Along the dividing line between East and West that reaches
from the North Cape on the Scandinavian peninsula to the Himalayas lie many
countries. Of these, none can boast a more concentrated defense effort than
that of the northern anchor, Sweden. For more than 150 years this country, with
its present-day population of 7,500,000, has not been involved in a war and
over the past century has pursued an alliance-free policy. Note that the phrase
is "alliance-free" rather than "neutral." The meaning is
clear—that Sweden is armed and ready to fight should anyone try to infringe on
To put muscle behind this philosophy, Sweden has evolved a
unique integrated defense philosophy called total defense. This system makes
effective use of every resource, without disturbing the economic growth and
prosperity of the nation. Total defense is designed to meet effectively any
possible form of attack, atomic or conventional, invasion by sea or by land, and
offensive moves by aircraft or guided missiles. Even psychological and
economic warfare have been taken into account.
This approach demands an unprecedented cooperation 'among
the military services, the government, the industry, and, most important, the
population. This effort moreover is supported by a sound and
government-regulated military research-and-development and procurement program.
No single factor in this total defense pattern can be reviewed properly without
examining the other aspects of the integrated plan. For instance, in discussing
the Swedish Air Force, the picture also includes the Department of Highways,
which constructs roads so that jets can operate from them, including a chain of
filling stations along the roads where the aircraft can draw their fuel in case
of war, while the surrounding farmer population mans the antiaircraft guns
protecting these "airfields." Every male citizen between the ages of
eighteen and forty-seven serves his country in case of war. Everybody, male or
female, between the ages of sixteen to sixty-five, is called upon to serve in
the civil defense organization. It becomes obvious that this necessarily static
system makes sense only under the assumption that Sweden will never fight an
offensive war. The armament and the structure of the Swedish forces
accordingly preclude their use in anything more than a localized counterattack.
It is not Sweden's inhabitants, her mineral riches, nor her
other resources that would be the prize and goal of an attack. Rather it is her
strategic position on the Scandinavian peninsula, which still could offer
considerable tactical advantages to East or West. Therefore, both sides would
spare no effort from the outbreak of a war to deny to the other the use of
bases on Swedish soil. The NATO air-defense system reaches into Scandinavia to
northern Norway and continues on to Iceland and Greenland. Farther south, the
West has partial control of the area around the southwest Baltic Sea and the
Baltic Narrows, which both border on Sweden. The West is therefore in a good
position to bar the Soviet Air Force and Navy from the Atlantic area. The East
in particular, but the West as well, could therefore gain considerable
advantages if their respective military bases could be located on Swedish soil.
For the West this would mean a completion of its defensive chain, and for the
East access to the North Sea.
Sweden, for her own protection, must have a highly modern
and effective defense system that discourages any possible attacker from the outset.
Fortunately great stretches of the borders that must be
defended are purely Arctic landscape, strongly resembling northern Alaska. The
geography and climate (the ten-month-long Arctic winter) greatly facilitate
defense. Even if an aggressor has large forces at his disposal, the possibility
of deploying them in great masses on the land fronts is slight due to
inaccessible terrain and a very loosely woven road and rail net in the northern
part of the country where an invasion by land could take place. This is one
reason for the emphasis placed on a strong air force with extended
reconnaissance facilities. The long coastal area and the relative nearness of
the opposite shores facilitate timely warning of an impending invasion across
the sea and from the air. In its present state of development, the Swedish Air
Force is capable of inflicting extensive damage on any invasion fleet.
But Sweden's best defensive asset is her basic granite rock.
Along the coast and in the interior, chain after chain of fortifications have
been blasted into this rock, a work that was started during World War II and
has continued ever since. Thousands of installations have been placed
underground, ranging from small shelters to large staff headquarters. The
government, the military regional commands, and civil defense headquarters
have complete and extensive fortifications and bunkers deep in the rock at
their disposal. Destroyers, submarines, and P T boats are kept invisible,
well-protected, and ready for use in caves blasted out of coastal rock, while
aircraft are poised for takeoff in underground hangers.
Since Sweden has no natural deposits of oil, great care has
been taken to assure that fuel and lubricants will be available over a long
period of time. Along the coast as well as inland, gigantic fuel tanks,
sheltered from the effects of conventional or tactical atomic weapons, have
been blasted out of the rock and are kept stocked for any emergency.
Ammunition and other war supplies, in addition to food and clothing, also have
been placed in such underground stockpiling areas. Future powerplants and
industrial complexes are planned from the beginning to be built deep
underground. Many such installations exist today and are in full operation even
during peacetime. The Swedish aircraft industry—airframe, missile, engine and
electronic factories—has been operating successfully for years deep under the
granite of the Swedish mountains.
Nor has the civilian population been forgotten. In case of
impending war, the inhabitants of big cities will be moved according to a
precise evacuation plan. Those who must remain in the cities, and workers in
the defense industry, have ample shelter space in the cities themselves. Again
the invaluable granite serves as a protective cover, and the gigantic
underground garages one sees in Stockholm, for instance, can be converted
speedily into A-bomb refuges.
It is clear that such extended effort cannot be bought
cheaply. The Swedish people foot a staggering defense bill, but judged by
history these expenses have proved worthwhile. Few countries can boast that
they have not been involved in a war for 150 years.
Military procurement policy assumes supreme importance in
this country that pursues an alliance-free policy. Sweden cannot rely on any
hand-me-down or military assistance program weapons. Everything acquired abroad
has to be paid for in hard cash. In fact, few items are bought from foreign
nations, as Sweden wants to depend on its own weaponry and moreover can safely
do so. The Air Force in particular, which flies ninety percent domestic
products, can boast some of the finest, most advanced aircraft and missiles in
To manufacture equipment in small runs and to finance the
necessary research for sophisticated weapon systems costs a lot of money.
Sweden, therefore, buys weapons abroad when a small number is needed. Such
purchases would include the British antiaircraft missile Bloodhound or the
ship-to-air missile Seacat which were bought in small quantities by the Swedish
government direct from the manufacturer. The Swedes prefer, however, to acquire
licenses to build and then modify weapons or engines to fit existing domestic
weapon systems. Such was the case with the Rolls-Royce Avon jet engine and the
Hughes Falcon missile, which serve as propulsion and armament respectively for
the Draken all-weather fighter. Most
weapons, however, are manufactured in Sweden, not because of false pride, but
because in case of war manufacture can continue uninterrupted in the
Five percent of the gross national product has been used annually
to equip and maintain Sweden's aimed forces. The GNP percentage rises sharply,
however, if every defense expenditure such as strategic road construction or
shelter building is added to it. The annual defense budget stands presently at
approximately 3,500 million kronor (approximately $700 million), thirty percent
of which goes to the Army, ten to thirteen percent to the Navy, with the Air
Force getting thirty-seven percent. The rest goes to other requirements of the
total defense system. In spite of her heavy defense outlay, however, Sweden has
the highest standard of living in Europe.
Since 1947, Air Force procurement has been based on so-called
seven-year plans which are kept flexible to mesh with rapidly progressing
technology. This system of procurement planning—which is strictly adhered
to—has given the Swedish industry a healthy, enviable stability, which in turn
is reflected in the high standard of equipment turned out by the manufacturers.
Working under such a well-regulated procurement plan, which does not permit peaks
and valleys, Swedish industry does not have to fear for its very existence
because of changing government policy. Strikes or layoffs are unknown, and
defense industry can rely on a highly trained work force of long-term employees,
a factor which assures a top-quality product.
Based on this solid foundation of a stable government policy,
a united population, and a capable industry that ensures self-reliance in
nearly all aspects of weaponry, the Swedish Air Force today stands as one of
the finest and most modern in the world.
The Swedish Air Force began in 1912 when the government
allotted a sum for the aeronautical training of three officers, one NCO, and
two mechanics. They trained in, France. The same year the Swedish Army received
its first two aircraft, one of which was a donation from the Swedish
Aeronautical Society. In 1913 the Royal Swedish Navy started its own flying
school with three aircraft. This modest beginning was followed by a rapid
growth during World War I and culminated in the merging of the air arms of the
Navy and Army to form the Royal Swedish Air Force. Thus in 1926 Sweden became
one of the first nations to have an independent Air Force.
The advent of Hitler led in 1936 to a considerable increase
in Air Force strength. Facilities for pilot training were expanded. The first
experiences of World War II, however, showed that this organization and the
equipment available were not sufficient to support the purposes of Swedish
defense policy. In particular the experiences of the Finnish-Russian war in
1939-40, in which several Swedish Air Force volunteer units participated on the
Finnish side, made an immediate change necessary. The Swedish government
resolved that the organizational structure of the Air Force should be changed
and a far greater number of aircraft be put into service.
Since Sweden had bought, up to this date, nearly all its
aircraft abroad, it had no domestic aircraft industry. The aeronautical firm
SAAB (Svenska Aeroplan AB) had been founded some years before but it had
contributed only meagerly to the equipping of the Swedish Air Force.
Understandably enough, none of the great aircraft manufacturers of the world
could sell aircraft to Sweden in 1940. The result was a rapid enlargement of
the SAAB factories and the associated SFA (Svenska Flygmotor AB) engine
factories. The Swedish aircraft industry was born. Towards the end of the war
the Swedish Air Force was equipped with excellent fighters and bombers of
domestic design. It was no mean achievement for such a small country to have
founded and successfully operated an aircraft industry inside of four short
years. In 1945 the Air Force numbered twenty-one fighter squadrons, twenty-one
attack and nine reconnaissance squadrons, and had increased its training
The postwar euphoria did not take hold in Sweden. The
lessons of unpreparedness had not been forgotten and moreover Sweden's borders
were very close to those of the Soviet Union, whose expansionist policy was
clearly recognized. War experiences led to another reevaluation of the Air
Force organization, putting greater stress on the interceptor elements. In 1955
the Swedish Air Force consisted of thirty day-fighter squadrons, three
night-fighter squadrons, twelve attack and five reconnaissance squadrons with
adequate training units and installations. The flying school at Ljungbyhed, the
air cadet school and the air staff college at Uppsala, several bombing and
gunnery schools, NCO training and technical schools, and a radar and
electronics school—to name the most important installations—formed the core of
the training facilities. These schools are being constantly enlarged and modernized.
In 1960 Sweden was forced for budgetary reasons to reduce
the number of aircraft in service, and five day-fighter squadrons were
scratched from the inventory. This could be done safely since at that time a
highly versatile weapon system, the SAAB J-35 Draken, began to be operational with the interceptor squadrons.
The Swedish Air Force at present is organized into four air
groups, each of which is responsible for the defense of one part of the
country. The equipment of the groups varies with their locations. The
headquarters of the four attack wings of Air Group I, consisting of twelve
squadrons, is at Goteborg, covering the southeastern and eastern access routes
which lead over the sea to Sweden. Stationed at Angelhohn is the headquarters
of Air Group II, consisting of three day-fighter wings and one all-weather wing
with a total of eleven squadrons. The group protects the western flank of the
Swedish peninsula toward the Baltic Narrows. Air Group III has four all-weather
wings with fourteen squadrons at its disposal at Stockholm. Its task is day
and night interception over the most densely populated regions of the country.
In the north, just below the polar circle at Lulea, is the
home of Air Group IV which comprises one day-fighter wing, one reconnaissance
wing, an additional reconnaissance squadron, and an all-weather fighter squadron,
a total of nine squadrons. This group, with its heavy complement of
reconnaissance aircraft, watches over the northern approaches to the country.
Only aircraft can guard this frontier, where few roads are open from east to
west during the short Arctic summer. The aircraft of the four groups are
stationed at more than thirty peacetime bases, with at least double that number
of secret wartime fields at their disposal. The only missile wing of the
Swedish Air Force is located at Stockholm, equipped with Bloodhound II
ground-to-air rockets of British design.
The number of aircraft Sweden can deploy for combat remains
a secret. An educated guess would place it at approximately 1,000 to 1,200,
thus making the Swedish Air Force one of the strongest on earth. A certain percentage
of aircraft is obsolete or obsolescent, but this does not hurt too much because
of the Swedish defense philosophy and the resulting tactical situation. Swedish
airpower is backed by one of the most sophisticated radar and surveillance nets
in existence today. It carries the name STRIL/60. This surveillance system
that, again, incorporates every aspect of defense—land, sea, air, civil
defense, etc.—played a big role during the trial recently of Colonel Wennerström,
the Swedish super-spy. He was alleged to have given away vital secrets of the
system to the Russians. This indeed could be a bad blow to Sweden since all her
defense effort is based on STRIL/60. A reorganization of the deployment of the
four air groups, which is presently being conducted, may likewise have its
roots in the Wennerström affair.
Basically the STRIL/60 system (as much as one can gather
from the meager information available) is semiautomatic, with visual
observation and other information fed in, and is comparable to the SAGE system.
During the past year the first two sector centers became operational
"somewhere in the south of Sweden." This year other sectors will
follow. The sketch on page 39 shows what STRIL/60 will, or is supposed to, do.
The Swedish Air Force will be able to fight under and out of an excellent
radar screen. Even if some of the aircraft may not be the most modem anymore,
the advantage of being placed by radar at the right time in the right location
to meet an attacker under favorable conditions makes up for the couple of
hundred knots that may be missing from maxi-speed. Thus, STRIL/60 also becomes
a typical element of total defense, since obviously it cannot be used
Something should be said here about the men of the RSAF. In
relation to the number of aircraft available, the manpower of the RSAF is
ridiculously low—all in all, 12,550 officers, warrant officers, and men. An
additional 6,750 civilians serve mostly in administrative capacities. This low
manpower requirement naturally is a dividend of the total defense system, where
air bases are kept operational by the highway department and do not have to be
guarded, where the filling station attendant knows how to service an aircraft
in time of need, and where the local television repairman takes the uniform out
of his closet and drives to the nearby radar station to do some trouble-shooting. Defense in Sweden is everybody's business. Sweden has
basically no standing army, just training units and an administrative skeleton,
which is filled out of need by well-trained men. Only the Navy and Force have a
standing complement of servicemen.
In terms of equipment, the RSAF standards are high, perhaps
the highest in Europe. The mainstay of the interceptor, all-weather, and
reconnaissance squadrons is the single seat SAAB J-35 Draken (Dragon) in its different versions. This Mach 2-plus
aircraft has been designed primarily to intercept bombers in the transonic and
supersonic speed ranges. It carries the necessary radar equipment to operate
under all-weather conditions. Its armament consists of automatic cannon and
Sidewinder or Falcon missiles with the fire-control and radar systems directly
linked to STRIL/60. A double delta wing makes it a most unusual and beautiful
aircraft. It is powered by a license-built and modified Rolls-Royce Avon
engine. The earlier Draken versions
use the 200 series engine; the present models use the 300 series engine which
delivers 16,000 lbs. of thrust with afterburner. The afterburner is of Swedish
design, just as the engine has been modified to comply with the RSAF
requirements. Presently the Draken
J-35F version is in mass production. It is equipped with an advanced fire-control
and radar system and will probably be the last model of the Draken series.
The attack wings are equipped with the transonic SAAB A-32
Lansen (Lance). This aircraft made its maiden flight in 1952 and became the
first Swedish plane to pass the sound barrier, in 1953. This two-seater
aircraft in the ten-ton weight class is powered by a license-built Rolls-Boyce
Avon engine without afterburner. The armament consists of four 20-mm. cannon,
rockets, bombs, or missiles. The attack version of the Lansen is designed to
operate under all-weather conditions over water. It carries the air-to-ship
missile Robot 304, which probably is a type of rocket-boosted homing torpedo,
the details of which are kept secret. A more powerful version of the Lansen
A-32, the J-32B using the same Avon 200 engine with afterburner as the earlier
models of the Draken, is used by two of the all-weather fighter wings. The
aircraft is armed with Sidewinders, rockets, and cannon.
Three day-fighter wings still use the now-obsolete SAAB J-29C
Tunnan (Barrel). In 1951 the fighter wings began to be equipped with the early
versions of this aircraft, which had flown for the first time in 1948. It was
the first sweptwing aircraft to be put into production in Europe and for its
time probably was the best fighter in existence. It set two world speed records
in 1954 and 1955, the latter record being remarkable because it was achieved
by two service aircraft flying in formation. This aircraft is in the seven-ton
weight class, powered by a de Havilland Ghost engine with afterburner. The
armament includes four 20-mm. cannon, rockets, and bombs.
Aside from several types of training aircraft, helicopters,
and some foreign-bought Hawker Hunters which equip one wing, these three
aircraft types make up the main strength of the Swedish Air Force. Maintenance
problems and in particular spare parts difficulties are thereby kept at a
minimum. The envisioned trend for the future, however, is even more ambitious.
One single type is to fulfill nearly all the combat roles and requirements of
the RSAF. This aircraft, which carries the name SAAB A-37 Viggen (Thunderbolt),
is presently under development.
The Viggen multipurpose STOL combat aircraft is intended to
initially replace the Lansen attack aircraft in 1969-70. Later on, the aircraft
will be produced in reconnaissance and fighter versions, so that eventually
all present combat aircraft can be replaced by this Mach 2.5 plane. This
multipurpose capability will be made possible by developing the Viggen as a
standard flying platform with characteristics and performance suited for all
three combat roles. A digital computing center capable of easy reprogramming
for the various tactical missions is seen as the heart of the weapon system.
STOL performance will be achieved mainly through the use of a novel aerodynamic
configuration consisting of a delta wing and canard wings with flap-blowing.
The engine will be a Swedish modified supersonic version of the Pratt &
Whitney JT-8-D bypass engine with afterburner and thrust reverser.
The Viggen program is said to be the greatest national
project ever undertaken in Sweden, since the RSAF will require nearly 900 of
the new aircraft to reequip the Lansen and Draken wings. The armament will
consist of air-to-ground and air-to-air missiles of advanced Swedish-developed
and -built types, besides the Rb. 304 torpedo. The close-quarter air-support
duties will be fulfilled by a secondary type aircraft, the SAAB A-60. In the United
States it would fall into the category of COIN aircraft. Originally designed as
a trainer, this aircraft can be converted easily for ground-attack missions,
armed with missiles, rockets, and cannon. SAAB has already received firm
orders for 130 A-60s with an unspecified number to follow. These two programs
alone will bring the combat strength of the Swedish Air Force to an
unprecedented high level.
The Swedish people are aware that only a determined and
steadfast effort on all fronts of defense can ensure the integrity of their
homeland. In Sweden, defense of its freedom and independence is a common
public goal and a gladly-accepted duty.
Last May, Stefan Geisenheyner, the author of this article,
spoke before the Wiesbaden, Germany, Squadron of AFA on the Egyptian aircraft
industry. Afterward, with perhaps a hint of coals to Newcastle, he was
presented one of the traditional beer stems given all of the Squadron's guest
speakers. Presentation was made by Robert Neely (at right in the photo), Past
Commander of the Wiesbaden unit. On September 1, Mr. Geisenheyner joined the
staff of AIR FORCE/ SPACE DIGEST as Editor for Europe. He will work out of
Wiesbaden for AF/SD as well as for the new AF/SD INTERNATIONAL, which will be
distributed among leaders of the free world beginning in January 1965. Mr.
Geisenheyner, formerly Editor in Chief of Flugwelt, the leading West German
aerospace magazine, wrote for AF/SD the article on the new Luftwaffe (March '64
issue) and the story of Europe's growing space program (July 64).
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