Catalina affair

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Flight 27[1]

Tp 79 Hugin at F 8 Barkarby in 1951.
Incident summary
Date 13 June 1952
Summary Shot down
Site East of Gotska Sandön
58°23.522′N 20°17.460′E / 58.392033°N 20.291000°E / 58.392033; 20.291000Coordinates: 58°23.522′N 20°17.460′E / 58.392033°N 20.291000°E / 58.392033; 20.291000[2]
Passengers 0
Crew 8
Fatalities 8 (all)
Aircraft type DC-3A-360 Skytrain
Aircraft name Hugin [3][4]
Operator Swedish Air Force
Flight origin Stockholm Bromma Airport
Stockholm, Sweden
Destination Stockholm Bromma Airport

The Catalina shot down by Soviet forces while searching for the missing Hugin.
Incident summary
Date 16 June 1952
Summary Shot down
Site East of Gotska Sandön
Passengers 0
Crew 5
Fatalities 0
Aircraft type PBY-5 Catalina
Operator Swedish Air Force
Registration 19520616-1
Flight origin F 2 Hägernäs[5]
near Stockholm, Sweden
Destination F 2 Hägernäs[6]

The Catalina affair (Swedish: Catalinaaffären) was a military confrontation and Cold War-era diplomatic crisis in June 1952, in which Soviet fighter jets shot down two Swedish aircraft over international waters in the Baltic Sea. The first aircraft to be shot down was an unarmed Swedish Air Force Tp 79, a derivative of the Douglas DC-3, carrying out radio and radar signals intelligence-gathering for the National Defence Radio Establishment. None of the crew of eight was rescued. The second aircraft to be shot down was a Swedish Air Force Tp 47, a Catalina flying boat, involved in the search and rescue operation for the missing DC-3. The Catalina's crew of five was saved. The Soviet Union publicly denied involvement until its dissolution in 1991. Both aircraft were located in 2003, and the DC-3 was salvaged.

Aircraft and crew[edit]

DC-3[edit]

The first aircraft involved was a Swedish Air Force Douglas DC-3A-360 Skytrain,[2] a military transport derivative of the DC-3 known in Swedish service as Tp 79. It carried the serial number 79001. In the media coverage following the event, it became known simply as "the DC-3."

The aircraft was manufactured in 1943 with original US serial number 42-5694, and was delivered to USAAF 15th Troop Carrier Squadron (61st Troop Carrier Group). It saw action in northern Africa before being stationed at RAF Barkston Heath. It was flown on February 5, 1946, from Orly Air Base via Hanau Army Airfield to Bromma and was registered as SE-APZ on May 18, 1946 as a civil aircraft to Skandinaviska Aero AB.[7][8]

On June 13, 1952, it disappeared east of the isle of Gotska Sandön while carrying out signals intelligence-gathering operations for the Swedish National Defence Radio Establishment (FRA).[9] The aircraft was lost with its entire crew of eight in the incident. Three of the eight crew members were military personnel from the Swedish Air Force, and the other five were civilian signals intelligence (SIGINT) operators from the National Defence Radio Establishment:[10]

  • Alvar Älmeberg (pilot)
  • Gösta Blad (navigator/radio operator)
  • Herbert Mattson (flight engineer)
  • Einar Jonsson (SIGINT group leader)
  • Ivar Svensson (SIGINT operator)
  • Erik Carlsson (SIGINT operator)
  • Bengt Book (SIGINT operator)
  • Börge Nilsson (SIGINT operator)

Catalina[edit]

Catalina Tp 47 at the Swedish Air Force Museum.

Three days after the initial incident, on June 16, 1952, two Consolidated PBY-5 Catalina flying boats, known in Swedish service as Tp 47s, searched for the DC-3 north of Estonia. One of the aircraft, carrying airframe serial no. 47002,[9] was shot down by Soviet aircraft, but the crew of five ditched near the West German freighter Münsterland and were rescued.[11][12][13]

Aftermath[edit]

The Soviet Union denied shooting down the DC-3, but a few days later a life raft with Soviet shell shrapnel was found. In 1956, while meeting the Swedish Prime Minister Tage Erlander, the Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev admitted that the Soviet Union had shot down the DC-3. This information was not released to the public at the time.

Sweden maintained for nearly 40 years that the plane was undertaking a navigation training flight.[14] Only after pressure from crewmembers' families[15] did Swedish authorities confirm that the DC-3 was equipped with British equipment and had been spying for NATO.[16]

In 1991 General Fyodor Sjinkarenko (ru), a colonel in the early 1950s, admitted he had ordered the DC-3 shot down in 1952 by scrambling a MiG-15bis to intercept it.[12][17]

Recovery[edit]

DC-3 wreckage exhibited at the Swedish Air Force Museum.

On June 10, 2003, airline captain Anders Jallai and historian Carl Douglas with the Swedish company Marin Mätteknik AB found the remains of the downed DC-3 by using sonar at 126 m (413 ft) depth.[2][16][18][19] Some time later the Catalina was also found, 22 kilometres (14 mi) east of the official splashdown point.

After 52 years, the remains of the DC-3 were lifted to the surface on March 19, 2004 by freezing the wreck with some 200 m3 (7,100 cu ft) of sediments.[20] The wreck was transferred to Muskö naval base for investigation and preservation, and was finally put on display at Swedish Air Force Museum, Linköping on May 13, 2009.[21] A 1:12 scale model of 79001 was loaned to Air Force Museum on May 5, 2009.[22]

Conclusion[edit]

Bullet holes on 79001 showed that the DC-3 was shot down by a MiG-15bis fighter. The exact splashdown time was also determined, as one of the clocks in the cockpit had stopped at 11:28:40 CET.[23] To this date the remains of four of the eight-man crew have been found and positively identified.[24]

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Magnusson, p. 10
  2. ^ a b c Magnusson 2007, p. 9
  3. ^ Magnusson 2007, p. 133, p. 202
  4. ^ The sister aircraft 79002 was called Munin. Magnusson 2007, p. 47
  5. ^ Magnusson 2007, p. 33.
  6. ^ Assumed to be same as origin.
  7. ^ Magnusson 2007, p. 9 and 46
  8. ^ "RZJets database entry". Rzjets. Retrieved 2010-11-11. 
  9. ^ a b Magnusson 2007, p. 11
  10. ^ Magnusson 2007, pp. 42-43
  11. ^ "The Catalina Affair". BBC. Retrieved 2010-10-11. 
  12. ^ a b "A Troubled Time". Swedish Air Force Museum. Retrieved 2013-11-20. 
  13. ^ "Accident description". Aviation Safety Network. Retrieved 2010-11-11. 
  14. ^ Grisell 2007, p. 3
  15. ^ Älmeberg, Roger (2008-04-01). "The Swedish DC-3 & The Destiny of its Crew". Retrieved 2011-05-26. 
  16. ^ a b Lovgren, Stefan (2003-10-10). "Cold War Spy Plane Found in Baltic Sea". National Geographic News. pp. 1–2. Retrieved 2011-05-26. 
  17. ^ Magnusson 2007, p. 12
  18. ^ FRA 2003, p. 3
  19. ^ "Nedskjutna DC 3:an återfunnen" [A shot down DC-3 found] (in Swedish). Stockholm, Sweden: Dagens Nyheter. 2003-06-06. Retrieved 2010-11-12. 
  20. ^ "Case study: The Catalina Affair". Kiruna, Sweden: FriGeo AB. Retrieved 2010-11-10. 
  21. ^ "From the Baltic Sea to the Swedish Air Force Museum". Swedish Air Force Museum. Retrieved 2013-11-20. 
  22. ^ Gunnar Åkerberg. "Modell av Tp 79001 överlämnad till Flygvapenmuseum" [Model of Tp 79001 loaned to Air Force Museum] (in Swedish). Stockholm, Sweden: Östergötlands Flyghistoriska Sällskap. Retrieved 2010-11-12. 
  23. ^ Magnusson 2007, p. 137
  24. ^ Holmlund 2008, pp. 5-9

References[edit]