The Zapad-21 drills, featuring some 200,000 personnel, were held in western Russia and Belarus in September and were labelled a “demonstration of strength” showing Moscow’s “extensive military capability” by Swedish Defence Minister Peter Hultqvist.
In the midst of the joint Russian-Belarusian drills Zapad-21 in September, the Swedish submarine HMS Uppland was ordered to carry out a complex secret operation – namely to load live torpedoes out at sea, national broadcaster SVT has reported.
Under great secrecy, the torpedoes were transported from their storage facility via a highway and loaded onto the HMS Pelikanen, the Swedish Navy’s only missile and torpedo salvage vessel.
The HMS Pelikanen and the HMS Uppland subsequently met up in a bay in the Östergötland archipelago where the transshipment took place, “on a dark night” as SVT put it.
The reason for the rare field exercise was to do a contingency check built on the premise that their home base had been knocked out.
“Normally, the submarine goes to the quay in the city of Karlskrona to load new torpedoes. This time we did it from a more tactical place”, Lieutenant Colonel Adam Camél, the head of emergency preparedness, told SVT.
The HMS Uppland is a 62-metre Gotland-class diesel-electric submarine displacing 1,580 tonnes and manning up to 32 sailors. It has been in service since 1997 and has two peers within the Swedish Navy, the HMS Gotland and the HMS Halland.
The Zapad-21 drills held in western Russia and Belarus featured some 200,000 personnel, over 80 aircraft, and up to 760 pieces of military equipment.
At that time, Swedish Defence Minister Peter Hultqvist specifically warned that the drills, seen as the largest of its kind since the Cold War, affected Sweden’s entire surroundings. He later called the exercise a “demonstration of strength” showcasing Moscow’s “extensive military capability”.
Earlier this year, a military garrison on Sweden’s largest Baltic Sea island, Gotland, was bolstered, citing increased Russian military activity in the area. The Swedish reinforcements included sensors, off-road and armoured vehicles, air defence units, ships, and Gripen aircraft. SVT speculated that the measure may have been linked to the Zapad drills as well.