Baltic Approaches D+10 (19 July, 1987) Part I


Sweden had anticipated a swift Soviet response to Prime Minister Carlsson’s speech. Military and civil defense preparations were made in the hours leading up to the speech. Some were discreet. Other measures, which could not be easily concealed, yet were necessary to the nation’s security, still moved ahead and were implemented. The reality of the current situation was that it would be at least a few days before the alignment with NATO was complete and the alliance could provide military support to Sweden. The senior military leadership had accepted this as fact, was prepared to endure the hardships, and fight unaided for seven to ten days.

The Swedish military moved proactively. The moment its entry into the war was made official, naval forces sank three Soviet submarines that had crept into the waters around Sweden’s most critical naval bases. These submarines had been tracked, and were under close surveillance in the hours before the Carlsson speech. A pair of Soviet intelligence-gathering vessels were also attacked by surface warships of the Swedish Navy. The second of these attacks brought about a brief but deadly surface engagement between Swedish corvettes, and a pair of nearby Soviet warships that had been undetected by the Swedes.  Anti-ship missile fire was exchanged, causing the destruction of the Swedish corvette Malmo, and the Neukrotimyy, a Soviet Krivak II class frigate.

Even before Carlsson walked to the podium, helicopters carrying the first wave of Swedish troops were landing on the Aaland Islands. Control of the strategically positioned islands was vital to Swedish war plans. They commanded some of the sea approaches to Stockholm, as well as the approaches to the Gulf of Bothina. Securing the islands would also ensure the uninterrupted flow of equipment and supplies from Sweden to Finland in the coming days.

The Swedes were right to make preparations, and act while they could. The Soviet response to the nation’s emergence from neutrality was swift, and dynamic. Late in the evening of D+9, as the Swedish prime minister’s speech was concluding, large numbers of airborne contacts speeding towards the Sweden’s northern border, and southern coast were picked up by radar sites across the country. Like the wave of attacks in the north, which have been discussed in the Northern Flank entries, the first Soviet air attacks in the south and east were concentrated against airbases, and radar sites.  And as was the case in the north, the Swedish Air Force was ready and waiting.

MiGs and Viggens dueled and merged in the darkening skies late on D+9 and running early into D+10. The Swedish pilots and fighters were at the very least equal to their Soviet counterparts. Kills were made, but as was the case so many times in Norway and elsewhere, the Soviet advantage in numbers proved to be the deciding factor. The MiGs kept the Swedes engaged and their attention diverted as four squadrons of Su-24 Fencers penetrated Swedish airspace and sped towards the major airbases in the south and east at low level.

Shortly after 0010 hours the first car bomb explosions rumbled across the capital city of Stockholm. KGB cells, along with Spetsnaz teams already in place had spread out to conduct their missions. Many of these were nothing more than acts of terror designed to frighten the population. Massive car bombs went off in front of four government buildings, including the headquarters of the foreign ministry. Commandos also launched attacks against the city’s infrastructure. Radio stations, power plants, and television studios were all hit. In some cases, Swedish Home Guard troops intercepted the Spetsnaz in route to their targets, or responded so quickly it upset and defeated some of the attacks. As the early morning hours went on though, more and more pillars of smoke rose over the city skyline, and the rattle of automatic weapons fire could be heard from one end of the city to the other.

As first light broke across the land, revealing the devastation, and carnage, it was readily apparent to all Swedish citizens that their nation was engaged in a war for its survival.

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