Tag: Navy

The Battle of Niså, the Invasion of Demark by Norwegian king Harald Hardrada

Battle of Niså – king Harald Hardrada aboard his Longship during his attempt to invade Denmark.

The Battle of Niså (Slaget ved Niså) was a naval battle fought on 9 August 1062 between the forces of Norwegian king Harald Hardrada and king Sweyn II of Denmark.

Harald had claimed the Danish throne since 1047, and had launched raids into Denmark ever since. With his invasion in 1062, he wanted to decisively defeat the Danes, and thus finally be able to conquer Denmark. The battle was won clearly by the Norwegians, but since many Danes managed to escape, including Sweyn, it proved indecisive in Harald’s attempt to conquer Denmark.

When Harald became the sole king of Norway in 1047, he also claimed the Danish throne, despite that his predecessor and co-ruler Magnus the Good (king of Norway and Denmark) had appointed Sweyn Estridsen as his successor in Denmark. Since 1048, Harald launched raids into Denmark almost annually, attempting to force Sweyn out of the country. Although the raids were largely successful, Harald never managed to occupy Denmark. With the invasion in 1062, he sought to gain a decisive victory over Sweyn.

Harald Hardrada – the last of the ‘great Vikings’ who invaded England in 1066 AD.

According to the Icelandic saga writer Snorri Sturluson, the battle had been preassigned a time and place, but Sweyn did not appear as agreed. Harald thus sent home his non-professional ships and soldiers, the “peasant army” (bóndaherrin), which had made up around half of his forces. When the ships were out of sight, Sweyn finally appeared and engaged Harald’s fleet. With his own so-called drekanum ship in the middle, Harald tied his ships together in order to prevent gaps in the line. He placed earl Haakon Ivarsson and his forces from Trøndelag on the flanks. Sweyn used the same tactic, but unlike Harald had his own earl Finn Arnesson placed right next to himself, instead of on the flanks. The battle commenced in the evening, and lasted through the night.

The History Channel show ‘Vikings’ naval battle between the Vikings and the Franks gives a good representation of how the Vikings prepared for and conducted naval battles (see video above).

The two sides were evenly matched for a long time into the battle, until Haakon disengaged his ships from the flanks and started attacking the weakened Danish ships on the flanks. Sweyn had no similar reserve force, and his fleet was defeated by dawn, with 70 ships left “empty” and the remainder retreating.

While Finn Arnesson fought until he was captured, Sweyn jumped into the water and was rescued by his former ally Haakon (albeit unknowingly to Harald). Haakon was after the battle universally recognized, including by Harald, as the hero of the battle, but when his treachery in rescuing Sweyn was discovered he fell into disfavour (even though Haakon claimed Sweyn had been in disguise, and that he had not recognized it was him).

Sweyn II King of Denmark 1047-1074.

Aftermath

Although Harald won the battle, the victory was not decisive since many Danish ships and men had managed to escape, including Sweyn. Denmark’s economic and social fabric had been destroyed by the yearly raids, but the lengthy war had also taken its toll in Norway. After the Battle of Niså, Harald had trouble collecting taxes in the Uplands, and probably also in other areas. In 1064, Harald finally offered Sweyn unconditional peace without reparations or loss of land, and the two kings concluded peace.

References

Special Forces in Focus: The Danish Jaegerkorpset/Hunter Corps and Fromandskorpset/Frogmen Corps

Jaegerkorpset- Hunter Force or Hunter Corps. Danish Army Special Forces Maroon berets.

The Hunter Corps (Danish: Jægerkorpset) is an elite, special forces unit of the Royal Danish Army based at Aalborg Air Base.

The group unit insignia of Jægerkorpset.

The first incarnation of the corps was formed in 1785 as Jægercorpset i Sielland (The Hunter Corps of Zealand) and existed in various forms until it was remade in its current form in 1962 where Major P.B.Larsen and First lieutenant Jørgen Lyng were the first two to complete the training. Their hunting origin is recalled in the hunting horn on their insignia. In the year 1995, the Corps was deployed for the first time. A six-man team was sent to Sarajevo, Bosnia as a counter-sniper reconnaissance team.

Throughout the Cold War, the Jaegers’ primary tasking was that of a long-range reconnaissance unit, with wide renown for their skills in parachute operations. However, with the advent of the post-9/11 Global War on Terror, the Jaegers were modernized to better meet the developing threat of global terrorism. As such, the Jaegers increased their proficiency in counter-terrorism skills, while still maintaining their excellence at reconnaissance operations.

In 2002, the Jaegers were deployed to Afghanistan as part of the Danish contribution to Task Force K-Bar, along with the Frogman Corps. During these operations, the Jaegers took part in de-mining operations, reconnaissance in support of conventional forces, the capturing of high-value targets, and direct-action raids on Taliban and al-Qaeda positions. As part of Task Force K-Bar, the Jaegers were awarded “The Presidential Unit citation” on December 7, 2004 for its effort as part of the joint-forces special forces group in Afghanistan.

Jægerkorpset unit in Afghanistan.

The selection course to become a Jægersoldat (a member of Jægerkorpset) is very demanding, both mentally and physically. For a candidate to be accepted into the corps, he/she must complete the following:

  • Pre-course 1 (5 days)
Introduces the candidate to the subjects covered in the patrol course, and gives the candidate a feel for what he/she must get better at. (Orienteering, swimming, etc.)
  • Pre-course 2 (2 days)
More training and evaluation in the above covered subjects.
  • Pre-course 3 (2 days)
More training and evaluation in the above covered subjects with tougher requirements.
  • Patrol Course (8 weeks)
Basic patrol skills. This course must be completed at a satisfactory level to continue to the aspirant course.
  • Aspirant Course (6 weeks)
Very demanding course teaching the candidate the physical limits of himself/herself and his/her patrol. If passed the candidate is awarded his/her “bugle” for the beret.
  • Basic parachuting course (2 weeks)
  • Combat Swimming Course (2 weeks)
When all this has been completed to a satisfactory level, the candidate can begin their actual training. Following the successful completion of a years full time training, the maroon beret is awarded, and the soldier is considered a full member of the corps.
Jægerkorpset og Frømandskorpset overdrages til Specialoperationskommandoen.

Jægerkorpset wears the maroon beret with a brass emblem depicting a hunter’s bugle on a black felt liner. After one year of satisfactory service and training in corps the wearer is issued the shoulder patch “JÆGER” (English: Hunter) and may call himself by this name.

Jægerkorpset is composed of around 150 highly trained soldiers with special expertise in counter-terrorism, demolitions, parachuting, and combat swimming, HAHO and HALO parachuting, infiltration, sabotage, reconnaissance and more. The corps regularly trains with similar units from different countries, such as the US Navy SEALs, US Army DELTA , British SAS and the Danish naval special forces group, the Frogman Corps. The corps is based on the structure and modus operandi of the British SAS.

Their slogan, which is Latin, Plus esse, quam simultatur translates to Hellere at være, end at synes (“Rather to be, than to seem”) in Danish, meaning that the soldier’s capabilities do not have to be widely recognized or boasted—they are only more effective if unknown.

The Danish Frogman Corps (Danish: Frømandskorpset) is the maritime special operations force of the Danish Defence part of Special Operations Command. On 1 July 2015, the Frogman Corps transferred from the Royal Danish Navy to the newly established Special Operations Command.

Frømandskorpset

The Frogman Corps was establised on 17 June 1957 based on the model of the United Kingdom Royal Marines Special Boat Service. Initially it was under the Danish Navy’s Diving School at Flådestation Holmen (Naval Station Holmen, Copenhagen), but in 1972 it was made an independent unit, operationally under the submarine squadron.

The Frogman Corps primary role is reconnaissance, but it is also tasked with assaulting enemy ships, sabotage of fixed installations, advanced force and maritime anti-terrorism tasks.

It performs special operations work on land also, including anti-terrorism and anti-criminal work. The Corps supports the police with clearing up criminal matters that demand highly specialised diving. Also, local authorities, etc. can benefit from the frogman’s skills, for example when underwater installations must be inspected.

Denmark’s Fromandskorpset (Frogman Corps)

The Frogman Corps trains at the Torpedo Station at Kongsøre and works through a long series of courses, e.g.:

  • Combat swimmer course for three weeks
  • Advanced scuba diving course
  • Rescue swimmer course
  • Survival course

The basic Frogman Course is nine months. Each year 500-600 applicants start the course and less than a dozen complete all nine months. Since its creation in 1957, 311 have completed the training, and become a Frogman.

Crown Prince Frederik of Denmark passed selection and completed continuation training to become a badged Frogman, in the course of which he earnt the nickname “Pingo”.

In 2015, a DR-produced documentary detailing the life of Frogman cadets was released.

The Frogman Corps was involved in operations in Afghanistan such as Task Force K-Bar and in Iraq.

From 2008 until the end of 2014, the Frogman Corps was involved in counter-piracy operations as part of Operation Ocean Shield. On 5 February 2010, ten Frogman Corps aboard HDMS Absalon (L16) conducted a counter-piracy mission in the Gulf of Aden approaching the Antigua and Barbuda-flagged merchant vessel Ariella by rigid hull inflatable boat which had been hijacked by six armed Somali pirates. They scaled the side of the ship and freed the 25 crew, who had locked themselves in a secure room, and continued to search the vessel for the pirates who had however fled.

Armament

Type Caliber Manufacturer Model Danish designation
Pistol 9mm Glock Glock 26 Glock 26
Pistol 9mm Heckler & Koch USP H&K USP
Pistol 9mm SIG SIG Sauer P210 Neuhausen M/49
Pistol 9mm, .38 Super, .40 S&W, .45 ACP STI Tactical 5.0 STI Tactical
Submachinegun 9mm Heckler & Koch MP5 MP5
Carbine 5.56 Heckler & Koch G53 M85
Rifle 5.56 Diemaco C8 CQB M/96
Rifle 5.56 Diemaco C8 SFW M/95
Light Support Weapon 5.56 Diemaco LSW M/04 LSV M/04
Machinegun 5.56 Heckler & Koch 23 E MG85
Machinegun 7.62 Rheinmetall MG3 LMG M/62
Machinegun 7.62 Heckler & Koch 21 E H&K 21 E
Sniper 7.62 Heckler & Koch MSG-90 MSG-90

 

National Parade on the Flag Day of the Finnish Defence Forces in Helsinki 4 June 2017

Puolustusvoimat FINNISH DEFENCE FORCES, 23 May 2017

The National Parade on the Flag Day of the Finnish Defence Forces will be held in Helsinki on 4 June 2017. In addition to the review of troops and pass in review, the programme will include vessel and materiel displays, a flight show and the Defence Forces’ Finland 100 summer tour 2017 concert. The events are free of charge.

The parade will be reviewed by President Sauli Niinistö together with the Commander of the Finnish Defence Forces General Jarmo Lindberg. Field Bishop Pekka Särkiö will hold the field devotional and the parade troops will be commanded by the Army Chief of Staff Major General Petri Hulkko.

The theme of the parade is: National defence is everybody’s business. Troops from the Finnish Army, Navy and Air Force, National Defence University, Border Guard and veteran’s and national defence organisations will participate in the day’s events. The parade will include a total of more than 1,300 persons, 50 vehicles and 19 aircraft.

The review of troops will take place at the Senate Square at 12:00. The parade troops will begin to gather at the Senate Square at 11:20.

The pass in review on Mannerheimintie will begin at the Simonkatu – Kaivokatu intersection at 13:30 and progress in the direction of Musiikkitalo. The pass in review will be viewed in front of Musiikkitalo.

In addition to the marching troops, the parade will include 50 vehicles. For the first time, a 155 mm Armoured Howitzer K9 Thunder will participate in the parade event.

The flypast will include Army NH90 helicopters and Hughes MD500 light helicopters, the Border Guard’s Super Puma sea rescue helicopter as well as Air Force Hornet fighters and Hawk jet trainers.

In addition to the parade, the day will also offer many other things to see around Helsinki. It will be possible to visit Navy combat and support vessels and equipment in the Eteläsatama harbour and the Border Guard’s offshore patrol vessel Turva at the Katajanokka dock.

A joint air show of the Air Force and Army will take place at the Kaivopuisto park before the review of troops, where NH90 transport helicopters, F/A-18 Hornet fighters and the Midnight Hawks aerobatic team will perform. All flypasts are subject to weather conditions.

Midnight Hawks Aerobatic Team.

There will be a joint equipment display of the Army, Air Force and other authorities on the Kansalaistori square, which will be open all day.

Also on the Kansalaistori square, the highlight of the day will be the Defence Forces Finland 100 summer tour 2017 concert, where the Defence Forces’ Guards Band and Conscript Band will perform with soloists Sami Pitkämö, Osmo Ikonen and Heini Ikonen.

The general public is invited to attend all of the Flag Day’s events. The review of troops and pass in review can also be watched on giant screens at the Senate Square, the Market Square and the Kansalaistori square.

The parade will affect the traffic in Helsinki. The public is asked to arrive in good time using public transportation in order to avoid traffic congestion. It is advisable to avoid using one’s own car in the city centre at the time of the Flag Day’s events, as some streets and areas will be completely reserved for the parade.

Preparations will begin already on 3 June at parade locations.

The Guard Jaeger Regiment is responsible for parade arrangements.

The Defence Forces, City of Helsinki and Helsinki Region Transport will provide information on traffic arrangements as of 22 June.

Programme for the Flag Day:

08.00 Ceremonial hoisting of the flag by the Navy in Eteläsatama harbour
9.00 Wreath laying ceremony at Hietaniemi cemetery
09.00-15.00 Navy vessels and equipment display open for visitors in Eteläsatama harbour
10.00-18.00 Equipment display at Kansalaistori square
10.00-10.50 Service in the Helsinki Cathedral
10.50-11.30 Air Force and Army Air Show in Kaivopuisto park
11.20 Parade troops begin to gather for the review of troops at the Senate Square
12.00 Review of troops at the Senate Square
13.30 Pass in review on Mannerheimintie
15.00-18.00 Defence Forces Finland 100 summer tour 2017 concert at Kansalaistori square

You can follow the parade on location or on the internet on the Defence Forces’ websites:

Ships in Profile: Visby-class corvette

HSwMS Helsingborg (K32)

The Visby class is the latest class of corvette to be adopted by the Swedish Navy after the Göteborg and Stockholm-class corvettes. The ship’s design heavily emphasizes low visibility, radar cross-section and infrared signature. The first ship in the class is named after Visby, the main city on the island of Gotland. The class has received widespread international attention because of its capabilities as a stealth ship.

The ships are designed by Swedish Defence Materiel Administration (FMV) and built by Kockums AB. The first ship of the class was launched in 2000 and since then the construction was fraught with repeated delays. Finally in December 2009, the first two ships of the class were delivered to the Swedish Navy by the FMV, albeit with greatly reduced operational capability.

The hull is constructed with a sandwich design consisting of a PVC core with a carbon fibre and vinyl laminate[4] (see also the Oceanic-Creations spin-off). There are multiple advantages to using composite materials in ship hulls. Good conductivity and surface flatness means a low radar signature, while good heat insulation lowers the infrared signature and increases survivability in case of fire. The composite sandwich used is also non-magnetic, which lowers the magnetic signature. Composites are also very strong for their relative weight, and less weight means a higher top speed and better maneuverability. The composite weighs roughly 50% less than the equivalent strength steel. If built with normal steel the ship would weigh in at around 1200 tonnes.

Visbys angular design reduces its radar signature (or radar cross section). Jan Nilsson, one of the designers, told BBC News Online: “We are able to reduce the radar cross section by 99%. That doesn’t mean it’s 99% invisible, it means that we have reduced its detection range.” The 57 mm cannon barrel can be folded into the turret to reduce its cross section. There are plans for additional improvements in this area, especially for the deck rails and masts.

Much of the design was based on the experiences learned from the experimental ship HSwMS Smyge. The class was originally designed to be divided into two subcategories where some ships were optimized for surface combat and others for submarine hunting; however, this was changed due to cutbacks.

A helicopter, such as the Agusta Westland A109M selected by Sweden, can land, take off, and refuel on the upper deck. A helicopter hangar was originally planned but was considered to be too cramped and was removed.

The ships took an exceptionally long time from launch to delivery and the construction has been fraught with repeated delays. In 2008, the only weapons system that had been integrated and tested in Visby was the gun.

Finally, on 16 December 2009, the first two of the corvettes were delivered to the Swedish Navy by the Försvarets materielverk (FMV).The two ships, K32 and K33, were delivered with underwater and surface/air sensors fully integrated. However, the only weapon that had been integrated and test fired on the ships was still the Bofors 57 Mk3 gun. The FMV calls this version 4, which aims to get the ships into service and start training crews.

Version 5 is due in 2012, and is intended to supplement the ships with mine clearance systems, helicopter landing capability (only K31 is certified to date), anti-surface ship missiles and additional stealth adaptation. Visby was the first of the corvettes to be upgraded to Version 5. On 22 March 2012 FMV reported that the ship had been modified and that the system would be tested before reentering the Swedish Navy by the end of 2012.

Although the design of the ships originally called for the installation of surface-to-air missiles, on 18 September 2008 the Genomförandegruppen cancelled the project in order to rationalize the procurement of defence materiel for the Swedish defence.

HSwMS Helsingborg (K32), Stockholm.

Units

Number Ship name Laid down Launched Commissioned Service Status Coat of arms
K31 Visby 17 February 1995 8 June 2000 16 September 2015 4th Naval Warfare Flotilla Active
HMS Visby vapen, korvett.svg
K32 Helsingborg 27 June 2003 16 December 2009 3rd Naval Warfare Flotilla Active
HMS Helsingborg vapen.svg
K33 Härnösand 16 December 2004 16 December 2009 3rd Naval Warfare Flotilla Active
HMS Härnösand vapen.svg
K34 Nyköping 18 August 2005 16 September 2015 3rd Naval Warfare Flotilla Active
HMS Nyköping vapen.svg
K35 Karlstad 24 August 2006 16 September 2015 3rd Naval Warfare Flotilla Active
HMS Karlstad vapen.svg
K36 Uddevalla Cancelled
HMS Uddevalla vapen.svg

All systems for the ship Uddevalla were acquired, but the ship was later canceled, so there are now plans to build a full Visby class simulator.

PTK Visby is the designation of the formation doing system tests and readying the ships for active service within the Swedish Navy. The formation is under the 3rd Naval Warfare Flotilla but takes its orders from the FMV. The system tests are taking a long time partly because of funding issues and partly because of the novel and cutting-edge nature of the platform.

Class overview
Name: Visby class
Builders: Kockums
Operators:  Swedish Navy
Preceded by: Göteborg class
Cost: $184 Million
In commission: 16 December 2009
Planned: 6
Completed: 5
Cancelled: 1
Active:
  • HSwMS Visby
  • HSwMS Helsingborg
  • HSwMS Härnösand
  • HSwMS Nyköping
  • HSwMS Karlstad
General characteristics
Type: Stealth Missile Corvette
Displacement: 640 tonnes
Length: 72.7 m (239 ft)
Beam: 10.4 m (34 ft)
Draught: 2.4 m (7.9 ft)
Propulsion:
Speed: 35 knots (65 km/h)+
Range: 2,500 nmi (4,600 km) at 15 kn (28 km/h)
Complement: 43
Sensors and
processing systems:
Electronic warfare
& decoys:
Rheinmetall TKWA/MASS (Multi Ammunition Softkill System)
Armament:
Aviation facilities: Helicopter pad

GOTLAND: Sweden’s Fortified Baltic Island

Gotland, Sweden’s largest island, is located in the Baltic sea between Sweden and Latvia, and represents the most strategically important defensive stronghold in the entire Baltic region. The Swedish government decided in March 2015 to begin reestablishing a permanent military presence on Gotland, starting with an initial 150 troop garrison, consisting primarily of elements from the Swedish Army. It has been reported that the bulk of this initial garrison will make up a new motorised rifle battalion, alternatively referred to in other reports as a “modular-structured rapid response Army battalion”. A later report claimed that plans were at an advanced stage for a support helicopter squadron and an Air Force “fast response Gripen jet squadron” to also be based on the island to support the new garrison and further reinforce the defences. Prior to the disbandment of the original garrison, there had been a continuous Swedish military presence on Gotland in one form or another, for nearly 200 years.

Map showing the strategic location of Gotland.
Map showing the strategic location of Gotland.

The original Gotland garrison, also known as the Visby Garrison, could trace its roots back to at least 1811. That was the year the Gotland National Conscription was formed to strengthen the islands defences after the Russians had briefly occupied the island two years before. Although, the “new” garrison was just the latest in a long line of Swedish military forces protecting the island, and consequently the rest of Sweden, continuously since the 1640s. The exception being the 23 days when Russia occupied the island during the Finnish War (1808–1809), after Gotland had been left undefended due to errors in overall Swedish strategy early in the war.

In 1887, a new country wide conscription system replaced a number of previous regional recruitment and reserve systems, including the Gotlands nationalbeväring (the Gotland National Recruitment) The existing regiment defending Gotland under that system was reorganized into two new regiments, the Gotland Infantry Regiment and the Gotland Artillery Regiment. Those two units would go on to provide the bulk of the garrison forces both directly and indirectly, throughout the various crisis that threatened to overtake Sweden (including two World Wars and the Cold War), for most of the next two centuries right up to the final dissolution of the garrison in 2005.

From 1811 to 1873, the commander of military forces on Gotland (at that time, effectively a military district in its own right) also served as the governor of the island and during the existence of the Gotland National Conscription (1811–1892) the commander was by default the senior officer of that regiment. Under the military reorganisation of 1892, the then commander and his successors (up until 1937) automatically became the senior officer of the Gotlands infanteriregemente that succeeded the Gotlands nationalbeväring. He remained in charge of army troops on the island, even though Gotland was no longer the center of a military district under the new 5 area (district) system which lasted up to shortly before World War II.

During World War II, Gotland was part of both the VII Military area [area=army district] (from 1942) and the Gotland Naval District, both of which the senior military officer on the island acted as head of. Army and air force units assigned to Gotland came under the former, while naval, marine, and coast artillery units based on/out of Gotland came under the jurisdiction of the latter. With a change in the Naval Districts (see naval section below) in 1957, the commanding officer lost his maritime responsibilities, but regained them in the 1966 military reorganisation that created the Gotland Military Command (the Gotlands militärkommando), or MKG, and which changed the VII. Military area into the new expanded Eastern Military District or Milo Ö (also known as Milo Z) which was now headquartered out of Södermanland.

gotland-bunker
World War II era Kulsprutebunker (Machine gun bunker) located near Brucebo, Gotland County.

This command structure continued relatively unchanged until the end of the Cold War in the early 1990s, when Milo Ö was stood down in 1991. The MKG remained operational into 2000, albeit increasingly downgraded in importance despite concerns,with a corresponding steady reduction in the units and capabilities under the MKG. In the now discredited Swedish Defence reform of that year, the MKG was replaced with the, in theory, autonomous Gotlands Military District (the Gotlands militärdistrikt) or MDG, which despite its name, only had control over the island itself (that control was also severely constrained by the existence of the, later infamous, post-Cold War Swedish Fortifications Agency). In practise this meant the MDG was responsible for overseeing the Army garrison units remaining on the island, along with coordinating with any reserve and civil defense elements still in place. There were, and as of 2015  still are, no maritime or coastal defense units remaining on the island, with the exception of a couple of naval units that did not come under the new MDG and which in any case were withdrawn in 2004. The MDG was stood down in December 2004, with the remaining garrison forces being abolished in 2005.

Alongside the Swedish Army, the Swedish Navy have played a major role in the garrisoning of the island over the last two centuries; not only helping to defend the island but also using it as a well placed base to defend Sweden and its interests in the Baltic Sea. Prior to (from 1931) and during World War II, Gotland was the headquarters of the Gotland Naval District. In 1957, during the Cold War, Gotland became part of the (now defunct) Sound Naval District, headquartered at the Muskö naval base. The Sound Naval District itself came under the new joint Eastern Military District in 1966, with operational control of naval units (including coastal defense forces) in the area of the former Gotland Naval District being returned to the commanding officer of the new MKG centered on Gotland.

In the early part of the Cold War (late 1940s to late 1950s), elements of one of the three major task forces that then made up the navy’s front line strength, including cruisers and destroyers, were based out of Gotland’s various anchorages and harbours. This was in addition to locally based elements of the Coastal Artillery’s significant support fleet, which included coastal minelayers, inshore minesweepers, and patrol craft. However, in 1958, a doctrinal switch from heavier surface combatants to smaller ASW combatants (increasingly corvette sized and smaller) and Fast Attack Craft began with most of the former being retired without replacement. The operations of these new combatants were still coordinated with submarines though, which, along with the fact that some major combatants weren’t immediately retired (e.g. the two Halland-class destroyers), ironically helped to disguise the problems with relying so heavily on light combatants in the short term. In the late 1960s, this shift towards lighter types accelerated, though more for political and economic reasons than military.

For Gotland, this meant that the naval units based out of the island by the 1970s were mostly light combatants such as FACs with relatively short range, though there were still a few larger corvettes mixed in. Submarines were generally not based out of Gotland at this point, being housed in purpose built bases such as Muskö, though they still made port visits.

By the early 1980s, flaws with the “FAC based doctrine” had become impossible to ignore, with incidents such as the so-called Whiskey on the rocks confrontation proving that the Swedish Navy had become outgunned in the Anti-surface warfare arena, and that even in areas where it should have had a local advantage in such as Anti-Submarine Warfare it was materially outmatched by potential aggressors, with intruding submarines able to breach Swedish waters almost at will.

In the short term, the navy and government attempted to address these issues with various emergency measures and programs, such as the hasty revamping of the Ytattack-81 (the Surface combatant-81) project into what would become the Stockholm corvette program. Another hastily introduced program was the construction of four new heavy coastal missile batteries based around the Rb-15 missile, one of which was placed on Gotland. Delivery and installation of the systems was to take place from 1987 to 1992. Existing installations such as coastal gun batteries and mine stations were continuously upgraded. In the longer term, among the new programs that were started in the late 1980s were two to provide replacements for various FAC and corvette classes; the Ytstridsfartyg Mindre (the Surface Combatant Small) and the Ytstridsfartyg Större (the Surface Combatant Large) programs. In the post-Cold War cutbacks of the early 1990s, those two programs were merged into a single program, the YS2000 (the Surface Combatant 2000) program, that later became the Visby-class stealth corvette. Originally, it was planned to have a class of 10 in two variants; the ASuW/Anti-Air ‘Series II’ and a lower cost ASW dedicated ‘Series I’. Finally, only four Series Is and a single Series II were built in the 2000s (with a second Series II being cancelled), and even those were not fully manned or equipped as part of further economy measures to support other non-defence areas. As a result of this reduction in class size being decided on in the late 1990s, plans for some of the Visby-class corvettes to be based out of Gotland were scrapped. This was against a background of severe cutbacks for the navy at that time, which would continue into the 2010s. Those cutbacks apparently also led to the cancellation, just prior to the disbanding of all coastal defence units on Gotland, of plans to install elements of the KAFUS coastal/underwater surveillance network in and around the island.

In an echo of events from over 60 years earlier, the navy would lose its Marinflyget in 1998, with its helicopter units being absorbed by the air force’s new ‘joint’ Helikopterflottiljen (Helicopter Wing) (the Army also losing its helicopters to this new wing). The air force then promptly retired the former navy ASW helicopters without any immediate replacement.

Boeing-Vertol 107/Kawasaki KV-107 - HKP 4A/B ASW Helicopter.
Boeing-Vertol 107/Kawasaki KV-107 – HKP 4A/B ASW Helicopter.

The resulting lack of ASW helicopters, along with the operationally incomplete state of the Visby-class corvettes, were issues that would become apparent just under a decade and a half later, during the ‘October 2014 Submarine incident’ when the military made a prolonged search without any public results, for alleged underwater activity.

Swedish Air Force elements have operated from the island since the late 1920s. The Swedish Air Force was created by the amalgamation of the air arms of both the army and the navy in 1926. The formation of the new air force would leave the navy without an air branch until it was reestablished in the late 1950s with the navy’s first helicopters. Swedish Naval aviation had already established a major presence on the island in the late 1910s, so the air force was able to take over or share some facilities with the navy, as well as building ones of its own, such as the Bunge and Roma airfields in the late 1930s. By the outbreak of World War II, the Flygvapnet was well established on Gotland. The air force’s general wartime strategy in regards to Gotland was primarily based around bombers, in particular 20 B-17s based at Bunge airfield and seaplane torpedo bombers out of Fårösund. The intention was to use them against enemy ships in the support of the navy and coastal defence units (including both gun batteries and minefields), that were the islands first line of defence against an invasion. The air force also had fighters and reconnaissance aircraft based on the island to further support the island’s defence, the latter also including seaplanes.

Even into the Jet Age, and the Cold War, the Swedish Air Force insisted on remaining being able to operate from semi-prepared airstrips and dispersed emergency airfields, which influenced its equipment development and procurement choices greatly along with the development of tactics and strategies. This allowed the air force major flexibility in its role of defending Gotland and the rest of Sweden against intruders. In some respects, this flexibility made the air force more capable than most NATO member air-forces who, especially before the advent of such aircraft as the Harrier and the A-10, were arguably over reliant on permanent airbases and long concrete runways, unlike their Soviet foes, who put in at least as much effort as Sweden into being able to disperse and operate their tactical aircraft from semi-prepared airstrips and other temporary or semi-permanent locations, including those based around specially strengthened stretches of road.

For Gotland, this meant the air force was not only able to operate out of Visby Airport (especially after its BAS-60 upgrade in 1968) and its existing airfields such as Bunge and Roma, but also from semi-prepared sites such as the Visby 1 and Visby 2 highway strips, which were officially classified as dispersed emergency (wartime) airfields as per Sweden’s general overall Cold War doctrine.

Apart from the threat of direct Soviet aggression against Gotland and the rest of Sweden, another potential wartime problem was to increasingly weigh on the minds of both the island’s defenders and Sweden’s politicians: cruise missile transits. In the event of an all out war, the airspace of neutral Sweden was seen by both NATO and Warsaw Pact planners as a possible handy shortcut for the flight paths of cruise missiles that both sides were developing, and in the case of the United States had already deployed, during the 1980s. The airspace in and around Gotland was one of the areas of Sweden seen as especially vulnerable to transit by cruise missiles en-route to their targets. A particular worry in Sweden in the early 1980s was that the US would program some of their new nuclear armed cruise missiles to fly through Swedish airspace on their way to targets in the Soviet Union. This was seen as a violation of the country’s neutrality, so Sweden officially stated that it would be obliged to shoot down any such missiles that were fired over Swedish territory in wartime. In light of this policy a number of major anti-cruise missile exercises were held by Sweden during the 1980s, at least one of which was held in and around the island. As the decade went on, fears grew that the Soviet Union would be at least just as likely to violate Sweden’s neutrality in this manner; such fears regarding the two superpowers were only partially eased by the advent of the (defunct as of 2014) INF Treaty.

Late 1980s plans to reinforce the air cover over Gotland, including one for the reactivation and deployment to the island of an additional J-35 Draken squadron to take place in the early 1990s, were to be overtaken by world events such as the Revolutions of 1989 and the Soviet dissolution.

After the end of the Cold War, the air force’s presence on Gotland had rapidly diminished to practically nothing by 1992, with the final withdrawal of deployed elements of the F13 Wing including a Saab 37 Viggen fighter detachment from Visby Airport. This was a direct result of the initial cutbacks by Swedish politicians seeking the peace dividend in order to, among other things, to fund increasingly costly social programs in an economic downturn (in part caused by the fall of the Soviet Union). Due to this, the Bunge airfield was closed in 1991. The Roma airfield had been deactivated in 1988. In the intervening years, the air force has been absent from Gotland, with only the occasional transport or support aircraft (such as ASC 890 Airborne early warning and control) making visits to Visby Airport as part of an exercise or similar.

In the 2010s, the relatively dilapidated state of the county’s defences had to be addressed by the Swedish government, with a newly resurgent Russia stepping up probes of Sweden’s defences alongside those of her neighbours with both air and sea incursions. The most noted of these to date occurred in March 2013, when two Russian Tupolev Tu-22M nuclear capable bombers, escorted by four Sukhoi Su-27, were able to enter Swedish controlled airspace unimpeded and simulate strikes against targets in and around Stockholm with the Swedish Air Force unable to effectively respond at any time during the incident. During their operation, the Russian aircraft skirted around Gotland. In the aftermath of this highly controversial failure to avert the intruders, the air force for the first time in many years deployed a detachment of four Saab JAS-39 Gripen fighters to Visby Airport. This short lived deployment was followed by another smaller one the following year, consisting of two Gripens. However, because of their strictly limited nature, these deployments were seen by observers as unsuccessful PR exercises rather than a coherent response. By the close of 2014, Swedish public confidence in the government’s ability to defend the country had dropped to 20% or lower, depending on the poll. This was a continuation of a general trend that could be traced back to even before the Stockholm incident, but which had rapidly worsened in its aftermath.

JAS-39 Gripen at Visby Airport.
JAS-39 Gripen at Visby Airport.

In late March 2015, it was reported that plans were at an advanced stage for a support helicopter squadron and a “fast response Gripen jet squadron” to be based on Gotland in order to support the new garrison and further reinforce the island’s defences.

In April 2015, a decision was made to reestablish troops permanently on Gotland within three years. The recruitment started in September 2015. The Battlegroup Gotland is to consist of 300 personnel, half of which are soldiers and half a permanent staff. As of 2016, the main issue of where to house the battle group was still unresolved. The barracks in Visby formerly owned and used by Gotland Regiment were evacuated and sold to a private company in 2006. Since 2006, the property is used by the Gotland County Administration and several private companies.

The re-militarization of Gotland once again reopened the debate about a possible threat to Sweden from Russia and Sweden’s accession to NATO.

The Battlegroup Gotland (18th Battlegroup) will fall under administrative control of the Skaraborg Regiment, which will also train the troops destined for Gotland. The battlegroup will be based at the Tofta firing range near Visby and will field 301 men.

18th Battlegroup (18. Stridsgruppen):

  • 180th Staff Company “Havdhem”
  • 181st Armored Infantry Company “Roma” with 12x Strf 9040B infantry fighting vehicles, 1x Bgbv 90 armored recovery vehicle and 1x Bandvagn 309 tracked ambulance vehicle
  • 183rd Tank Company “Lärbro” with 11x Stridsvagn 122 main battle tanks, 1x Epbv 90 forward observation vehicle, 1x Bgbv 120 armored recovery vehicle, 1x Strf 9040B infantry fighting vehicle and 1x Bandvagn 309 tracked ambulance vehicle
  • 185th Logistic Company “Garde”

In the meantime, before the 18th Battlegroup is ready for deployment on Gotland (originally scheduled to begin in 2018), it was hoped that a combination of an increase in training rotations by mainland based regular army units to the Tofta range, combined with some rather public exercises around the island by the Särskilda operationsgruppen since late 2015, would be enough to discourage any Russian adventurism.

Stridsvagn 122/Leopard 2 MBT
Stridsvagn 122/Leopard 2 MBT

However by Autumn 2016, the regional situation was considered to have deteriorated even further. So much so that following representations from the current Supreme Commander Micael Bydén, the Swedish Government reluctantly agreed that Gotland’s defences would have to be reestablished on a much shorter timescale than previously mooted (despite ongoing major divisions within the current ruling parties with regards as to the strategy & resources required to defend Sweden). To this end, the Supreme Commander announced on the 14th of September 2016 that not only would the deployment of the 18th Battlegroup to Gotland would be moved up to the first half of 2017, but also a rifle battalion from the Skaraborg Regiment which was then in the middle of a training rotation at Tofta, would now be held in place on Gotland as a interim garrison. A few Giraffe 40s normally on the strength of the Luftvärnsregementet (Lv 6) are to be attached to the battalion to provide some early warning capability. Despite this though, neither air defence vehicles such as the Luftvärnskanonvagn (lvkv) 9040, nor MANPADS have been attached to the garrison battalion to take advantage of this local radar coverage.

The plan is to within a few months relieve the battalion with another battalion or a equivalent formation, which will then remain in place until the 18th Battlegroup is ready to take up it’s posting.

Reference