Operational transport for the defense of Gotland

Exercise Aurora 17 has now entered a stage where the focus is on Gotland. On Monday, equipment and troops were shipped to the island by both air and sea. In Oskarshamn, ships were waiting to leave with cargo that included air defense assets. In Halmstad three Hercules and a large C 17 aircraft, also loaded with equipment, were ready to go. The destination was Gotland.

JAS 39 Gripen aircraft took off from Såtenäs and were tasked with providing air cover for the passage of the two vessels between Oskarshamn and Visby. Photo: John Lidman/Swedish Armed Forces

It is not guaranteed that units and equipment will always be where the Armed Forces need them. Therefore, practicing the capability to move is very important, and operational transport is a priority element during the exercise.

The exercise is now all about defending Gotland. Troops and equipment, destined for the island, arrived at ports and airports, mainly on the east coast. 61st Air Defence Battalion's advance party travelled by air from Halmstad. They were moved by three Armed Forces Hercules aircraft and a C-17 aircraft from the Heavy Airlift Wing (HAW). During Exercise Aurora 17, the HAW will provide strategic air transport support for all phases of the exercise.

Throughout the day troops and equipment arrived at the port of Oskarshamn, including the 61st Air Defence Battalion's main body. They embarked on two chartered vessels, the merchant vessel, Bore, and the high-speed ferry, Gotlandia, their destination – Visby.

During Exercise Aurora 17, the HAW will provide strategic air transport support for all phases of the exercise. Photo: Henrik Gebhardt /Swedish Armed Forces
The Heavy Airlift Wing (HAW) is a collaboration between 12 nations, which jointly own and operate three C17 Globemaster III aircraft. These aircraft are a strategic air transport resource. Photo: Henrik Gebhardt /Swedish Armed Forces


HMS Nyköping and detroyers arrived from their home ports. The maritime force’s task is to escort the two merchant vessels to Visby.

In the exercise scenario, Sweden faces an armed attack from the sea and, during the escort, information was received that the greatest threat was hostile submarines. Coast Guard vessels also participated in the exercise.

– The warships used sonar to search for hostile submarines in the coastal area outside Oskarshamn before departure. During the escort itself, the ships split up to search along the route. Nyköping searched the area outside Visby harbour, says her captain, Lieutenant Commander Thomas Zimmerman.


However, the ships were not only escorted by the Navy. A pair of JAS 39 Gripen (a “twoship”) took off from Såtenäs. Because of the increased readiness state, an air escort was tasked to cover the passage of the two vessels carrying troops and equipment between Oskarshamn and Visby. The passage was estimated to take about four hours and a JAS 39 Gripen twoship was overhead throughout.

– We showed our presence with a low pass over the harbour in Oskarshamn, before we went high, says Carl Bergqvist, Commander of 72nd Fighter Squadron.

A total of three twoships, which relieved each other during the passage, were involved in the escort task.

The escort was similar to some of the pilots’ routine peacetime aviation security tasks. Everything was quiet and there was no evidence of any incursion by any foreign power.

– It was an excellent opportunity for our younger colleagues to exercise in realistic conditions, says Carl Bergqvist.

The two merchant vessels, escorted both by the Air Force and the Navy, arrived safely in Visby on Monday evening.

Övning Aurora har nu gått in i ett skede där Gotland är fokus. Materiel och trupper skeppades i måndags över till ön med både flyg och fartyg.

HMS Nyköping var ett av de fartyg som eskorterade transporten.
HMS Nyköping was one of the ships escorting the merchant vessels. Photo: Jimmie Adamsson/Swedish Armed Forces


Individual forces – land, air and maritime – are good at what they do. However, they seldom have the opportunity to exercise together.

– During this exercise, and this stage of the exercise, we have practiced and planned together; it has been very useful, says Anna-Karin Ekstedt from the Armed Forces Transport and Movement branch.

Many actors were involved in the move to Gotland. They included foreign and Swedish units, air transport and escorts from the Armed Forces, chartered ships, our own vessels and road transport – which also involved both military and civilian resources. All this requires planning and coordination.

– Our operational transport and movement capability is formed through cooperation both within the Armed Forces, and with civilian actors, and, in turn, we create operational effect, says Anna-Karin Ekstedt.