Historia y Arqueología Marítima

 

HOME

Indice Informacion Historica

THE SWEDISH NAVY

Por Adrian English, enviado en Mayo del 2012

The Royal Swedish Navy (Kungliga Svenska Marinen, or in Sweden, simply Kungliga Marinen) traces its continuous history from its foundation by Gustav Vasa in 1522 when it consisted of one large and 13 smaller sailing warships. By the time of his death, in 1560, it had grown to a strength of 17 sailing warships and 26 galleys. However, although Sweden inherited a strong tradition of seamanship from the Vikings, the Navy remained subsidiary to the Army during most of the years of the country’s imperial greatness and grossly defective design caused the sinking of the ship of the line VASA, shortly after its launching in 1628. Nevertheless Sweden was still able to muster a fleet of 26 ships of the line, (including the mighty KRONAN, which with 128 guns was one of the most powerful ships of its day) and 12 frigates, for the Battle of Öland on June 1st, 1676, during the war against an alliance of Denmark and the Netherlands.

For most of this period the Navy was divided into two major elements, the Grand Fleet, based at Karlskrona and embodying its main sea-going vessels, and the Archipelago Fleet, composed of galleys and gunboats and divided between Stockholm and Göteborg. The latter element came under the operational control of the Army and the subordination of the Navy to the Army was so strong that naval officers continued to wear spurs until the early years of the 19th century.

Whilst by the middle of the 18th century Swedish naval doctrine was already turning away from the idea of a sea-going fleet, made up of ships of the line and frigates, and towards inshore defence by a combination of fortified shore-based artillery and a large fleet of galleys and gunboats, this policy underwent a temporary reversal under King Gustav III (1746-92) and during the Russo-Swedish War of 1788-90, Sweden was still able to put together a sea-going fleet of 22 ships of the line, together with 12 frigates, whilst the Archipelago Fleet comprised 27 galleys and 236 gunboats. A high proportion of the major seagoing units of this far from insignificant force however suffered major damage at the battle of Viborg on July 3rd, 1790 and this, together with a shortage of supplies, water and ammunition combined to neutralize the Grand Fleet and to grant an apparent tactical victory to the enemy. When this became apparent, King Gustav III, who personally Commanded the combined fleet during the action, transferred his flag to the inshore fleet which had managed to preserve a total of 195 galleys and gunboats intact and by withdrawing westwards in feigned flight lured the enemy into shallow waters and inflicted a resounding defeat on the Russians at Svenskund, some 50 miles east of Helsinki, a week later, destroying a third of the Russian fleet and inflicting 9,500 casualties for the loss of less than 300 Swedish lives.

Despite the victory at Svenskund, the Swedish Navy never recovered from its losses at Viborg and although it still included approximately a dozen ships of the line and corresponding numbers of frigates and lesser sea-going vessels throughout the Napoleonic period, its days as a major deep-water fleet were over and Sweden increasingly relied on its inshore fleet for seaward defence, its galleys last being in action against the Russians in the war of 1808-09. In 1813, the year in which Sweden fought its last battle against a foreign enemy, the sea-going elements of the Navy had declined to a still not inconsiderable force of 12 ships of the line and 8 frigates, with two more of the former and three of the latter under construction.

In 1824, by which time the sea-going fleet had declined still further to 11 ships-of-the-line, 5 frigates and about a dozen corvettes, brigs and schooners, the clumsy arrangement whereby the Army exercised operational control over the inshore fleet was abolished and all fighting vessels and craft came under a unified naval Command. Two years later a new Fleet Plan called for the construction of 10 ships of the line, 10 frigates, 12 smaller sea-going vessels and 250 coastal and in-shore craft. Although four ships of the line were completed in 1830, they were already obsolescent and were destined to be almost the only elements of the 1826 Fleet Plan ever to be built and the Navy stagnated for the next half-century during which Swedish strategic thinking was dominated by the so-called “Principle of Central Defence”, which by definition largely ignored even its existence. 

FROM SAIL TO STEAM

For a country always at the forefront of technological innovation, Sweden was slow to accept the transition from sail to steam. Two steam-powered, side-wheel dispatch vessels were built during 1822-24, but these were not followed by another steam vessel until the completion of the side-wheel corvette THOR in 1840. This was followed, eight years later, by the screw corvette GEFLE, which was completed in 1848 and between 1852 and 1854 the old ship of the line KARL XIV JOHAN was converted to steam power and partly re-armed. The small screw battleship STOCKHOLM was completed, to a somewhat out-dated design, two years later but otherwise the Swedish fleet continued to be composed of progressively obsolete, wooden-hulled sailing vessels, still armed, for the most part, with smooth-bore, muzzle-loading guns.

By 1860, the effective strength of the Swedish Navy had been reduced to two two‑decker screw battleships, two screw corvettes, two screw gunboats, a side-wheel corvette and three smaller armed steamers although it still included seven totally obsolete and relatively useless small sailing ships of the line, the newest of which, the 78 gun SKANDINAVIEN, had been completed only that year, four equally obsolete sailing frigates and three sailing corvettes of similarly limited military value.

The full transition to steam did not take place until the second half of the 19th century, four 1500 ton U.S. civil war type monitors, two wooden-hulled cruisers, seven armoured and eight un-armoured gunboats being built between 1860 and 1880. In the latter year the modern and effective units of the Swedish Navy consisted of the four monitors, nine armoured and 19 un-armoured gunboats, a torpedo gunboat and seven spar torpedo boats. In addition there was still a single obsolete steam ship of the line, a steam frigate and four steam corvettes, plus a sail-powered ship of the line, five sailing corvettes and six brigs, all of which were totally useless for modern naval warfare.

The combination of the monitor type of coast defence ironclad (initially the concept of the Swede John Ericsson) with the torpedo boat and powerful fixed coastal defences, as the logical successor of the 18th century mixture of gunboat, galley and shore battery,  firmly established itself as the backbone of Swedish naval doctrine during the latter half of the 19th century and no less than 12 coast defence ships of between 3000 and 4750 tons were built over the next 25 years, together with a powerful 4300 ton armoured cruiser of advanced design, 5 torpedo gunboats (somewhat euphemistically rated as cruisers), 9 gunboats, 2 torpedo-boat-destroyers and 35 first and 14 second class torpedo boats. Launched in 1905 and intended to serve as a training cruiser in peace-time and as flag-ship of the scouting squadron in time of war, the armoured cruiser FYLGIA was a remarkable vessel which introduced the “all-big-gun” principle a year before the launch of the revolutionary British battleship DREADNOUGHT and at least ten years before it was adopted for cruisers by any of the major powers.

 WORLD WAR I

Although under the uneasy joint monarchy which prevailed from 1814 to 1906, the Norwegian Navy was, at least in theory, complementary to that of Sweden, it remained a relatively insignificant force with only 4 major warships to Sweden’s 13 and by the early 1900s the Swedish Navy, alone, was already stronger than that of any country of comparable size. By the outbreak of World War I, in 1914, a small mine-laying cruiser, the KLAS FLEMING, 8 destroyers and 10 submarines had been added to what was already a highly respectable coast defence fleet. Three impressive coast defence ships of 7300 tons, steaming at 22.5 knots and with a main armament of four 28.3 cm (11 inch) guns, plus a secondary armament of eight 15.2 cm (6 inch) guns, were also under construction, the cost of the first of them, the SVERIGE, having been raised by popular subscription although a projected fourth ship of this type was never built. The three units of the “Sverige” class were the finest ships of their type ever built by any country, resembling small and relatively fast pre‑dreadnoughts. As such, they fully merited the classification “coastal battleships” which was frequently applied to them although, together with the smaller and older coast defence ships, they continued to be classified officially as “armoured ships” throughout almost 40 years of active service. However, only the SVERIGE was completed before the end of hostilities, from which Sweden contrived to remain neutral, although two more destroyers and five additional submarines were built during the 1914-18 period, together with three general purpose patrol boats which were used mostly for mine-sweeping.

Manpower consisted of a regular cadre of between 3,500 and 4,000 plus 23,000 annual conscripts so that a total of between 15,000 and 16,000 officers and ratings, of whom approximately 7,500 belonged to the Coast Artillery, were on active service at any one time. Displaying a certain nostalgia for the old system, which placed the in-shore fleet under the control of the Army, since 1902 the Navy had been divided into two quite distinct major entities. These were the Fleet proper and its supporting units and the Coast Artillery. The latter was in fact a marine corps with responsibility for the maintenance of both fixed and mobile coastal defence artillery, infantry units for their protection and the laying, protection and maintenance of inshore minefields for which it had its own quite impressive fleet of small minelayers, patrol craft and tenders. In its present form, it derived from the Marine Regiment which had been raised in 1845 by combining the former Naval Volunteer Regiment with the Sea Artillery Regiment and was subsequently transferred to the Army in 1872. Thirty years later, with the formation of the Coast Artillery as an integral part of the Navy, this regiment, which in the interim had been stationed at Karlskrona as a fixed garrison unit, transferred back to naval control, combining with the Navy’s existing Island Defence Artillery to form a new corps of Coast Artillery. Initially, the new Coast Artillery consisted of two major units, the 1st VAXHOLMS and 2nd KARLSKRONA Regiments which respectively maintained detachments in Göteborg, and at Fårösund, on the island of Gotland. Between them these installations controlled a total of 90 fixed batteries with 334 pieces of from 25 mm to 24.0 cm calibre. The KARLSKRONA Regiment also included three batteries of mobile, horse-drawn 12.0 cm pieces and a number of light mobile batteries equipped with 57 mm quick-firing cannon and machine-guns.

Logistic support for the Fleet was provided by the main naval base and dockyard at Karlskrona, an ice-free port on the south-east coast which had been established as the headquarters of the Swedish Navy as far back as 1680. There were also major base facilities at Hårsfjärden and Muskö, near Stockholm and at Göteborg, with smaller base facilities at Fårösund, on the island of Gotland and at Härnösand, half way up the Gulf of Bothnia.

As has been noted in the previous chapter, the Swedish Navy had established an air arm in 1911, one year before the Army, with the receipt of a single Blériot Type XI monoplane, as a gift from a patriotic citizen. By 1914 however still only four aircraft were on strength- the Blériot, two Henri Farmans and a Donnet-Leveque flying boat - all operating from the naval flying school at Oscar Frederiksborg. When war broke out between the Triple Entente and the Central Powers, in August of that year, the number of aircraft had increased to eight of which six were attached to the Fleet and two to the Vaxholms fortress. The following year the naval air arm acquired a nominal organization of four reconnaissance groups of which two were to be based at Stockholm and one each at Karlskrona and Göteborg. However, although another 21 mainly reconnaissance types, made up of 11 more Henri Farmans, the majority of which were built in Sweden under licence, five locally-developed Thulin Type Gs and five Friedrichshafen FF 33s, of which three were fitted for bombing, were received over the next four years, Naval Aviation remained a small force of secondary importance with a total strength of only 27 aircraft in 1918. Despite the addition of two Friedrichshafen FF 49 and a few Heinkel S II seaplanes, plus five Avro 504 trainers during the immediate post-war period and its own active resistance, the naval air arm was incorporated into the new independent Air Force on its formation in 1926 and the Swedish Navy was to remain without any aircraft under direct Command for the next 30 years.

BETWEEN THE WARS

The drastic reduction in the German Navy arising from the Treaty of Versailles and the attrition of the Russian fleet during the Bolshevik Revolution and the civil war which followed it now left Sweden once more with the most powerful fleet in the Baltic, a position which it retained for the next decade. However, although the three coastal battleships, SVERIGE, DROTTNING VICTORIA and GUSTAF V were all completed by 1922, together with three more submarines and a pair of coastal motor boats, obtained from Italy for experimental purposes, the wave of pacifism which swept the world in the wake of the most terrible war in history ensured that the Swedish Armed Forces, like those of most other countries, entered into a period of stagnation and even retrenchment. The 50% reduction in the strength of the Army and Navy (the Air Force was not yet an independent entity) in 1925, underlined the situation, the regular cadre of the Navy, which had risen to 5,500, being cut back to 4,300 although the bulk of the reduction in total manpower was effected by the temporary halving of the liability for compulsory military training, with a corresponding reduction in the number of conscripts undergoing training at any given time. Nevertheless, the mine-laying submarine VALEN was completed in that year, together with two more experimental motor torpedo boats. The 1000 ton destroyers EHRENSKÖLD and NORDENSKJÖLD the largest built to date by the Swedish Navy, which had been laid down in 1924, were also completed in 1927, the submarines DRAKEN, GRIPEN and ULVEN being completed between 1929 and 1931. The year 1931 also saw the motorization of the mobile elements of the Coast Artillery and the following year the Swedish coast was divided into six Naval Districts: Norrland (HQ Härnösand); East Coast (HQ Stockholm); Gotland (HQ Visby); South Coast (HQ Karlskrona); Öresund (HQ Malmö); and West Coast (HQ Göteborg).

By the early 1930s it was already apparent that the utopian dreams of ever-lasting peace were an illusion. Whilst its Scandinavian neighbours continued to indulge in an ostrich-like isolationism and a state of near total disarmament, Sweden began once more to strengthen its Armed Forces.

The increased speed of the destroyers EHRENSKÖLD and NORDENSKJÖLD and of the very similar KLAS HORN and KLAS UGGLA, which followed them in 1931, ensured that the armoured training cruiser FYLGIA was no longer fast enough for her designated war-time role as flagship of the scouting flotilla and as far back as 1925 plans had been laid for her replacement. The mine-laying cruiser, KLAS FLEMING, completed in 1912, was also showing its age and unable to afford two new ships the Swedish naval authorities came up with the ingenious solution of combining the speed, armament and protection of a cruiser with full mine-laying capability. Although something similar had been tried with both the British ADVENTURE and the French PLUTON, both of these ships had sacrificed both armament and protection to speed and mine-carrying capacity. The new Swedish project attempted to produce a cruiser/mine-layer without compromising any of its combat potential.

The possibilities of air power, which had led to the formation of an independent Swedish Air Force in 1926, already had a strong hold over the minds of Swedish defence planners and a committee had recommended the construction of a very small 4500 ton aircraft carrier in 1926. However, if the Navy could not afford two new major units it certainly could not afford three and consequently the daring decision was taken to design the new cruiser, to which the name GOTLAND had been allocated, as a composite cruiser/minelayer/sea-plane carrier with a capacity for eight aircraft, or eleven in an emergency.

Whilst GOTLAND was under construction, the 29 year-old, 3700 ton coast defence ship DRISTIGHETEN was converted to a stop-gap sea-plane carrier, or more accurately a sea-plane tender, as she was only able to accommodate two aircraft on board at any one time, and served in that capacity from 1929 until 1947.

Launched in 1933 and commissioned a year later, unlike most hybrids, the GOTLAND, with a main armament of six 15.2 cm guns and six torpedo tubes, armour protection varying from 29 mm to 51 mm and the capacity to carry and lay up to 100 mines, was an almost unqualified success, apart from the fact that her top speed of 27.5 knots was still too slow to operate with the new generation of destroyers which were clocking up speeds in excess of 40 knots! However, the increasing size of the latter vessels now permitted the accommodation of a flotilla Commander and his immediate staff aboard and so the necessity of tying down a cruiser in this employment had become redundant.

Reflecting Sweden’s prevailing climatic conditions which ensured that large tracts of the Baltic, including at least 60% of the Swedish side of the Gulf of Bothnia, froze over in winter, during most of the first half of the 20th century, the sea-going elements of the Navy were organized as the “Coastal Fleet”, which existed from April to September and the “Winter Squadron” which came into existence in October and lasted until March.

By way of illustration, during the winter of 1935, the active fleet consisted of the Ist Battleship Division with the coastal battleships SVERIGE, GUSTAV V and DROTTNING VICTORIA and the multi-purpose cruiser GOTLAND; the Ist Destroyer Division with the KLAS HORN, KLAS UGGLA, EHRENSKÖLD and NORDENSKJÖLD; A Submarine Group consisting of the submarine depot ship SVEA and the Ist and IIIrd Submarine Divisions, consisting respectively of the DRAKEN and GRIPEN and the UTTERN and VALEN, (the latter pair relieved in January 1936 by the DELFINEN and NORDKAPEREN); plus the patrol craft SÖKAREN and SVEPAREN, with 14 torpedo boats and the old torpedo gunboat ÖRNEN as leader. At the same time, local defence was the responsibility of the old coast defence ships ÅRAN, TAPPERHETEN and MANLIGHETEN; the armoured cruiser FYLGIA; the destroyers RAGNAR, VIDAR, WALE and SIGURD; the submarines BÄVEREN, ILLERN, HAJEN, SÄLEN, VALROSSEN, ABBORREN and BRAXEN; the torpedo boats Nos. 5 to 9, inclusive; and the MTBs Nos. 3 and 4.

The Coastal Fleet, which came into being in April, replaced the GOTLAND (which then joined the mine-laying “cruiser” KLAS FLEMING in a Scouting Group) with the old coast defence ship OSCAR II; the IIIrd Destroyer Division, comprising the RAGNAR and the VIDAR, joining the Ist whilst the Ist and IIIrd Submarine Divisions were respectively reinforced by the ULVEN and the SPRINGAREN, the Submarine Group also acquiring the IVth Submarine Division with the UTTERN and the VALEN. The Coastal Fleet also included an air group, with the seaplane tender DRISTIGHETEN; the patrol craft JÄGAREN, KAPAREN, VÄKTAREN and POLARIS; and the tenders SJÖKAREN, SPRÄNGAREN and SVEPAREN whilst the cruiser FYLGIA undertook the annual overseas training cruise. Seamanship training within the Baltic was taken care of by the small sail training ships JARRAMAS, NAJADEN and the somewhat larger AF CHAPMAN.

The rise of a particularly obnoxious dictatorship on the southern side of the Baltic and the consequent re-armament of Germany, which made no secret of its expansionist ambitions, now occasioned an accelerated degree of re-armament in Sweden. Both the permanent cadre of the Navy and the term of conscript training were restored to their pre-1925 levels and a new construction programme was undertaken. The Navy acquired four new destroyers of the improved “Town” class between 1936 and 1939, with two more nearing completion in the latter year. Three mine-laying submarines of the “Delfinen” class were also completed in 1936/37, followed by the first three of an ultimate total of nine “Sjölejonet” class sea-going submarines which were completed between 1936 and 1939. The design of the four fast patrol vessels of the “Jägaren” class, all launched between 1932 and 1934, served as the basis of the 14 ship “Arholma” class of fleet mine-sweepers. These were excellent vessels of 365 tons with a speed of 17 knots and a main armament of two 10.5 cm (4.1 inch) guns. All of them were at an advanced stage of construction when the German invasion of Poland precipitated the outbreak of World War II.

An interesting project for a single super coastal battleship of 14,000 tons, armed with six 25.0 or 28.0 cm guns, a dual-purpose secondary armament of eight or ten 12.0 cm guns and a speed of 28 to 30 knots (in fact a small battle cruiser in all but name), which had been proposed in 1937, was replaced by one for two smaller vessels of 7150 tons, armed with four 25.0 and four 12.0 cm guns and a top speed of 20 knots. Although their construction was authorized by Parliament in January 1939, the pressing need for the construction of light craft took precedence and ultimately these ships were never built.

 WORLD WAR II

In September 1939 the Swedish Navy consisted of the three “Sverige” class coastal battleships, eight older and smaller coast defence ships, two cruisers, an elderly ocean-going minelayer, euphemistically classed as a mine-laying cruiser, eight modern and eight older destroyers, six new and ten older submarines, four patrol vessels, two new motor torpedo boats and six coastal mine-sweepers. Two destroyers, six submarines and 14 fleet mine-sweepers were completing whilst 24 old torpedo boats, all de‑rated to patrol craft since 1928, six armed whale-catchers, six other patrol craft and three coastal minelayers were operated by the Coast Artillery.

Not all of these were available for service however as several major units, notably the coastal battleship SVERIGE and the cruiser FYLGIA, were undergoing refits or modernization. On the eve of World War II the Coastal Fleet therefore consisted of the coastal battleships GUSTAV V, and DROTTNING VICTORIA; the cruiser GOTLAND; the destroyers EHRENSKÖLD, KLAS HORN, KLAS UGGLA, STOCKHOLM, GÖTEBORG and MALMÖ; the submarines SJÖLEJONET, SJÖBJÖRNEN, SPRINGAREN, DELFINEN, GRIPEN and ULVEN with the submarine depot ship SVEA; the patrol vessel SNAPPHANEN; the seaplane tender DRISTIGHETEN; and the auxiliary vessels SJÖKAREN, SVEPAREN and SPRÄNGAREN. Of the remaining major vessels, the coast defence ship OSCAR II, the old destroyer VIDAR and the submarines ILLERN, UTTERN and BÄVERN were assigned to the immediate defence of the South Coast Naval District, with its HQ at Karlskrona; the coast defence ships ÅRAN and TAPPERHETEN and the destroyers MUNIN and HUGIN constituted the major sea-going units of the East Coast Naval District, with its HQ at Stockholm; whilst the coast defence ship MANLIGHETEN, the old destroyers WRANGEL and WACHTMEISTER and the submarines HÄJEN, SÄLEN and VALROSSEN provided thebackbone of the seaward defence of the West Coast Marine District, with its HQ at Göteborg. Although the Gotland Naval District could count on the old destroyers RAGNAR and SIGURD for its seaward defence, the Norrland and Öresund Marine Districts had to rely on minor patrol craft and mine-sweepers for their’s.

The Navy having lost its own air arm, air support was provided by the 2nd ROSLAGENS Wing of the Air Force (F 2), based at Hägernäs. This consisted of three squadrons. The first of these, equipped with Heinkel HE 115 torpedo bombers, was attached to the seaplane tender DRISTIGHETEN; the second, equipped with Heinkel HE 5s, was divided between the West and South Coast Naval Districts; and the third, with Hawker Ospreys, was based aboard the cruiser GOTLAND.

The Winter War of 1939/40, when the Soviet Union invaded Finland, united the Swedish people as never before in their resolve to protect their sovereignty and further measures were taken to strengthen the Navy. Two destroyers, two large torpedo boats and four motor torpedo boats were purchased from Italy during March 1940. The seizure of these vessels by the British Government, by direct personal order of Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, at Skaalefjord in the Faroe Islands during their delivery voyage, in June of that year, without reason and in blatant violation of International Law, created a major crisis between the British and Swedish Governments and after strong diplomatic protests they were released ten days later to complete their voyage to Sweden without further incident. Four large torpedo boats, based on the design of the two Italian vessels, which were re-named ROMULUS and REMUS, were laid down towards the end of 1940 and completed in 1942 as the “Mode” class. All six of these vessels were officially rated as “coastal destroyers” and spent the remainder of the war period escorting coastal shipping.

The deteriorating international situation following the German invasions of Denmark, Norway, the Netherlands and Belgium and the subsequent fall of France, in June 1940, prompted the requisitioning of large numbers of merchant vessels to supplement the existing elements of the Swedish Navy. In all, five large merchant ships were impressed into naval service as auxiliary cruisers, together with eight smaller vessels which were designated auxiliary gunboats and a total of 113 fishing boats and other small craft of which 44 served as auxiliary patrol craft and 69 as auxiliary mine-sweepers.

The German invasion of the Low Countries, in May 1940, also indirectly forced the cancellation of the construction of the last two Swedish coast defence battleships and their replacement with a project for the construction of two large light cruisers. To a great extent this was influenced by the impossibility of the delivery of the armaments for the two Dutch “Kijkduin” class light cruisers DE RUYTER and DE ZEVEN PROVICIEN which were then under construction and which left Bofors with four triple and four twin 152 mm guns on their hands. It may be claimed therefore that the Swedish cruiser project was largely drafted around their armament and owed its genesis to the availability of suitable guns! Interestingly, although the Swedish ships used only two of the four triple mountings, the Dutch ships were finally completed, in 1953, with a revised armament mounted in four twin turrets and also built by Bofors.

The Swedish ship-building industry now went into high gear, a new class of nine unnamed coastal submarines being laid down from 1940 onwards as the “U” class, together with 31 motor torpedo boats, in two classes, some of which reached speeds in excess of 52 knots. The construction of 24 inshore mine-sweepers and ten additional patrol boats for the Coast Artillery also commenced, the cruiser FYLGIA completed a major re-construction and the anti-aircraft armament of all major surface units was improved and augmented.

The Swedish Navy suffered its worst disaster in modern times when on September 17th, 1941, a torpedo explosion aboard the destroyer GÖTEBORG caused the sinking of the KLAS HORN and KLAS UGGLA, moored alongside at Hårsfjärden naval base, Stockholm and the deaths of 33 men with 17 more injured. Although both the GÖTEBORG and the KLAS HORN were subsequently raised and repaired, the GÖTEBORG exceeding 40 knots on trials, this disaster led to the voting of funds for two replacement vessels, the first pair of the “Visby” or “Improved Town” class destroyers being laid down in 1942 and completed within a year, to be followed immediately by a pair of sister ships. Also acquired in 1943 was the ÄLVSNABBEN, a mercantile hull of 4250 tons displacement which was bought incomplete and converted as an auxiliary cruiser/minelayer with an armament of four 15.2 cm guns.

During 1942 the Coast Artillery had been re-organized into five coast defence districts with full regiments based at Vaxholm, Karlskrona and Göteborg, a “corps” on the island of Gotland and an independent detachment, based at Härnösand. Each district also directly controlled a number of coastal minelayers, inshore mine-sweepers and patrol craft.

By 1943 Sweden had reached its highest stage of military readiness for two centuries. On April 16th of that year however the Swedish Navy suffered its second most serious loss of the World War II period when the submarine ULVEN was lost with its entire crew of 33 when it struck a German mine whilst on diving exercises off Göteborg.

Sweden ended the World War II period, during which once again its military power, not least that of the Navy, had preserved its neutrality, with an impressive fleet of 3 coastal battleships, 4 coast defence ships, 4 cruisers, 27 destroyers and torpedo boats, 24 submarines, 29 MTBs, 10 patrol vessels, 2 large minelayers, 14 fleet and 26 coastal mine-sweepers, plus numerous auxiliary vessels and service craft. The Coast Artillery, with five regiments, included a total of 109 fixed and 9 mobile batteries.

Despite the continuing emergency, some of the older material, including the coast defence ships NJORD, THOR, ODEN and GÖTA; the submarines of the “Hajen” and “Bävern” classes; the mine-laying submarine VALEN; and four of the old torpedo boats, had been scrapped during the latter part of the war period.  During the war years, due to the impossibility of acquiring suitable modern aircraft, the cruiser GOTLAND had also exchanged her aircraft carrying capability for an immensely improved anti-aircraft armament whilst the mine-laying “cruiser” KLAS FLEMING received the world’s first “CODAG” combined diesel and gas-turbine engines in exchange for her original steam turbines. The modernization of the latter vessel was so successful that it continued in service until 1959. Reserve mobilization during the war period had also increased the professional cadre of the Navy to 8,000, the total indicated manpower, including conscripts, being therefore of the order of 23,000 at any given time.

 THE COLD WAR PERIOD

Unlike most other western countries, Sweden did not run down its military strength with the end of World War II, something which proved prescient in the context of the “Cold War” which rapidly developed between East and West.

The two projected cruisers, TRE KRONOR and GÖTA LEJON, had been laid down in 1943, together with the destroyers ÖLAND and UPPLAND. The latter were however not completed until 1945 and 1946, respectively, being followed by the two cruisers in 1947. The  TRE KRONOR and GÖTA LEJON were magnificent vessels of 8200 tons displacement and a speed of 33 knots, over 25% of their weight being accounted for by protection and the seven 152 mm (6 inch) guns, in one triple and two twin turrets, which constituted their superficially light main armament, were fully automatic. At 1880 tons the destroyers were also almost twice the displacement of all previous Swedish destroyers, had an all automatic main armament of two twin 12.0 cm (4.7 inch) guns and carried light armour over their Command and machinery spaces. Although slower than previous Swedish destroyers, they still made a highly respectable 35 knots.

Most of the remaining older material was disposed of in the immediate post war years. First to go were the surviving World War I vintage destroyers, the even older torpedo boats, the Italian-built destroyers PSILANDER and PUKE, which had never been satisfactory, and the “Draken” class submarines. These were followed by the remaining coast defence ships although the three “Sverige” class coastal battleships soldiered on into the 1950s, the SVERIGE itself being withdrawn from service in 1953, followed by the GUSTAF V and DROTTNING VICTORIA, together with the old cruiser FYLGIA, four years later.

The strength of the modern Swedish Navy had peaked in the mid 1950s when it still included 3 coastal battleships, 4 cruisers, 15 destroyers, 6 destroyer-escorts, 24 submarines, 3 minelayers, 18 sea-going and 24 coastal mine-sweepers, 24 MTBs and 24 patrol craft. During this period the fleet was organized on the basis of three task forces and manpower consisted of a permanent cadre of 8,000 with approximately 5,500 conscripts at any given time. The Coast Artillery had contracted slightly to 95 fixed and 7 mobile batteries. In 1957 this element organized its first Coast Ranger units.

Destroyer and submarine construction continued. Two 2600 ton super-destroyers, HALLAND and SMÅLAND, laid down in 1951, were completed in 1955 and 1956, respectively. These were the first western destroyers designed to carry a surface‑to‑surface missile armament (the locally-developed Bofors Rb-08). Although two projected sister-ships were never built, two very similar vessels were built for Colombia, being the largest Swedish naval vessels ever built for export. The two “Halland” class vessels were followed by the four similar but slightly smaller “Östergötland” class vessels. Subsequent events were however to determine that these were the last Swedish destroyers to be built.

The completion of the eight modern destroyers, together with the withdrawal from service of the coastal battleships, also occasioned a change in the operational philosophy of the Swedish Navy. Whereas previously the country’s naval defence had relied on a forward submarine screen, a mobile coastal defence, based on the Coastal Fleet, consisting of the three “Sverige” class coastal battleships, a cruiser for reconnaissance and a destroyer screen, primarily for anti-submarine defence and a final in-shore defence based on minefields, protected by coastal craft and the batteries of the Coast Artillery, the Coastal Fleet was now divided into two squadrons, each based on one of the modern cruisers, escorted by four destroyers and eight MTBs.

Post war submarine construction had begun with the six boat “Hajen” class, which were laid down between 1953 and 1955 and completed during 1957/60. At 720 tons surface displacement they were the largest Swedish submarines to be built to date. Their size however was exceeded by the six 770 ton boats of the “Draken” class, laid down between 1957 and 1960 and completed during 1961/62. A dozen large, fast attack craft of the “Plejad” class were also built between 1951 and 1957. The 1950s also saw the construction of the six coastal mine-sweepers of the “Han” class.

Under the increasing threat of nuclear war, which promised to be almost as destructive to non-belligerents as to belligerents, Sweden also began an ambitious programme of shelter construction, shelters of sufficient strength to resist even a direct hit by nuclear weapons being built for all of its ships of destroyer size and below in caves along the coastline, most of the repair and maintenance facilities of the Muskö naval dockyard being now located in such shelters.

In 1958, ironically the year in which the latest of a series of five-year defence plans involving the drastic down-sizing of the Swedish Armed Forces began, including the phased withdrawal of most of its major surface units, without replacement, the Navy re-established a small aviation element with the acquisition of four Vertol 44K helicopters which it designated Hkp-1.

The emphasis was now on submarines, anti-submarine vessels and fast attack craft. The destroyers of the “Visby” class, together with the earlier MALMÖ and KARLSKRONA and the “Mode” class torpedo boats were all re-classified as frigates between 1961 and 1968 (followed by the two “Ölands” in 1975) all undergoing varying degrees of modification, principally aimed at an increase in both ASW and A/A capabilities at the expense of anti-surface gun and torpedo power. Five 1125 ton submarines of advanced design were also built between 1965 and 1968, together with six “Spica” class torpedo-armed fast attack craft. Total naval manpower during this period averaged 15,200. The naval air arm had also, by this time expanded considerably, acquiring ten examples apiece of the Hkp-2 (AS.315 Alouette II) and the Hkp-5 (Agusta Bell 205) helicopter.

In accordance with the 1958 Defence Plan, the Navy had already begun to contract with the withdrawal from service of the cruisers GOTLAND and TRE KRONOR in 1960 and 1964 respectively. This was followed by the retirement of the early “Town” class destroyers, the “Mode” class frigates and the first four “U” class submarines, the remaining five being successfully re-built as hunter-killer submarines during 1962-64 and given the names ABBORREN, GÄDDAN, LAXEN, MAKRILLEN, FORELLEN and SIKEN to serve for another eight to 12 years. In 1960 the mine-sweeping patrol vessel SNAPPHANEN was sold to Guatemala as the nucleus of that country’s new Navy which was set up with Swedish training assistance.

Events in the eastern Mediterranean were however to have a profound impact on the Swedish Navy when the destruction of the Israeli destroyer ELATH by an SSM, during the “Six Day” Arab-Israeli War of 1967, dramatically demonstrated the vulnerability of major surface warships to the guided missile. Sweden was not alone in over-estimating the revolution in naval warfare brought about by the surface-to-surface missile but an ever economy-minded government seized on the destruction of the ELATH to justify the accelerated disposal of almost all the Navy’s remaining major surface combatants and from then on, the decline of the Swedish Navy, as a major deep-water force, was precipitate.

 FROM DEEP-WATER TO COASTAL FLEET ... AND HALF-WAY BACK

Although the 2500 ton minelayer ÄLVSBORG was completed in 1969, followed by the similar VISBORG, five years later, the sole remaining cruiser, the GÖTA LEJON, was sold to Chile in 1971, the three “Neptun” class submarines also being scrapped in the same year. Whilst three “Näcken” class submarines were laid down in 1976, for completion in 1980, and the construction of twelve “Spica II” and seventeen “Hugin” class torpedo-armed fast attack craft commenced, the 1970s saw the disappearance of both the “Öland” and the remaining “Town” class destroyers, together with last of the “U” class submarines and of most of the “Plejad” class fast attack craft.

By the early 1980s the combat strength of the Swedish Navy had been reduced to only six destroyers, four of which were in reserve, two frigates, 14 submarines, 17 missile and 18 torpedo fast attack craft; four old MTBs; six large patrol craft; three large minelayers (one of them used as a sea-going training ship and another as a submarine depot ship); 12 coastal and 18 inshore mine-sweepers. In addition, the Coast Artillery, the five regiments of which had contracted to include a total of only 80 fixed batteries, now contained 13 mobile batteries, plus coast ranger units and manned 27 coastal patrol craft; nine coastal minelayers; 36 very small minelayers’ nine LCMs and 135 smaller landing craft.

Four of the six remaining destroyers and both frigates were deleted in 1982, followed by the remaining two destroyers in 1984 and 1985, leaving Sweden with the three large minelayers as its only major seagoing surface vessels and a surface fleet which was otherwise composed of fast attack craft, mine-sweepers and patrol craft and which lacked any significant anti-submarine warfare capability.

In spite of very adverse political conditions, the Navy nevertheless strove successfully to maintain its tradition of technological primacy. Between 1980 and 1983 the twelve fast attack craft of the “Spica II” class, which had already excited considerable foreign interest and as a result enjoyed some degree of success on the export market with the completion of four modified versions for Malaysia in 1979 and were still less than ten years old, underwent a drastic modernization involving the installation of the excellent locally-developed RBS-15 surface-to-surface missile system, new sensors and electronic counter-measures. Notwithstanding the limitations inherent in their size, these vessels, each of which had an offensive capability greater than that of the “Sverige” class coastal battleships, were capable of operation anywhere in the Baltic and whilst it still lacked major surface combatants, this programme restored the surface-to-surface combat capabilities of the Swedish Navy to an almost unprecedented level.

The lack of an effective ASW capacity nevertheless remained and was painfully demonstrated by the frequent incursions of foreign submarines into Swedish territorial waters, culminating in the famous “Whiskey on the Rocks” incident in October 1981 when the Soviet “Whiskey” class submarine S-137 ran aground and was stranded at the mouth of the entrance to Sweden’s main naval base at Karlskrona. No fewer than 40 recorded incursions by foreign submarines occurred during the following year and in an effort to provide a relatively cheap anti-submarine warfare capability, two classes, made up respectively of two and four so-called “coastal corvettes”, were built during the mid 1980s and early 1990s. Although quite remarkable craft, which manage to combine the armament and sensors of much larger vessels, including many rated as frigates and even destroyers in other navies, in hulls in the 300 to 400 ton range, these remain, in effect, enlarged missile boats, with limited sea-keeping capacity and very low resistance to damage although it may be argued that the former limitation is of relatively minor importance in the context of their most likely area of operations, within the relatively limited waters of the Baltic.

The 1980s had also seen the retirement from service of the “Hajen” and the “Draken” class submarines leaving a submarine flotilla of only 12 boats by 1990. As we have already seen, the down-sizing of the Navy had not however removed Sweden’s tradition of technological innovation and with the conversion of the NÄCKEN to air-independent propulsion, by the installation of an experimental Stirling engine in 1988, one of these was the construction of the world’s most powerful non-nuclear submarine. Underlining this continuing dedication to technical innovation, the experimental stealth-configured patrol vessel SMYGE was completed in 1991 to serve as the prototype for a series of multi-purpose stealth corvettes the design of which was to approach the borders of science fiction.

 THE NAVY IN THE LATE 1990s

By the mid 1990s, although the Swedish Navy was a much leaner force than in its hey-day, it still remained a formidable and extremely modern one with six so-called  “coastal corvettes”; 22 smaller missile attack craft; 12 submarines; four patrol craft; seven mine-hunters and 14 inshore mine-sweepers. With the mine-layer ÄLVSBORG sold to Chile in 1996, its only major surface units were the two remaining large mine-layers, the VISBORG, which served as flagship of the Coastal Fleet and the CARLSKRONA which had replaced the veteran ÄLVSNABBEN as sea-going training ship in 1982. Support craft included the 1400 ton intelligence-collection ship ORION, the 5600 ton submarine rescue and salvage vessel BELOS, the mine-counter-measures support ships UTÖ and SKREDSVIK, three torpedo and missile recovery craft, four sono-buoy monitoring boats, two small sail training ships, two small oil tankers, a water tanker and six ice-breaking tugs, in addition to numerous small harbour service craft.

The  Coast Artillery, which remained an important part of the Navy, manned a not inconsiderable fleet consisting of 24 inshore patrol craft, a small minelayer, eight mine planters and 48 mine-laying launches plus four LCMs, 117 smaller landing craft, 82 raiding craft and 32 “fighting boats”, the latter being heavily-armed, fast launches which can each carry up to 20 troops.

The Navy also manned eight ice-breakers of between 1200 and 7900 tons, a 2000 ton surveying vessel and two inshore surveying craft which nominally belonged to the National Shipping and Navigation Administration (Statens Sjöfartsverket). In war time all of these would become part of the Navy and the ice-breakers carried a light anti-aircraft armament, even in peace time, and were fitted for mine-laying.

The future also looked bright. The frequent incursions of foreign, presumably Soviet, submarines into Swedish waters, which had not ceased with the demise of the Soviet Union, finally had convinced the Swedish Government that larger ASW platforms than the existing “coastal corvettes” were necessary and after five years of trials with the experimental vessel SMYGE the first pair of larger, stealth-configured, multi-role “YS 2000” class corvettes was under construction, with two more vessels of this type on order and the possibility of the construction of at least two more. Three “Gotland” class submarines, of the advanced air-independent design pioneered by the experimental NÄCKEN, were also under construction in addition to four “Styrsö” class mine warfare vessels with a subsidiary ASW capability. Studies for an even more advanced type of submarine, the “Submarine 2000”, were in progress as part of the joint “Viking” programme, in collaboration with the Danish and Norwegian Navies. Amongst other innovations, it was expected that these would be stealth-configured; would have air-independent Stirling engines, probably as their primary means of propulsion; and would replace the conventional optical periscope with a remote television camera.

The Navy had a cadre of 3,378 professional officers and 2,194 civilian employees, plus 4,300 conscripts undergoing basic training. There were also 1,605 highly-trained reserve officers and approximately 1,000 reserve conscripts underwent refresher training each year. On mobilization, it would now however number only about 50,000 rather than the 80,000 of less than ten years previously. Operationally, it was divided into two surface attack flotillas, one submarine group and two mine counter-measures flotillas, two coast artillery brigades, three naval coast defence brigades and a coast defence group, plus three ASW helicopter squadrons.

The Navy’s Northern and Eastern Commands corresponded to the equivalent Joint Defence Command Regions. However, it divided the Southern Defence Command Region into Southern and Western Naval Commands and the Öresund Naval District.

Always conscious of the defensive value of minefields, protected by shore-based artillery, in the conditions prevailing along much of its extensive coast-line, Sweden had been strengthening its coast artillery forces whilst most other countries had been running down or even totally abolishing theirs. The Coast Artillery had a professional cadre of 1,100 officers and specialists and trained 2,800 conscripts each year. It was organized into the 2nd Coast Artillery Brigade, which was in turn based on the 1st VAXHOLM Coast Artillery Regiment; the 4th Coast Artillery Brigade, based on the 2nd KARLSKRONA Coast Artillery Regiment; the FÅRÖSUNDS Naval Brigade, based on the 3rd GOTLANDS Coast Artillery Regiment; the GÖTEBORG Naval Brigade, based on the 4th ELVSBORG Coast Artillery Regiment; the ROSLAGENS Naval Brigade; the SÖDERTÖRNS Naval Brigade and the HÄRNÖSANDS Naval Group, the latter being based on the 5th HÄRNÖSANDS  Coast Artillery Regiment. Together these included 12 coast defence battalions, with 45 fixed artillery and surface-to-surface missile batteries, 3 air defence companies, 50 anti-aircraft sections, 3 mobile coast artillery and 6 amphibious battalions, each with coastal ranger and amphibious assault elements, plus a heavy coast missile battery and 6 inshore mine-laying detachments. The Mobile Coast Artillery Battalions numbered 750 men and women, each with eight 12 cm guns in two batteries. The Amphibious Battalions each numbered 800 on mobilization. The Coastal Missile Battery numbered 200 with six mobile units, each of four truck-mounted RBS-15 SSMs. Each naval base also had a security company of 120 persons plus 12 man-and-dog units. Three naval logistics battalions, based at Göteborg, Muskö and Karlskrona, provided mobile logistic back-up for these units and for the elements of the fleet which would be dispersed in case of emergency. There were also 17 containerized, air-portable, mobile naval hospitals and 12 smaller mobile aid stations. In addition to the amphibious material already mentioned, major equipment included 15.2 cm coastal guns of various types, 12 cm m/70, 10.5 cm m/50 and 7.5 cm m/57 guns, all in fixed emplacements, plus 24 mobile 12 cm m/80 guns, RBS-17 light and RBS-15 heavy SSMs and over 100 40 mm m/48 radar controlled anti-aircraft guns.

Naval Aviation had a peace-time personnel strength of 350 and operated seven Hkp‑4C (Boeing-Vertol 107), seven Hkp-4D (Kawasaki-Vertol KV-107/II-5) and seven Hkp‑6B (Agusta-Bell 206A) helicopters plus a single example of the Tp-89 (CASA 212-200) and two Tp-54 (Piper PA-31-350) fixed wing aircraft. These were divided between 11. Helikopterdivisionen, at Berga (Stockholm); 12. Helikopterdivisionen, at Säve (Göteborg); and 13 Helikopterdivisionen, at Ronneby; the single CASA Aviocar being operated by  11. Helikopterdivisionen and the Piper Navajos being used on liaison duties outside the squadron organization.

Naval conscripts served an initial period of basic training which varied from 250 to 456 days, according to specialization. Conscripts who aspired to become Squad and Platoon leaders served from 315 to 526 days basic training, respectively. Unlike the Army, the Navy had no Company-leader level conscripts. During their period of reserve service, all three classes served for a total of 240 days of refresher training. Of this, a total of not more than 34 days total refresher training might be served in up to two periods during any single calendar year.

As in the Army, aspiring officers were required to serve initially as ordinary conscripts for a basic training period of 360 to 526 days. Subject to its satisfactory completion, this period of preliminary training was followed by a two year course at the Officer Cadet School. On satisfactory completion of this the rank of Ensign was reached. After an additional two years of practical service the Ensign was promoted to the rank of Sub-Lieutenant. After a further 18 months at the tri-service Armed Forces Academy at Karlberg, followed in turn by an additional year of practical service, the Sub-Lieutenant reached the rank of full Lieutenant. A further ten months academic and a year of practical training had to be served before eligibility for promotion to Lieutenant Commander (or Major in the Marines). Further promotion required the completion of a two year course at one of the institutes of higher military education, such as the National Defence College, followed by at least another year of practical experience. Reserve officers reached the rank of Ensign after completion of their conscript service, followed by a one year intensive course at the Karlberg Armed Forces Academy.

 DEFENCE RESOLUTIONS 1997, 2000 AND 2004

Although its fleet was scheduled for still further reduction in the over-all number of its major units (from 40 to 24 surface combatants and from 12 to 9 submarines) under Defence Plan ’97, the Navy seemed set to come out best of all three armed forces from the latest proposed down-sizing operation. The folly of the total abandonment of major surface vessels, particularly in the context of an increasing commitment to ASW warfare, had been so painfully apparent that it had already been officially realized and with the advent of the new YS 2000 “Visby” series of multi-purpose stealth corvettes, of which six were by now either building or on order, the Swedish Navy would regain a real sea-going capability. Likewise, in the A-19 “Gotland” class, the reduced nine‑boat submarine fleet would contain the world’s most advanced non-nuclear submarines and the YSB series of mine-warfare vessels would also have a considerable patrol and ASW potential. The MATAK Command and control system was being introduced together with the SESYM Command and control system for the existing “Göteborg” class corvettes. The six most modern of the “Spica II” class missile attack craft were undergoing further modernization to allow them to continue in service into the first decade of the 21st century and the eight most recently built of the “Hugin” class had also undergone an upgrade to form a sub-type now officially designated as the “Kaparen” class. Three new types of ASW torpedo, the Type 44, 45 and 46 had also been introduced, together with the Type “M” mine.

Under Defence Plan ‘97, the Coast Artillery was scheduled to lose three of its five Regiments with the disbandment of the 3rd, 4th and 5th Regiments at Fårösund, Göteborg/Frölunda and Härnösand respectively, and gradually all fixed coastal batteries were to be phased out to leave a force of two mobile Brigades plus four amphibious battalions. As in the case of the Army, the politicians also decided to tinker with this proposal, but in a constructive sense, somewhat surprisingly retaining the 3rd and 4th Coast Artillery Regiments at Fårösund and Göteborg. This force, which like the Army had hoped to compensate for quantitive reduction by qualitative improvement, must have felt a certain relief that the proposed reductions were to be less than was feared and was introducing both the semi-static Rb-15KA surface-to-surface missile and the STARKA S/P surface-to-air missile system, mounted on the Lvrb chassis. It was also introducing the RBS-17 HELLFIRE tripod-launched SSM system and was evaluating the German PzH 155 mm S/P howitzer for the mobile coast defence role whilst its amphibious elements were receiving a new range of fast patrol/assault craft.

Naval Aviation was threatened with the loss of one of its three helicopter squadrons and was expected to phase out its remaining Hkp 6 (Bell 206) aircraft by the turn of the century. In partial compensation, a long-overdue replacement for the Hkp 4 (KV‑107) in the ASW role was promised for the year 2001. However, with the formation of the new tri-service Armed Forces Helicopter Wing, in 1998, the Navy once again lost direct control of its aviation element although two of the four battalions of the new organization were predominantly naval manned, the 2nd SVEA Helicopter Battalion, with its HQ at Berga, being based on the 11th Naval Helicopter Squadron whilst the 12th and 13th Naval Helicopter Squadrons formed the major part of the 3rd GÖTA Helicopter Battalion, based at Ronneby.

Like the Army, the Navy was also rationalizing the number of its training establishments. As a result of this exercise, the Karlskrona Naval Schools were to be disbanded and all naval training was to be concentrated at Hårsfjärden.

Defence Resolution 2000, which was introduced within the originally proposed life-time of Defence Plan ’97, envisaged the further reduction of the submarine fleet to five boats and ultimately the scrapping of all fast attack craft to reduce the Navy’s main surface combat force to twelve corvettes with the completion of the last of the “Visby” class of stealth corvettes. This was scheduled to take place by 2007 with the first “Visby”, the name-ship of the class, which was launched at the end of 2000, due to enter service in 2003. Both the “Stockholm” and “Göteborg” class corvettes, which were expected to remain in service until 2012 in the case of the former and 2020 in that of the latter, would ultimately be replaced by vessels of an enlarged “Visby” type. Although still only at the early project stage, indications were that these would have a length of approximately 110 metres as against the 73 metres of the “Visbys” to give them the sea-keeping qualities and endurance to enable them to participate in overseas UN and Partnership for Peace peace-keeping operations. In the meantime, both the “Stockholm” and “Göteborg” classes were to undergo an extensive refit amounting to almost complete re-construction, the emphasis being on the improvement of their “stealth” characteristics. Design studies were also proceeding on the new tri-partite “Viking” submarine which was being developed with the collaboration of Denmark and Norway whilst Finland had also expressed an interest in the end-product. The initial Swedish requirement in this respect would be two boats to replace the two modified units of the “Västergötland” class which together with the three new “Gotlands” would make up the Swedish Navy’s reduced submarine force.

The manpower strength of the Navy was to be further reduced to about 65% of its current level of approximately 3400 active and 2500 reserve officers and the 5000 conscripts in service at any one time of which 4300 constituted the annual national service intake and the remainder personnel undergoing refresher training. The number of civilian staff would also be cut to about 55% of its current level of 1900. Mobilization strength would thus be a reduced to a still impressive total of approximately 47,000.

As a first step towards the implementation of Defence Resolution 2000, from July 1st, 2000 the major seagoing elements of the Navy were reorganized into four Flotillas: 1st Submarine, 2nd and 3rd Surface Combat and 4th Mine Warfare.

Of these, the 1st Submarine Flotilla, with its HQ at Hårsfjärden, was effectively the former Submarine Group with two Squadrons: the 1st (based at Berga), made up of the four “Västergötland” class boats, two of which were scheduled for scrapping in the medium term, whilst the remaining pair were to be upgraded with air‑independent Stirling engines; and the 2nd (based at Karlskrona) which consisted of the three new “Gotlands”. The Flotilla also included the submarine salvage ship BELOS and a Torpedo Recovery Squadron comprising the torpedo recovery vessels PINGVINEN and PELIKANEN.

The 2nd Surface Combat Flotilla (HQ Muskö) was, in turn, made up of the 20th Corvette Squadron, with the first four “Göteborg” class vessels; the 21st Missile Boat Squadron, with three “Norrköping” (modernized “Spica” II) class craft; and the 23rd Fast Patrol Boat Squadron, with four “Kaparen” (modified “Hugin”) class craft, plus the minelayer VISBORG as command and logistic support ship. By the end of 2004 all the “Norrköping” and “Kaparen” class were scheduled to be withdrawn and replaced by four “Visby” class corvettes, leaving the Flotilla with six corvettes and a command and support ship.

For its part, the 3rd Surface Combat Flotilla (HQ Karlskrona) consisted of the 31st Corvette Squadron, with the two vessels of the “Stockholm” class; the 34th Missile Boat Squadron, with three “Norrköping” class craft; the 36th Fast Patrol Boat Squadron, with four “Kaparen” class craft; and the 18th Fast patrol Boat Squadron, with the four remaining unmodified “Hugin” class craft, plus the command and support vessel TROSSÖ. The 18th Fast patrol Boat Squadron,  based at Göteborg, was scheduled for disbandment on July 1st, 2001 after which date no major combat units would be permanently stationed on the west coast although elements of the 3rd Surface Combat Flotilla would continue to be deployed there on an ad hoc basis.  By the end of 2007 all the “Norrköping” and “Kaparen” class were scheduled to be withdrawn and replaced by two “Visby” class corvettes to leave the 3rd Flotilla with a similar organization to that of the 2nd.

The 4th Mine Warfare Flotilla (HQ Hårsfjärden) brought all mine-warfare vessels under its umbrella and was therefore now numerically the largest element in the Navy’s seagoing forces. It consisted of the 41st and 42nd Mine Clearance Squadrons; the un-numbered Mine Clearance Diving and Training Squadrons; and the experimental vessel URD.

The 41st Mine Clearance Squadron, based at Karlskrona, was made up of the 411th and 412th Mine Clearance Divisions, which consisted respectively of a pair of “Landsort” and a pair of “Styrsö” class mine-sweeper/hunters; plus the 416th Sonar Buoy Division, with the sono-buoy vessels SVÄRTEN and VIGGEN; and the depot ship GÅLÖ.

The 42nd Mine Clearance Squadron comprised the 421st and 422nd Mine Clearance Divisions, similarly equipped to the 411th and 412th and based respectively at Muskö and Berga; plus the 426th Sonar Buoy Division, which consisted of the sonar buoy vessels EJDERN and KRICKAN; and the depot ship UTÖ, based at Hårsfjärden.

Directly subordinate to Flotilla HQ were the Mine Clearance Diving Squadron, based at Skredsvik, north of Göteborg and the Training Squadron, based at Berga. The former of these consisted of the diver tenders DÄMMAN, HISSINGEN, BLACKEN and GALTEN plus the diving depot ship SKREDSVIK.  The Training Squadron, which was formerly numbered 121, consisted of the mine-layer/training ship CARLSKRONA; the coastal minesweepers NÄMDÖ, M20, M21, M22, M23, M24 and M25, the patrol boats TAPPER, RAPP and STOLT and the experimental vessel URD. Although engaged in quite long-distance training cruises, the small sail training ships GLADAN and FALKEN did not form part of the Training Squadron and were attached, as tenders, to the Naval Schools at Berga and Karlskrona.

Outside the flotilla organization and directly subordinate to Naval Tactical HQ were the signals-intelligence ship ORION; the research vessels ALTAIR and SKAGERRAK; and the stealth research vessel SMYGE.

Following Defence Resolution 2000, the Coastal Fleet now had two major base commands: East Coast and South Coast for its logistic support.

The East Coast Base Command had its Head Quarters at Muskö, to the south of Stockholm and was responsible for the support of naval operations along the Swedish coast from Haparanda, just inside the frontier with Finland, in the North, via the Stockholm base complex and the island of Gotland to Västervik, on the south-east coast. The Stockholm base complex included the largely administrative and training installations at Hårsfjärden (which also accommodated Naval HQ) and the operational bases of Muskö and Berga. Of these, the Muskö naval base, which had three dry docks, was particularly interesting in so far as most of its repair and maintenance installations were located in NBC proof underground shelters, excavated from the native rock.

The South Coast Base Command had its Head Quarters at Karlskrona and covered the largely ice-free south-eastern, southern and west coasts from Västervik to the Norwegian frontier, including the naval bases of Karlskrona, Malmö and Göteborg. Karlskrona was Sweden’s major naval base. It had six dry docks and extensive shipbuilding, repair and maintenance facilities. The base facilities at Göteborg and Malmö were relatively minor although the latter adjoined Sweden’s last functioning submarine construction facility.

Each Base Command comprised an administrative head quarters, a staff company, a base battalion, a seaward defence battalion and a variable number of medical and training units. Each naval base also controlled a number of inshore patrol, auxiliary and service craft. At the time of writing, these included four ASW patrol craft; eight small transports; an ammunition transport; two small oil tankers; and five harbour tugs.

Since July 1st, 2000, the Coast Artillery had become the Marine Corps (Amfibiekåren), reflecting the change in emphasis on its operational capability. With the suppression of the 5th HÄRNÖSANDS Coast Artillery Regiment, under Defence Plan’97 and of the 2nd KARLSKRONA Coast Artillery Regiment, under Defence Resolution 2000, followed by the conversion of the former 1st VAXHOLMS and 4th ÄLVSBORGS Coast Artillery Regiments to Amphibious Regiments of the same name and numerical designation, this force had been reduced to two Amphibious and one Coast Artillery Regiments. Of these, the 3rd GOTLANDS Coast Artillery Regiment (HQ Fårösund) was also scheduled for disbandment at some indeterminate future date but in the interim was the last Swedish Coast Artillery Regiment to retain its original title. In addition to a greatly diminished number of fixed installations, including three submarine protection companies, on mobilization there would now be only 3 amphibious battalions (organized in a single Brigade), 6 mobile coast artillery battalions and a single mobile heavy coastal missile battery. The Marines also manned a large fleet of coastal craft, the total of which now greatly exceeded that of the sea-going elements of the Navy proper. These included 6 Coastal Minelayers, 24 Patrol Craft, 144 “Fighting Boats” (fast raiding craft), about 72 personnel and 36 vehicle landing craft and a number of auxiliary and service craft.

With the implementation of Defence Resolution 2004, the Navy, with a permanent cadre of 2300 and 5600 conscripts, plus a variable Lumber of reservists, Could still mobilize 20,000 men and women on a war footing. In place of the solitary Surface Attack, Mine Warfare and Submarines flotillas originally proposed, it was reorganized as a single Submarine Flotilla and two mixed “Surface Warfare” Flotillas, These were:

[a] The 1st Submarine Flotilla, based at Karlskrona, with three “Gotland” and two  “Östergötland” class submarines; the electronic warfare vessel ORION; the submarine rescue  vessel BELOS; and the torpedo recovery vessel PINGVINEN.

[b] The 3rd Surface Warfare Flotilla, also based at Karlskrona, with two “Göteborg” class corvettes (later to be replaced by three units of the  “Visby” class) and the two “Stockholm” class corvettes; four  “Landsort” and and two “Styrsö” class mine counter-measure vessels; the command and support ship TROSSÖ; and the mine-layer/training ship CARLSKRONA.

[c] The 4the Surface Warfare Flotilla, with its principal base at Haninge/Muskö, in the Stockholm archipelago, and a subsidiary base in Skredsvik with “Göteborg” class corvettes until 2008 or 2009, when they were to be replaced by the two remaining units of the “Visby” class (now reduced to a total of five with the cancellation of the sixth vessel); two “Landsort” and two “Styrsö” class mine counter-measures vessels; and the mine-layer VISBORG, as a command and logistic support vessel.

The Naval Warfare School retained the schooners FALKEN and GLADEN and was to acquire in addition five new training launches, the latter to be distributed between Karlskrona and Haninge/Muskö.

The Amphibious (Marine) Corps was reduced to the single active battalion of the 1st VAXHOLMS Ampibious Regimient, divided between Berga/Muskö and Göteborg and on mobilization would produce a brigade with three amphibious battalions and its HQ in Berga/Muskö, also manning a respectable force of minor vessels, including “fighting boats”, landing craft and inshore mine warfare elements.

The Navy retained two major base complexes, at Muskö and Karlskrona, its various training establishments being divided between the two.

 The former Karlskrona and Göteborg Naval Training Schools had been amalgamated into a single institution. Although remaining at two separate locations, it provided general conscript training at Karlskrona, specialist training for conscripts being provided by the Berga Naval Training School, near Stockholm. The principal training establishments for both regular and reserve officers were the Navy Regular Officer Academy and the Navy Officer Cadet School, at Karlskrona; the Centre for Naval Tactics, at Hårsfjärden and the Marine Corps School, at Täby. Since 1998 all officers have graduated from the new tri-service Armed Forces Academy, located at the former Army Academy at Karlberg.

 TODAY’S NAVY … AND TOMORROW’S!

The plans of the Swedish Government to reduce the defence Budget by SEK 1.9 billion ($290 million) between 2008 and 2010 indicated that the project to develop a new type of corvette somewhat larger than the five units of the “Visby” class seemed a likely victim whilst they also raised doubts about the “Submarine A-26” programme as successors to the “Gotland”) class whilst the joint venture “Viking” project had already collapsed with the withdrawal of interest of all the other partners. There were also rumours that the sale of the minelayer CARLSKRONA, the largest unit of the much reduced Swedish fleet was contemplated. These were reinforced by the decision to abandon the annual training cruise of the CARLSKRONA, a multi-purpose vessel of 3550 tons, completed in 1980, which in addition to its primary function of mine-laying can also serve as a command and support ship for minor units and as a submarine mother ship.

 As a partial compensation for the abandonment of the Project for an improved and enlarged version of the “Visbys”, it was understood that the four corvettes of the “Göteborg” class would be retained as well as the two units of the “Stockholm” class. It had always seemed incomprehensible that Defence Resolution 2004 proposed the disposal of the “Göteborgs”, completed between 1991 and 1993 and which at 400 tons are both of more recent construction and larger than the two 340 ton “Stockholms” which were completed in 1985, even though both of the latter had been modernized between 2001 and 2003.

 Despite its much reduced size the Swedish Navy continued to be involved in international operations.

 In 2004, the Swedish government received a request from the United States to lease HMS Gotland, which would remain Swedish-flagged, commanded and manned, for the duration of one year, for use in anti-submarine warfare exercises, the US Navy now having no non-nuclear powered submarines of its own. The Swedish government granted this request in October 2004, both navies signing a memorandum of understanding on March 21, 2005. This arrangement proved so successful that the lease was extended for another 12 months in 2006.

 In 2006 the corvette HMS Gävle took part of the United Nations operation UNIFIL. With the designations ML 01 and ML 02, HMS Gävle and HMS Sundsvall operated, together with a national command and support group, off the Lebanese coast.

 During 2009 the Swedish Navy contributed to European Union Naval Force, EU NAVFOR, “Operation Atalanta” with two corvettes, HMS Stockholm and HMS Malmö, and a support ship, HMS Trossö. During 2010 Sweden also contributed HMS Carlskrona, which still remained very much an active unit, as Force Headquarters of EU NAVFOR and later on as a unit within the force.

 In 2009 in a surprising change of the policy of reducing the armed forces, which had been pursued since the fall of the Soviet Union and of the Warsaw Treaty, Sweden began to reinforce its much-reduced military establishment.

 The change appeared to be a reaction to the Russian invasion of Georgia, the previous year, which had seriously perturbed the majority of the countries bordering on the Russian Federation and at the time of writing its impact on the Navy remained unclear.

 All five “Visby” class corvettes have now entered service and with the reversal of the policy of down-sizing introduced in the late 1990s, hopes for the revival of the enlarged corvette and A-26 submarine projects have been renewed although personnel strength continues to contract with a regular cadre of just 1577, plus 952 conscripts and 349 civilians in 2008, compared with respective figures of 2025, 1670 and 532 two years earlier. Despite the phasing out of conscription, figures showed a slight improvement in 2011 with 2068 uniformed personnel on the Navy proper and 728 in the Marines.

Although much reduced in size from the days of its glory, when it was the unquestioned mistress of the Baltic, the Swedish Navy remains a force to be reckoned with as was amply demonstrated by the large-scale deployments of Swedish fast attack craft to the eastern Baltic during the political crisis which accompanied the fall of the Communist Government in Poland. Even after its recent down-sizing it is still the third most important navy in the region (after those of Russia and Germany). Despite its lack of major surface units, (which it may be argued are both unnecessary and excessively vulnerable in the conditions in which it is required to operate) and a much reduced submarine force, modern weapon systems and sensors have increased its military effectiveness to a degree unprecedented during its 475 years of existence. The Swedish Navy’s “Gotland” class submarines and “Visby” class corvettes are at least five and probably closer to seven years in advance of any comparable materiel in service with any other navy and with the types of submarine and surface craft currently contemplated the Swedish Navy continues to preserve its tradition of advanced technological innovation and remains one of the most interesting naval forces in existence. With the completion of the present and immediately projected construction programmes, it will also be one almost ideally tailored to its foreseeable tactical and operational requirem 
 

Este sitio es publicado por la Fundacion Histarmar - Argentina

Direccion de e-mail: info@histarmar.com.ar