1. Scope of project.
The Baltic Approaches were one of the keys to the Cold War activities for NATO as well as the Warsaw Pact (WAPA). The approaches were of strategic importance for East and West. In geographic terms, control of the Baltic Approaches would require control of the territories of Denmark and Schleswig-Holstein, and control of the waters of the Western Baltic and the three straits of Øresund, Great Belt and Little Belt. In addition, control of the air space was essential.
In terms of strategic sea control, the East had the desire to get out of the Baltic in order to attack NATO shipping in the North Sea and the Atlantic. The West initially wanted access from the North Sea to the Baltic in order to deliver reinforcement to ground forces in Northern Germany. Later on the main goal was to block East from getting out because now NATO reinforcements would come from harbours at the North Sea.
Another strategic goal for the West was to maintain control of air fields in Jutland for attacks towards east, and at the same time prevent the Warsaw Pact from getting access to the very same fields which would give access to attacking Southern Norway, Britain and Northern Germany as well as the North Sea, Kattegat and Skagerrack.
Regarding territory, ground forces were necessary to maintain control over communication lines in the broadest sense and to prepare for denying attacking ground forces access, whether from the air, from the sea or by moving through Northern Germany.
All modern warfare is dependent on control of the air space. Therefore, air forces were necessary, initially during daytime, later around the clock.
In sum, control of the Baltic Approaches required control of land, sea and air. During the Cold War, NATO had two ways of organizing such control. First, until 1962, the Northern European Command (AFNORTH) had control of all with Schleswig-Holstein as southernmost area, but the emerging West German navy came under control of the Central European Command (AFCENT). This control was disputed during most of the period because strong forces within NATO wanted the Central Command to take over and let the Northern Command have control only of areas North of Denmark. From 1962, however, a new integrated command, the BALTAP (still under the general command of AFNORTH), was created for the Baltic Approaches, integrating all military forces in the area. BALTAP remained active during the rest of the cold war.
2. Aims of project. Sources in general.
This project aims to analyze the organizational forms, the war planning and the activities - mainly represented by exercises - of the NATO commands for the Baltic Approaches from 1949 to 1991. The project is expected to last at least two years, the author is not working full time.
Access to the relevant sources may only be reached by researchers having sufficient security clearance.
The project will include all levels of the NATO organization in so far as they are relevant, but the main focus of the research rests with the war planning and the activities to test that planning by exercises and reviews. This is because regarding the upper levels of NATO, sources are abundant and many decisions relatively well known and researched, and they will of course be part of the project at a fairly general level of abstraction. But very little is publicly known about the operational levels, including AFNORTH commands, and in this project particularly BALTAP. Since the archives are not accessible but for NATO member official representatives, I expect access by recommendation from the Danish Defence Academy.
A few publicized sources are found about BALTAP, typically written in times of jubilees (Hoff 2002) or as some sort of autobiography (Helms 2005a; Helms 2005b). They do not provide the reader with much detail regarding the “real thing”. One gets a hunch, but not much evidence. The writers clearly were restricted by security demands.
Some help is found in national archives, in this case the archives of the Danish Defence in Copenhagen and the German Bundeswehr in Freiburg. I have earlier had access to the Danish archives and expect to get access to more by recognition of the Danish Defence Academy. The German Bundesarchive in Freiburg is the main German source, search in the archive electronic system has given a fairly large number of possible sources which, however, may be classsifiedd; I expect to get access by recommendation from the Danish Defence Academy.
3. Research approach
The analysis will be a qualitative content analysis of archival documents plus evidence from secondary sources published as books, articles or web-based media. The analysis will be structured by chronology and by themes, as indicated above in section 2.
It is hardly possible for one person to analyze the BALTAP in toto. Emphasis will be put on NAVBALTAP’s naval strategy (denying acces to straits & beaches) and tactics (deployment of forces, minelaying etc.). Air strategy will be limited to protecting own navy and attacking enemy ships and bases. Army strategy will comprise Ground forces as a “fleet in being” with few details.
Restrictions will be applied as follows:
First, the main focus will be on the naval aspects of AFNORTH and BALTAP. The activities of the Danish Navy are well known to the author because of his work published as Søværnet under den Kolde Krig (The Danish Navy during the Cold War) (Bogason 2015). The book is in Danish and this project offers the opportunity to present its results to an international audience. In other words, parts of the project are alrready written, but of course those texts must be applied to the structure of this new project and edited - probably re-written - in accordance with new sources. Certain aspects of the development of the Bundesmarine are also known, e.g. from the detailed study by Sander-Nagashima (2006) but further knowledge, particularly after 1972, is dependent on German sources. The main source, however, will be the archives of NAVBALTAP. If access is denied, the Danish and German archives nonetheless will supply some evidence.
Second, the cooperation between air forces and the two navies must be taken under scrutiny as well as the planned actions against key points (harbors, forts etc.) in the East. However, a general analysis of planned air activities cannot be carried out.
Third, the planned activities of ground forces will be taken into account, but only at a fairly general level.
In order to reduce the work load, emphasis will be put on selected topics, while other themes will be more or less ignored. There will be no detailed technical discussions of particular (classes of) ships, as such descriptions are abundant, and they will be used as background information. Most aspects of personnel policy, economy and education will be beyond the scope of the project, and in general, biographies of top leaders will be avoided.
The main themes, then, are the planned and presumed tactical uses of ships and armament as well as coastal defence systems. Uses of aircraft will have high priority together with discussions of the technological development of weapons, their platforms and communication systems. Furthermore, aspects of replenishment and access to stocks and repair resources will be discussed.
Main naval tactics are presumed to be: Developing communication & command systems; overseeing traffic sub/surface/air + electronic vigilance; submarines (forward) attacking WAPA ships; blocking passage in straits; blocking WAPA harbour exits; denying amphibious forces access; attacking WAPA ships; and using air forces against WAPA naval targets. All of the above may, of course, be used simultaneously.
Main activities are presumed to be: Demonstrating presence; denying access (before hostilities); patrolling (radar etc, visual spotting, submarine spotting, air recce); attacking bases; attacking ships/submarines/amphibious entities; mining enemy waters; sweeping enemy mines in own waters; mining own waters ; guarding and convoying; and defending territories from the sea.
Bogason, Peter. 2015. Søværnet under den kolde krig - politik, strategi og taktik. København: Snorres Forlag.
Helms, Adam. 2005b. “Min tid som Commander Allied Forces Baltic Approaches 1970-75. Anden del 1973-75.” Tidsskrift for Søvæsen 176(2): 73-103.
Helms, Adam. 2005a. “Min tid som Commander Allied Forces Baltic Approaches 1970-75. Første del 1970-72.” Tidsskrift for Søvæsen 176(1).
Hoff, Ove Høgh-Guldberg, ed. 2002. Safeguarding Security in the Baltic Approaches 1962-2002. Viborg: Public Information Office Joint Headquiarters NORTHEAST.
Sander-Nagashima, Johannes Berthold. 2006. Die Bundesmarine 1950 bis 1972. München: Oldenbourg Wissenschaftsverlag.