Svenska Dagbladet Embeded with HMS Södermanland – Baltic Sea Operations

9 11 2010


The HMS Södermanland (Wikipedia)


Not since the Cold War has the Russian military presence been so high in the Baltic Sea as now.

SvD, Svenska Dagbladet (“the Swedish daily paper”) followed Sweden’s first female submarine chief Paula Wallburg and HMS Södermanland into the depths of the Baltic Sea.

Click Here to View Slideshow

– Ljud i tilltagande styrka! – Sound of increasing strength!

The time has passed one night in the control room aboard the submarine HMS Södermanland when the sonar operator Johan Kling calls out his report. The noise that he hears in his headphones, 44 meters below the sea surface sounds like a glass of mineral water. The clean sound without rattling leaves no doubt: It is a warship.

Djup 50 meter! Framåt 60 varv! –Depth-50 feet! Forward 60 yards! Instructs Captain Paula Wallburg.

It is småkyligt in the room so that the crew should not be sweating in their naval uniforms. The only source of light in the darkness comes from the instruments and screens. What follows the crew of the  HMS Södermanland by all accounts is a corvette. Lieutenant Commander Paul Wallburg, Sweden’s first female submarine boss, needs a quick answer:

Ge mig kursen. Nu. – Give me the course.  Now.

Using the sound in the headphones, a stopwatch and trigonometry the sonar operators locate the vessel. It is difficult. Somewhere above the the offending corvette first steers away and then suddenly stops. Paula Wallburg swears. Now we need to get in position so they don’t lose touch.

–Gira så fort du kan! Gira as soon as you can!

The Baltic Sea is in many ways an ideal submarine environment: hilly sea floors with plenty of places to hide and a good view ahead of the sensors. But even in the quietest time of peace is the geopolitical peace in peaceful area. Not least, Russia has in recent years significantly increased its presence. It is far from Cold War tension is mounting – but also to the 1990’s detente with the Russian Baltic Fleet rusted away.

Last year, Russian troops were practicing landing outside Kaliningrad in the largest such exercise since 1981. And in September this year the U.S. Navy Commander Admiral Gary Roughead told Svenska Dagbladet that the U.S. should practice more often in the Baltic Sea, as NATO Baltic countries demanded it.

On board the HMS Södermanland the pursuit of the corvette’s roaring propeller continues. Should the submarine surface and hoist up the periscope it would be easy to identify the ship in darkness. But the submarine and its 27 crew members stops silent.

Johan Kling compares corvette’s searching through the pinging signal down into the depths as shining a flashlight in a dark forest: “It looks like its lit to within a few meters, but it shows itself in kilometers”.

The hunt continues. The corvette is close enough.

Skott kommer! Fyr! Shots are coming! Lighthouse!

Was it an enemy corvette instead of the Swedish Navy’s own HMS Malmö – armed with depth charges and torpedoes  –  the battle would have been over. The submarine’s training torpedo will be salvaged in the morning. The duel is part of the Swedish naval exercise Swenex.

But only a small part of the Navy submariners spend time on training – and most are absent in the Baltic Sea due to the resources available.  The latest generation of Swedish submarines have been ordered for delivery in eight years. Meanwhile, two submarines to be upgraded.

Foreign naval forces will regularly probe Sweden’s ability to defend its waters by sniffing around Swedish territorial waters, “says Jonas Haggren, head of the First Submarine Flotilla based in Karlskrona.

The submarine’s main characteristic must be truly hidden. She serves as a platform for intelligence gathering or other special missions: It can drop divers for missions or patiently lie and check with their sensors.

-“The fascination with submarines for me is that we are hidden. Nobody sees us, but we see”says Paula Wallburg, who now spends nearly 100 days per year under the surface.

Russia not only runs his own submarines in the Baltic Sea but also testing new vessels for export. Commander Jonathan Haggren smile:

– “When they run their tests, we are there and listening.”

The darkness in the control room because the night vision must be on top when the periscope is raised up. The surfaced submarine is operated and navigated by a single officer from the tower. The tools are the simplest possible: chart, log, compass.

The hours go on board and Södermanland glides through the cold water. The exercise is not over.

Suddenly the silence is broken when the alarm is sounded on the speakers:

Stridsledningen, ställning till drabbning! – Battle Management, a position on the battle!

Translated by Editor using Google Translate

Source: SvD

Hat Tip to Mr. Lars Gyllenhaal



%d bloggers like this: