Here we go again – submarine hunting!

In the dark evening of October 27, 1981, a Soviet submarine sailed straight into the Karlskrona archipelago in Sweden. It went with roaring diesel engines in surface mode with eight knots, a speed suitable for open sea but not for narrow straits in the dark. The waters were even too shallow for a submarine of the size in question to hide by diving. Not surprisingly it ran up on a cliff and got stuck. Simple minds like our famous Carl Bildt and his compatriots had got their eagerly awaited Soviet “spying operation” caught in the act. For ordinary people it was more likely a navigation error, perhaps aggravated by a drunken crew celebrating the end of a naval maneuver in the Baltic Sea.

The years after 1981 Sweden was then struck by submarine craze. Enormous efforts were made in the Stockholm archipelago to hunt down (clearly Russian) submarines spotted by multitudes of people or detected by the Navy’s sonar equipment and other military surveillance facilities. A substantial part of the Swedish naval forces were engaged. Almost a hundred depth charges were fired and a number of permanent mines exploded during these operations in the 1980s.

Well, how many submarines were hit, or even detected? None, of course! At least three large investigations of the operations have been carried out during the years that followed. For each one of these the number of “verified observations” has diminished substantially. Today there is probably just a few left. Some of the sounds captured by Sonar turned out to come from a civil sail-training ship, others from swimming seals, etc. The few submarines that with any credibility can be said to have intruded Swedish waters are now widely assumed as coming from NATO countries.

After these spectacular delusions one would have expected some kind of immunity towards submarine extravagances, but the vaccination effect obviously expired after 33 years. So now we are at it again! The same manic journalism, with the same, almost verbatim headlines: “The worst thing to happen would be to find dead Russian [Soviet] soldiers”.

If for lack of money this time, or whatever, but the hunt was terminated quite quickly, the Supreme Commander admitting that it “naturally is impossible” to obtain concrete evidence of submarine activity in a large archipelago. It has cost the taxpayers many millions for the military leaders to learn that apparently self evident lesson. Nevertheless we are expected to accept that there is evidence for one intruding submarine this time. The “experts” then say that it “obviously” is a Russian one.

This submarine came in exceptionally handy. With the ground already prepared by media’s warmongering reaction to developments in Ukraine all the large parties in Parliament have declared that the military budget must be strengthened. The main purpose is thus served. At the same time all responsible pundits admit that Russia poses no military threat to Sweden. Nobody seems to ask the natural question what Russia then would have to gain from intruding Swedish waters in the present sensitive situation, and how those minuscule gains could outweigh the enormous loss of good will if a Russian submarine in fact had been caught. In most of our Russophobe assumptions we seem to presume that Russian leaders are pure idiots.

Looking back there naturally are some incidents when submarines, also Russian/Soviet, have probed Swedish waters, mostly for a short time and probably mainly to test our military vigilance. Almost all observations are from the east coast, meeting the expectations (and hopes) that the Russians are mostly to be blamed.

In the 1960s I served as a reserve officer in a Coast artillery battalion during a maneuver on the Swedish west coast. Placed in the command center I one day received a report from an outer island that a fully visible West German submarine had intruded into Swedish waters with a large margin. The report was sent on to the next level of command and in return came a strict order for absolute secrecy. Speaking with older officers I learned that these West German visits during our exercises were routine. None of the incidents ever appeared in media, and I wondered if the government ever was informed. But the east coast and the Soviets/Russians is a completely different matter.

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