Posts Tagged ‘Russian submarines’

Swedish submarine hunt continues ….. but is it just a play to promote NATO membership?

October 23, 2014

The hysteria is dying down.

Well nothing has been found so far but the search continues for “foreign” underwater activity. There are military officers addressing press conferences every day. Of course, it is implied, the military cannot reveal all the information they have. “We know much more than we are telling you — but trust us. We know what we are doing” is the impression they try to foster. They have even threatened to use “live fire” to force the dastardly, foreigners to the surface.

The coverage, not only from the outside world but even in Sweden, is more amused than concerned. Coverage from European NATO countries tends to paint a picture of a naive Sweden terribly “unprepared” for the real and nasty Russian Bear (implying that Sweden needs to join NATO). Some of the Swedish comments are about the threat to the West from Russia through the Baltic (implying that NATO needs Sweden to join the club). Other commentary in Sweden is about the lack of personnel and ships and equipment and how the defence budget needs to be increased sharply. Some claim that Sweden’s military has only the capability to resist foreign (read Russian) aggression for about 3 days!! This needs – so the story goes – to be urgently increased to at least 4 days of resistance.

The Russian press and social media comments have treated the whole story as a bit of a joke.

Dagens Nyheter:

That there is any real foreign submarine in the Stockholm archipelago is anything but convincing. Meanwhile, “the hysterical” submarine hunt is part of Sweden’s effort to get ever closer to the Western defense alliance NATO. These are some of the general comments in the Russian media in response to the feverish search for a “possible submarine” in Swedish waters.

“Sweden has suffered from a ‘Russian submarine syndrome’ since 1981, when a Soviet submarine through a navigational error came into Swedish waters and went aground near the Swedish naval base in Karlskrona. Since then ‘Russian submarines’ show up in Swedish waters just before a defense budget is to be adopted”, says the Russian newspaper, Pravda, about events in the Stockholm archipelago. 

Pravda, which has consulted with military experts, also dismisses press reports (in Svenska Dagbladet) that the Swedish military had captured emergency radio signals from an unidentified submarine in Swedish waters. The signals were reported to have been directed to and received in Kaliningrad, where the Russian Baltic fleet’s main base is located. The signals were said to be on a frequency that the Russian Navy uses in extreme situations, hence the conclusion that there may have been a submarine that was in distress.

But according to Igor Kurdin, president of the Submarine Men’s club in St Petersburg, the information about a distress signal is baseless. “There are several channels of communication on board submarines. Registering a signal is possible, but it is impossible to decrypt them, and to determine the direction of a radio signal is impossible according to the laws of physics”, says Kurdin (Interfax news agency).

Perhaps there is a submarine out there. Perhaps it was in distress. Perhaps it was testing Swedish defences.

I have my doubts. Maybe I am just being cynical but I see two “drivers” here. A push for NATO membership and a larger defence budget. There is a new Red/Green government in place and they are due to present their first budget proposal today. Normally the Red/Greens could be expected to cut back on defence spending and they are ideologically not at all comfortable in joining NATO. They have an idealised and somewhat glorified vision of a “Swedish neutrality” even if it is completely contradicted by the reality of cooperation with the US and NATO for at least the last 30 years. Public opinion is against NATO membership – but only just. The Swedish military would just love to be part of NATO and take part not only in exercises but also in some real live fire-fights. The Swedish military – for all its restricted defence budget – is quite technologically advanced but lack playgrounds for their toys. Being part of NATO would provide more playgrounds and even more toys and many more players to play with. The difference between playing The World of Warcraft all by yourself or playing it on the internet!!

There are therefore – as I see it –  three parties who could possible lie behind the furore in the Stockholm archipelago:

  1. It could have been a real Russian submarine on a testing or a training exercise, or
  2. It could be a play by the Swedish military to try and get a larger defence budget, or
  3. It could be a joint NATO/ Swedish military exercise to show the benefits of NATO membership.

There is a faint possibility there was something real but relatively innocent by the Russians but which has been opportunistically seized and blown up by the defence lobby and NATO supporters.

The budget proposal today is now expected to have some defence spending increase included.

A partial success for someone.

Hide-and-seek with Russian subs in the Stockholm Archipelago

October 20, 2014

It is the 1980s again and a sense of déjà vu. A real Red October and the hunt is on.

Fifty shades of the Cold War!

Of course it may not be a Triton -NN, Russian, stealth, submersible, high-speed craft wandering around the Stockholm archipelago – but it may be. It could just be probing Swedish defences or the boat may be in trouble. Or it could be nothing at all (though that seems unlikely). The Russians could be testing the new Red/Green Swedish government. Or carrying out a “live” training exercise but “against” a non-NATO member to minimise the risk of live fire. Or it could be a German or even a Polish submarine on a surreptitious training exercise!

The Russians have announced that they have no boats in trouble or missing so it is unlikely to be another Kursk.

The Triton-NN concept has been known for some time but there are few actual sightings.

Triton NN Submersible image padelt-online-de

Triton NN Submersible concept image

There are many theories around but the most “objective” update I have found is from the Finnish -Swede military blogger Corporal Frick. He writes:

The major news was when Swedish newspaper Svenska Dagbladet reported that a signal emerging from the archipelago outside of Stockholm had been sent on a Russian Navy distress channel. When the search operation got underway, there was renewed traffic, which was encrypted, and a transmitter located in Russian Kaliningrad answered. This was the first evidence that decidedly pointed towards Russia as the country of origin. This could also explain the, in my opinion, rather strong and decisive response by the Swedish Navy when the first visual sightings occurred.

Representatives of the Swedish Defence Forces have denied that they have received knowledge about a distress signal, although the exact wording leaves the possibility open that A) the info has been distributed on a strict need-to-know basis, and as such is not available to the officers involved in the operation, or B) the interpretation that a signal on a known foreign military channel used for distress signals does not equal a known distress signal. They have also clearly stated that they do not know the country of origin or exact nature of the underwater activity, and as such they will continue to refer to it simply as “foreign underwater activity”. Most importantly, it has been confirmed that three visual sightings have taken place, and that the operation will continue for a number of days. Imagery from one of the sightings has also been released. The picture is grainy, but could be interpreted to show some kind of a midget submarine, e.g. the Russian Triton NN.


A real Triton-NN? image from 2008

The question of where the mother ship is located has been focused on the Russian-owned Liberian-flagged crude carrier NS Concord. The ship has been anchored outside of St Petersburg since the beginning of May, acting as a floating storage. Last week, it set sail and sailed to a position right outside the border of Swedish territorial waters, where it has since loitered. To begin with its AIS-data gave the destination as Danish Straits, but today this was changed to Primorsk. When the tanker suddenly found itself in the limelight, the Russian research/sea survey vessel Professor Logachev suddenly headed out to sea, destined for Las Palmas(?). It remains to be seen if this vessel will make a stop outside of Stockholm, but the timing seems somewhat suspicious. The Logachev also happened(?) to be traveling in the middle of the three-ship Dutch naval flotilla heading home from Tallinn, with the Walrus-class submarine HNLMS Bruinvis probably not far away either.

The Triton-NN could – it is speculated – carry upto 6 Spetsnaz divers and 2 crew. There is also some suggestion after a sighting of a black-clad figure that somebody could have disembarked and come ashore on an island in the archipelago.

A Russian Ethan Hunt?

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