4/F-14 CAP stations out to a range to shoot the archer, not the arrows. Obviously, those roles swapped a bit when you started facing a surface threat or got close enough to land to start contemplating strikes against those Soviet Naval Air Arm airfields.



@ECMO1 will dispute that. There may have been plans to rely on STUFT, but experience from 1982 called this into question. I suspect @Not a Boffin and @jrwlynch may also have things so say. Subs and Backfires were what the CVS/Sea King/Sea Harrier were for.
@Yokel

I think I am agreeing with what @ECMO1 was saying (at least that was my intent)....the carriers were not going to do mundane convoy or ASW work. They were going to seek out and destroy the enemy,......the archers rather than the arrows.
The Sea Control Mission was from the 70’s. The Maritime Strategy,where the fight was taken to the Soviets, was the 1980s.

The US Navy was relying on the RN and the Invincible centered ASW Strike Group
to deal with the Subs.

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Yokel

LE
But the same convoys under threat from submarines would also have been under threat from Soviet Naval Aviation - not just bombers with anti ship missiles but also things like Bears which would have provided long range targeting for long range submarine based missiles.

The comment about the carriers' ASW aircraft is due to the way the US Navy viewed helicopters as an extension of the parent ship and controlled from the CIC. The carrier group contained other warships of course - with their own helicopters. But the carrier had fixed wing ASW aircraft and the fighters could deal with the Bears and Backfires.
 
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LD17

MIA
But the same convoys under threat from submarines would also have been under threat from Soviet Naval Aviation - not just bombers with anti ship missiles but also things like Bears which would have provided long range targeting for long range submarine based missiles.

The comment about the carriers' ASW aircraft is due to the way the US Navy viewed helicopters as an extension of the parent ship and controlled from the CIC. The carrier group contained other warships of course - with their own helicopters. But the carrier had fixed wing ASW aircraft and the fighters could deal with the Bears and Backfires.
Yes you are correct about the Bears, and one of the reasons that Sea Harrier was developed was to deal with that threat.....shoot down the Bear before it found the convoy. But again it was developed in the 70's when the Sea Control mission was to the fore in NATO & the US Navy. The big American carriers would perform barrier type ops in the GIUK Gap while the smaller and cheaper Sea Control Ships would protect the convoys. Sea Control Ship - Wikipedia

Vietnam was over and budgets were being cut, the old World War II Essex Class carriers, many which had been converted to ASW Carriers, were being mothballed reducing the carrier decks. ASW warfare was forced to move to the big deck Carriers because of this. (Carriers at the time were designated CVAs or CVANs = Attack Carriers. As ASW groups were moved into their airwings they were re-designated CVs or CVNs, indicating their general purpose airwings).

However, most of the US Navy was bred (at the time) on the principles of Mahan, Dewey, & Farragut.......take the fight to the enemy or as Nelson once said "No captain can do very wrong if he places his ship alongside that of the enemy."

Once Reagan got into office the Maritime Strategy came to the fore..... a good book to read on its development is:

Amazon product
So getting back a bit, the Tomcats were there for the long reach, get the archers, the Hornets were the back-up and they brought a useful light attack mode with them, the Intruders were for the Anti-Surface/Land Attack...after they refueled the fighters. The Vikings & Sea Kings did the ASW, with secondary roles as tankers & SAR respectively.
 
If I read that correctly then it was expected that, after just 6 days, NATO losses would be 60%(+)

Fazakerley.

Hence the early prospect of instant sunshine. As I understand it, NATO would not have been the initial aggressor, but would indeed have been willing to go large in the face of unsustainable losses. Tac nukes quickly escalate into strategic nukes.

What do you do as a convoy commander in the middle of the Atlantic with thousands of M48s that are now as much as tits on a fish? Western Europe is a radioactive wasteland, as is the Eastern Seabord of the US. It’s not so much a fallout cloud as a fallout sky. No command authority exists, and your cargo is pointless.

Bit of a shit sandwich, really. Head for South America and drink German beer?
 

Yokel

LE
Yes you are correct about the Bears, and one of the reasons that Sea Harrier was developed was to deal with that threat.....shoot down the Bear before it found the convoy. But again it was developed in the 70's when the Sea Control mission was to the fore in NATO & the US Navy. The big American carriers would perform barrier type ops in the GIUK Gap while the smaller and cheaper Sea Control Ships would protect the convoys. Sea Control Ship - Wikipedia

Vietnam was over and budgets were being cut, the old World War II Essex Class carriers, many which had been converted to ASW Carriers, were being mothballed reducing the carrier decks. ASW warfare was forced to move to the big deck Carriers because of this. (Carriers at the time were designated CVAs or CVANs = Attack Carriers. As ASW groups were moved into their airwings they were re-designated CVs or CVNs, indicating their general purpose airwings).

However, most of the US Navy was bred (at the time) on the principles of Mahan, Dewey, & Farragut.......take the fight to the enemy or as Nelson once said "No captain can do very wrong if he places his ship alongside that of the enemy."

Once Reagan got into office the Maritime Strategy came to the fore..... a good book to read on its development is:

Amazon product
So getting back a bit, the Tomcats were there for the long reach, get the archers, the Hornets were the back-up and they brought a useful light attack mode with them, the Intruders were for the Anti-Surface/Land Attack...after they refueled the fighters. The Vikings & Sea Kings did the ASW, with secondary roles as tankers & SAR respectively.

I am not sure whether we are in agreement or argument! Many things which are frequently considered offensive were originally defensive - eg the bayonet. The use of aircraft against submarines, dating back to the First World War, was taking the fight to them instead of waiting for them to attack. Helicopters with dipping sonar were a way of taking sonar to submarines using the thermal layer to hide from surface ship sonars.

I expect that when the old ASW carriers started to leave USN service and it was proposed to replace them the Sea Control Ships, the limitations of using embarked helicopters under the local control of the ship would have caused issues. British practice was to use them at range and give them independence.

Fazakerley.

Hence the early prospect of instant sunshine. As I understand it, NATO would not have been the initial aggressor, but would indeed have been willing to go large in the face of unsustainable losses. Tac nukes quickly escalate into strategic nukes.

What do you do as a convoy commander in the middle of the Atlantic with thousands of M48s that are now as much as tits on a fish? Western Europe is a radioactive wasteland, as is the Eastern Seabord of the US. It’s not so much a fallout cloud as a fallout sky. No command authority exists, and your cargo is pointless.

Bit of a shit sandwich, really. Head for South America and drink German beer?

Hence the investment in developing things such as Chobham armour, anti tank missiles, MLRS, long range interdiction aircraft life the Tornado; and others to raise the nuclear threshold.
 

LD17

MIA
Since @Yokel and I were on this subject, out of interest I'll post it here.....


You can download it for free, too big to attach.
 

Yokel

LE
Since @Yokel and I were on this subject, out of interest I'll post it here.....


You can download it for free, too big to attach.

Very interesting - thank you. During the Cold war there was said to be a link between the man in a foxhole and the main in the Minuteman hole. There was also a link between the man in the aircraft carrier and the one in the armoured personnel carrier.

Also we seems to have had crossed wires - I thought you were suggesting that the US carriers would be committed just to Norway, when they would move forward and engage the Soviet aircraft/submarines/etc before they got near the reinforcement convoys. I suppose there is a parallel with the use pf Support Groups in the Battle of The Atlantics - take the wart to the enemy and go to the assistance of convoys if needed.

Also it highlights the importance of defending Norway.
 

Yokel

LE
From page 149 of the paper in the original post:

To provide some suggestion of the reaction to an approaching crisis, a memorandum is to be found in the MoD War Book collection of the National Archives. The memo was from Rear Admiral Reffell, and begins, “In view of the international tension resulting from the crises in Iran and Afghanistan, I believe that the MoD(N) [Navy] Transition to War arrangements should be reviewed and, if appropriate, alerted.” In this circumstance, war plans were to be checked, and preparations made, discreetly, for Transition to War measures. No authorities outside the MoD(N) were to be involved, and if the situation did not become a crisis, it would be good preparation for Exercise HILEX80.

International tensions were danger warnings.
 

Bubbles_Barker

LE
Book Reviewer
If I read that correctly then it was expected that, after just 6 days, NATO losses would be 60%(+)
Yes. I was hoping that I was in the 40% but frankly that was only ever in retrospect.

Sobering.
 

Yokel

LE
@LD17

Here is an interesting historical document: The History of Sea based Anti Submarine Warfare 1940 - 1977

From page 159 of part 2 (page 370 of the PDF)

The Soviet threat was considered to include the long range naval aircraft Backfire as well as the older Bear, with 50 to 100 of the former anticipated by 1981. In addition "a fleet of 28 missile cruisers and 75 missile destroyers could challenge our surface supremacy while approximately 200 cruise missile and torpedo attack submarines could be deployed against us." Thus, it was, anticipated that the Soviets would mount a full three ~ dimensional threat in the North Atlantic.

Studies had shown that at least three CVs would be required in the Northeast Atlantic primarily to block Soviet long range bombers, most notably Backfires, penetrating the Greenland-Iceland-United Kingdom (GIUK) Gap into the open ocean. In addition, these carriers would serve to deter the movement of the Soviet surface fleet into the Atlantic basin as well as shielding Iceland and the vital sea lines of communication to England and Europe. As the ASW contest developed these carriers would be stationed at selected distances from the P-3 land bases so that the S-3s could efficiently conduct area ASW search and SOSUS coordination while optimizing the shore based P-3 effort.

In addition, three carriers were needed in the central Atlantic - close to the mid-Atlantic shipping routes in order to aid in antisubmarine warfare, as well as to counter successful long range reconnaissance aircraft penetrations.
This, of course, was the Atlantic Ocean area where the CVE Hunter-Killer Groups had operated most effectively during 1943 and 1944 against the German U-Boats.


@Not a Boffin and @jrwlynch might appreciate the discussion of LAMPS a few pages on.

Once again the North Atlantic is an active theatre, and the US and NATO are responding.

The Navy has been coy about the thrust of the 2nd Fleet missions, but several sources have confirmed to USNI News the focus of the fleet is to provide a theater-wide command control for anti-submarine warfare targeting the Russians.
 
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Hi mates. Please could someone explain me would it be possible for NATO to execute limited offensive against WP (DDR, Poland, Czechoslovakia...). I am interested in political and military capability and will. Thanks,

Christian
 
Hi mates. Please could someone explain me would it be possible for NATO to execute limited offensive against WP (DDR, Poland, Czechoslovakia...). I am interested in political and military capability and will. Thanks,

Christian
No,

Not without triggering a full scale war
 

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