HSwMS Gotland (A2)  and  HSwMS Lappland (A3)
The story which didn't happen ... outside Atlantic Air Combat

Both laid down in the mid-forties, the Colossus class aircraft carriers HMS Glory (R62) and HMS Theseus (R64) were not completed in time to participate in the second world war.   Both saw service however during the Korean War where they were deployed several times during the conflict, in particular HMS Theseus which also participated in operations during the Suez Crisis in 1956.

HMS Glory was transferred to the reserve in 1956 and it was then when Sweden expressed interest to acquire the ship from United Kingdom, together with a second Colossus class carrier.  The reasons laid in the fact that by the end of the Korean War,
it had become clear for Sweden that more trouble was looming up in Europe, especially with the USSR going ahead with their plans to build fleet carriers.  Not only would it give the USSR more capable assets to trigger an attack through the Baltic, but an increasingly strong Soviet Navy was also a threat to Sweden's shipping lanes in the Artic and North Seas (Norway, Scotland, Iceland) and accross the Atlantic (Canada, USA).

A debate had been going on for some time in Sweden about whether to scrap, maintain or develop their "blue water" navy (re: the 3 Sverige class, and the 2 Tre Kronor class heavy cruisers commissioned after WW2).  In the light of Soviet military development,  Sweden felt they couldn't do else than expand their own military to secure their neutrality and so decided in January 1956 to strengthen their navy, and acquire aircraft two carriers.           

While the Baltic was not exactly a place to safely operate a carrier - and this reflexion would be valid for the Russians too -, it nevertheless would offer additional air capabilities to reach out at sea and protect the mainland.  But the main purpose of this acquisition was to enhance their anti-shipping capabilities in the Artic, and to a lesser extent, provide a platform for anti-submarines assets.  And thus, escorted by heavy destroyers, sea going submarines and one each of their two heavy cruiser, two Artic Fleets or "Task Forces" were created, allowing one of the two to be available at all times.

The home waters were not forgotten as the three Sverige class Coastal Ships, along with an array of lighter destroyers and enough submarines to give quite a headache to Soviet military planners were now assembled as the Baltic Fleet.

transfer of HMS Glory to the reserve thus created the opportunity to approach the Royal Navy without delay, and with HMS Theseus also due to be decommissioned soon, an agreement was soon reached for these two ships to be transefered to Sweden.

Both ships needed to be modernised, and by mid-September 1956 HMS Glory sailed to Gothenburg to be refitted by
Eriksbergs Mekaniska Verkstads AB.  This shipyard had no previous experience with the handling of aircraft carriers naturally, but EMV was no stranger to large ships as, among others, they had been responsible for the construction of HSwMS Tre Kronor, one of the two Swedish heavy cruisers commissioned just after the war.   And besides the Royal Navy who was willing to assist, Sweden could also rely on the assistance of other friendly navies, among them the Dutch Navy who had themselves embarked with the major refit of another Colossus class carrier in 1955.

Soon after HMS Glory, HMSTheseus became available and too sailed to Gothenburg to be refitted by Götaverken, who had constructed HSwMS Gota Lejon, the second heavy cruiser.

The workload being spread between two of the major Swedish shipyards, and conveniently located in the same city, works went ahead swiftly with both ships being rebuilt with an 9° angled flight deck, new elevators, new island, additional 40 mm anti-aircraft guns, steam catapults, new aviation facilities and electronics, including a radar.  HMS Glory was re-commissioned as HSwMS Gotland (A2) in August 1959, and HMS Theseus as HSwMS Lappland (A3) in June 1960.

But the work necessary to achieve this result was tremendous.   In order to transform these ships, obsolete by British standards, into modern combat assets, both vessels were revisited from the keel to the top of the mast.  With both elevators located in the centreline, moving them away to starboard was a temptation that was resisted.   Moving the front lift would certainly enhance operation but would be terribly disruptive below deck - the ship was just too small for that - and not without effect on deck as a parking area would be lost and the starboard catapult..   Moving the after lift was probably feasible.  Disruption below deck would be managable, although at the cost of crew quarters, already cramped, and again the effect on deck was undesirable, as aircraft operations needed deck place as much as hangar area or elevators.   The smaller the ship, the more important the balance between conflicting priorities.   Not surprisingly - the Dutch also resisted the idea - the elevators remained in their original position, marginally enlarged though and essentially beefed up to cater for heavier loads.

The island however was judged too impractical to be maintained as is.   First, it was moved backward by 50 feet, with all in the intricated consequences (moving the funnels is never an easy task).   In order to do that a significant part of the "F" deck on starboard was rebuilt, offering a little more space.  The move of the island was made at the cost of some ramp area but made possible the installation of a second bow catapult, the very reason of the island repositioning.   Structually, the construction was dismantled and reassembled in its new position, although alterations were many.   While the British learned to live moving accross activity areas, the Swedes intalled a gangway wherever possible, displacing functions below deck when necessary.   There was a funny lift desserving just two levels, and it was patiently reassembled before the Navy had some afterthoughs and required a lift to serve all levels between B and G deck (hangar level).  Again, it was feasible but a pity it had not been decided before.   In the end, there was too much work involved with the removal of the original elevator which was maintained.   So far for Nordic efficiency...

The major visual change was the adoption of an angled deck naturally.   And the Swedes went as far as a 9° angled deck, pushed as far to the stern as possible, with little overhanging on the port side.   Again, not dissimilar to other Colossus class refits.   While it did add some weight on the starboard side of the ship, this was balanced by the installation of a third catapult along the angled deck, with its associated machinery below deck.   A side advantage of this choice of angle was that it offered ramp space at the stern, on the port side of the landing area.   Provided nobody misses a landing...   But at least when more aircraft were needed on deck (the use of the bow catapults preventing the use of the forward elevator) this potentially additional ramp area was a bonus.

So, not only had the single hydraulic catapult been replaced by a more powerful steam operated system, but the ship was now equipped with three of them : the main one, a 283 feet long launcher on port, and a second one also propelling aircrafts over the bow of 256 feet on starboard.   Finally, a third catapult, also of 283 feet, was thus placed on the angled deck.  While the catapult No1 was considered as the main one, all three were tailored to operate aircrafts up to ... tons.   The reason why the catapult equipment was increased to that extent, was to allow more aircrafts to be launched in a minimum of time or to allow up to two aircrafts to remain on alert on the bow launchers (but then blocking the front elevator), with the angled one caring for more routine operations.  This would require pristine on board organisation but actually, the Swedes turned the Colossus carrier into quick reaction tools.   Having learned the intricacies of implementing this heavy modernization programme, Ericksbergs was happy to perform the same enhancement on yet another Colossus class carrier,
HMS Ocean (R68) which had been acquired by South Africa in 1958.   Not suprisingly, this vessels was refitted very much like its two Swedish sister ships.

Anti-Aircraft Armament
As both ships had been stripped of all guns before being transferred, they needed to be re-equipped accordingly.   Not wishing to rely entirely onto their escort, the carriers received 8 twin Bofors 40mm anti-aircrafts guns, plus a single barelled similar gun installed at the back of the island.  All guns were now radar directed..   While this armament was pretty much standard (but in higher number than contemporary vessels) the mounting of quadruple machine guns was far less common.  These quad mountings bore a close ressemblance with the famous American Maxon quads, but these were slaved to a target acquisition radar.   Also, the Swedes made use of the AKAN 13.2mm version of the Browning gun rather than the .50cal.  This installation was intended to pick up anti-shipping missiles at short range.  20mm cannons would have offered a better range, but with the 13.2mm ammo showing better than the .50cal BMG rounds, the Navy had to satisfy themselves with what was available.    And two radar directed belt feeded quad guns precisely aiming at the same target on either port or starboard would still address it with 7200 HE rounds a minute - an uncommon but no-nonsense solution at very close range.  However reluctant or doubtful the Navy may have been about this weapon - and they did test the contraption before accepting it - once adopted it made it easier accept the difficulty to re-gun the Saab A21RN which thus retained its 13.2mm internal guns.

More significant was the adoption of anti-aircraft missiles.   Although specifically designed DDG were launched at the same time (see: Lake class destroyers) the Swedish Navy took advantage of the availability of the radar directed AIM-9C Sidewinder to order a ship-based system based on that specific missile, way ahead of the US Army (re: the MIM-72 Chaparral) or the US Navy who would only examine this option many years later   While only a short range system (the system could engage targets flying 50 to 10000 ft altitude at ranges from 1500 to 20000 fr) it nevertheless was a welcome supplement to the gun based defense, should the air cover provided by the rebuilt J23 (Supermarine Attacker) fail to be effective.  Two quadruple launchers were installed on the A2 Gotland, one each on port and starboard, with the Lappland enoying a third launcher occupying what would normally be a Bofors gun position ahead of the island.

A more potent system was thoroughly examined, the Swiss Oerlikon RSC151, and some provision had been made to cater for its future installation but space being scarce and weight being a factor, it wasn't installed.

Aicraft complement for both ships was theoretically identical and consisted in :


J23AN Angripare (rebuilt Supermarine Attacker F1/FB1 and FB2) Fighter/Interceptor


A21RN Gam (rebuilt Saab J21R) Attack


B24 Havssula (new production of Fairey Gannet by FFVS) ASW


S24 Havssula (new production of Fairey Gannet by FFVS) AEW


Hkp7 Huskie (US made HH-43B) Pedro


Tp24 Havssula (new production of Fairey Gannet by FFVS) COD
In addition, both carriers could operate helicopters for commando missions : 
Hkp4 SeaKnight (US made CH-46) Commando

The particular environment of a carrier enlighted the need for a dedicated, modern, carrier capable trainer aircraft.  Two dozens of AT6 Texan had been hastily brought up to SNJ-5C standards but this could only be an interim solution as jet or turbine powered aircraft was wanted.  But there weren't that many of the type and none would be available second hand.   In fact neither the T1A SeaStar nor the T2A Buckeye would be available in time, so they were not considered any further.  Navalizing the Avro 701 Athena T1 was contemplated for a time, either with a RR Dart of AS Mamba engine, but in the end, the Potez CM176, a derivative and a mix of both the French CM170.2 Super Magister and the naval CM175 Zephyr was chosen to be produced under licence by Valmet in Finland.

Trainers CM175 Zephyr CM176 Zephyr II T1A SeaStar T2A Buckeye Athena.T1

Engine(s) 2 x Marboré II 2 x Marboré VI 1xJ33 1xJ34 1xDart/Mamba
2 x 400 kgp 2 x 480 kgp 1 x 2450kgp 1 x 1544 kgp 1 x 1500 ehp
Armament - 2 x 7.62mm/200rpg
- 2 x 110lb
- 2 x 13.2mm/175rpg
- 2 x 110lb
2 x 12.7mm possible
2 x 500lb
- (gun pod)
2 x 500lb
- =
- =
Details of this particular version of the French trainer will be found here : Potez CM176

Interception and Attack Fighters
As detailed elsewhere in these notes, Sweden embarked themselves in the purchase and rebuild of two set of aircrafts, with about a hundred J21A and J21R being rebuilt as carrier capable attack aircrafts under the designation of J21RN Gam, and a similar number of ex-Royal Navy Supermarine Attacker being rebuilt as interceptors under the designation of J23AN Angripare.  

ASW - Anti-Submarine Warfare
Contrary to the trend emerging in the second half of the 1950s, the Swedish Navy was reluctant to rely on helicopters to perform ASW missions.   They weren't ruled out, but somehone it was felt helicopters were too slow to rapidly deploy in a given area, especially as the intended ASW assets were to be used both from carriers and from shore bases.  The search for a solution which excluded any indigenous development of a new aircraft lead the Swedish Navy to contemplate three aircraft which where available at the time to meet their requirements

- Breguet Alizé - Fairey Gannet - Grumman Tracker
ASW - -
- Existing - Out of production - Canadian S-2A
AEW - - -
- To be created - Still produced - Not available
COD - - -
- Makeshift possible - Makeshift or new design - Cargo version of S-2A

This cross examination of options lead to the choice of the Fairey Gannet and the matter is detailed in the appropriate addtional Notes about this aircraft and its variants

 ASW - Anti Submarine Warfare

The choice fell on a new ASW7 version of the Gannet created around the Gannet AEW3 which was still then under production in UK.

 AEW - Airborne Early Warning

The Fairey Gannett AEW3 was chosen to cover the airborne early warning function - they were technically similar to the British version although the crew arrangement was very different.   The new aircraft was named Gannet AEW8 with Fairey (Westland)

 Fairey Gannett T5 - Trainer version

Initially considered essential, the idea has been abandonned the moment the design for the Swedish Gannet incorporated a second set of flying controls in the second cockpit.

 COD - Carrier On-board Delivery

After a protracted debate and considerable lobbying in favour of a Canadian produced S-2A Cargo Tracker, the choice finally fell on a specifically redesigned aircraft proposed by FFVS, the Gannet COD9 in Fairey Aviation (Westland) parlance.


SAR - Search And Rescue (PEDRO)
Initially, the Navy had advised the Government to acquire British made Westland Wasp then under development.  This type was to be adopted by the Royal Navy and compared to other aircrafts to fullfill a similar role, its small size was seen as an advantage.   But as the matter was further reviewed, the small size of the Wasp was finally considered a handicap.   It certainly could cover the immediate vicinity of the carrier in case of an aircraft ditching either on take off or landing, but no more.   Eventually, the Kaman HH-43B Huskie was chosen as it could take more than just a couple of passengers (actually, flown by a crew of two and two rescue crew, it still offered room for half a dozen passengers instead of two for the Wasp under the same conditions).   A dozen of HH-43B were aquired, powered by a 860shp T-53-L-1B turbine with specifically made (manually) folding blades and floatation bags.  Usually a pair of this helicopter are assigned to each carrier under the designation Hkp7 Huskie