Tracing its lineage to that time the scrappy hövitsman Gustav Eriksson (later Gustav I, later Gustav Vasa) purchased a dozen ships from the Hanseatic town of Lübeck for the princely sum of 7,600 marks on 7 June 1522, the Swedish Navy predated old Gus’s 37-year reign, one that didn’t begin till the summer of 1523 after he licked the Danes– with the help of said ships.
Principal among the vessels purchased from the Germans was Lybska Svan, aka the “Svanen från Lübeck,” or the “Swan from Lubeck,” a plucky little 20-gun brig.
Lybska Svan via the Swedish Naval Museum. The ship fought in nine sea battles in its short career, and it hosted the Denmark capitulation in 1523 that paved the way for Sweden to become an independent state. To Sweden, it is a combination of the USS Missouri and Independence Hall.
For those with basic math skills, that means the Marinen is fast approaching its 500th anniversary.
PostNord Sverige has just released a set of three 26-kroner stamps to celebrate the Swedish Navy’s 500th anniversary this year.
One stamp depicts an advanced Saab A26 AIP hunter-killer submarine, currently being built for the force, and the commemorative sheet also shows a Saab CB90 Next Generation patrol boat in action as well as a UH-46/KV-107, which the Swedes used for SAR and ASW from 1963-2011. For a throwback, the Lybska Svan is depicted, of course.
Warship Wednesday, Nov. 6, 2019: Italian Mosquitos of the Baltic
All photos, Swedish Sjöhistoriska Museet maritime museum unless noted. This one is file no. Fo196168
Here we see HSwMS T 28, a T 21-class motortorpedbåt (motor torpedo boat) of the Svenska Marinen (Royal Swedish Navy) in 1943 as she planes on her stern, her bow completely above the waves. If she looks fast, that’s because she was– like 50 knots fast.
The Swedes in the 1930s had the misfortune of being sandwiched between a resurgent Germany and a newly ambitious Soviet Union, both having come up on the losing side of the Great War and suffered much during the generation immediately following. This fear went into overdrive as World War II began.
With a lot of valuable coast to protect, the Flottan’s plan to do so was the new Tre Kronor (Three Crowns)-class of three fast cruisers (kryssaren) who were to each serve as a flotilla flagship of a squadron of four destroyers and six motor torpedo boats while three pansarskepps(literally “armored ships”) bathtub battleships would form a strategic reserve.
For the above-mentioned MTBs, Stockholm turned south, shopping with the Baglietto Varazze shipyard in Italy– which is still around as a luxury yacht maker). Baglietto’s “velocissimo” type torpedo boat, MAS 431, had premiered in 1932 and was lighting quick but still packed a punch.
MAS 431, via Baglietto
Just 52.5-feet long overall, MAS 431 was powered by a pair of Fiat gasoline engines, packing 1,500hp in a hull that weighed but 12-tons. The 41-knot vessel carried a pair of forward-oriented 18-inch torpedoes, a couple of light machine guns, six 110-pound depth charges for submarines (she had a hydrophone aboard) and was manned by a crew of seven.
MAS 431 craft proved the basis for the very successful MAS 500 series boats, with more than two dozen completed. These boats used larger Isotta-Fraschini engines which coughed up 2,000hp while they could putter along on a pair of smaller 70hp Alpha Romero cruising motors. The Swedes directly purchased four of these (MAS 506, 508, 511, and 524) which became T 11 – 14 in 1939. These 55-foot MTBs could make 47 knots.
MAS 500 in the Mediterranean 1938, via Regina Marina
However, the Swedes weren’t in love with the wooden hulls of the Italian boats and went to design their own follow-up class of MTBs in 1941. The resulting T 15 class, built locally by Kockums with some support from Italy, went 22-tons in weight due to their welded steel hulls. However, by installing larger Isotta-Fraschini IF 183 series engines, they could still make 40+ knots.
Swedish Motortorpedbåt T 15. 5 Just four of these craft would be built by Kockums. The camo scheme and white “neutral” racing stripe were standard for Sweden’s wartime fleet. Fo101806
Nonetheless, there was still room for improvement. Upgrading to larger 21-inch torpedo tubes and stretching the hull to 65-feet, the T 21 class carried 3,450hp of supercharged 18-cylinder IF 184 engines which allowed a speed listed as high as 50 knots in Swedish journals. They certainly were a seagoing mash-up of Volvo and Ferrari.
T 28 MTB Fo200188
Motortorpedbåten T 28. 1943 Fo88597A
T30. Bild Sjöhistoriska Museet, Stockholm SMM Fo88651AB
Besides the torpedoes, the craft was given a 20mm AAA gun in a semi-enclosed mount behind the pilothouse while weight and space for two pintle-mounted 6.5mm machine guns on either side of the house and one forward was reserved. As many as six depth charges were also carried.
Torpedbåt, motortorpedbåt typ T 21
The T 21s proved more numerous than the past Swedish MTB attempts, with a total of 11 boats produced by 1943. They proved invaluable in what was termed the Neutralitetsvakten (neutrality patrol) during the rest of WWII.
Assorted Swedish splinter boats clustered at Galo Island in Stockholm, 1943. (Motortorpedbåtar vid Gålö år 1943 Fo88679A)
Hkn Prince Bertil, Duke of Halland, who in the 1970s served as heir to his nephew King Carl XVI Gustaf, clocked in on Swedish torpedo boats during the first part of WWII before he was reassigned in 1943 as a naval attaché to London.
HRH Prince Bertil of Sweden aboard a torpedo boat, holding a pair of binoculars Nordiska Museet NMA.0028790
Due to their steel hulls, the craft proved much more durable than comparable plywood American PT-boats or the Italian MAS boats and, while the latter’s days were numbered immediately after WWII, the Swedish T 21s endured until 1959, still keeping the peace on the front yard of the Cold War.
In late 1940s service and throughout the 1950s they carried a more sedate grey scheme.
1947 Janes entry
Motortorpedbåt T 25. Propagandaturen på Vättern, Juli 1947 Fo88595A
T24, note another of her class forward, with the M40 20mm cannon showing
Swedish torpedo boat Motortorpedbåten T29, 1950 Gota Canal. Note the 20mm cannon, which is now better protected, and the depth charges with two empty racks. The Swedes, then as now, were not squeamish when it came to dropping cans on suspect sonar contacts in their home waters.
The T 21s were later augmented by the similar although up-gunned (40mm Bofors) T 38 class and finally replaced by the much-improved Spica-class, which remained in use through the 1980s with the same sort of tasking as the craft that preceded them.
The T-30, seen here in an idyllic peacetime setting, remained in Swedish service during the Cold War. The follow-on Motortorpedbåtar T38 class reached a speed of 51.6 knots during a speed test outside Karlskrona in April 1956.
At 139-feet oal, the Spicas were more than twice as long as the T 21s and carried a half-dozen torpedoes in addition to a 57mm Bofors gun.
However, that welded steel hull and the mild salinity of the Baltic has meant that at least one of the old T 21s, T 26 to be clear, has been preserved as a working museum ship in her Cold War colors and is still poking around, although she probably could not make her original designed speed at this point.
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