SWEDEN has mobilised aircraft and warships to hunt a Russian submarine believed to have sent a secret distress call late last week.
Suspicions were raised when a commercial tanker operated by Russia was noticed circling in a narrow area of Swedish waters.
Defence offials then mobilised the Swedish military, sending patrol ships and helicopters to search for what they called “foreign underwater activity”.
Swedish news website SvD Nyheter now claims the search is aimed at locating a possible Russian submarine believed to have sent a distress call on a Russian emergency frequency.
The newspaper website cites “credible sources” saying the tranmission was made in plain language, followed by a second encrypted transmission on Friday.
The transmissions were traced to Swedish waters.
While Sweden’s government has not revealed the nature of the incident, speculation surrounds the behaviour of the oil tanker NS Concord, a Liberian-registered vehicle that has apparently been circling in Swedish waters for the past week.
Sweden’s TT news agency reports a press officer for the nation’s military as saying the military activity was due to possible “foreign underwater activity” inside the Stockholm archipelago — some 50km from the city centre.
More than 200 men, Swedish stealth ships, minesweepers and helicopters have been searching the area since yesterday.
The military says the activity was based on information from a “credible source” — but would not say what that information was other than it involved “foreign underwater activity”.
“We still judge that the information we received yesterday was very trustworthy,” a military spokesman added, but declined to comment on what the military had discovered after more than 24 hours sweeping the sea around islands in Stockholm’s archipelago.
“I have decided to increase the number of units in the area — units with specialised sensors,”
Swedish defence analysts cited by local media speculate that a foreign submarine may have been in the area to replace old spy equipment or to monitor a Swedish naval exercise
Shortly after Sweden announced concerns that there may be “foreign underwater activity” in the area, the tanker turned east towards Russian waters.
The suspected Russian incursion follows reports of two Russian Su-24 fighter bombers violating Swedish airspace last month.
A major diplomatic crisis was sparked in 1981 when a Russian submarine ran aground in sensitive waters.
Defence Minister Peter Hultqvist said he was receiving regular updates from the Armed Forces, who had informed him the operation, involving around 200 troops, was “necessary and well-founded”.
“I have full trust in their judgment,” the TT news agency quoted him as saying.
No government representatives have commented on the nature of the information that had prompted the military activity.
“We have support for the analysis work we are now carrying out in the area in the form of ships, planes and territorial army personnel. The area is heavily trafficked, which is why it’s important for us to go public with information about what we’re doing,” said Jonas Wikström, commanding officer of the operation
Sweden’s new Social Democrat Defence Minister Peter Hultqvist — who took office just a fortnight ago — refused to comment on the military operation.
“What’s been happening in the Baltic Sea, including airspace incursions, shows that we have a new, changed situation,” he told the Svenska Dagbladet newspaper.
“Russia has made enormous military investments ... with their increased strength they are training more, and that influences the security environment.”http://www.news.com.au/world/sweden-mobilises-to-trackdown-damaged-russian-submarine/story-fndir2ev-1227095155512