The Saga of Tostig I

Tostig Godwinson by LTF86

The length of time Harold spent in Normandy is as unknown as its precise date or, indeed, its purpose. All that is known is that he was back in England in 1065. ‘Before Lammas’ (1 August), according to the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, he ordered the building of a hunting lodge at Portskewet in Wales, so that the king (who was presumably at that time in good health) could hunt there; but on 24 August the site was overrun by Caradoc ap Gruffydd and the workmen killed. In September, more serious trouble broke out. In Northumbria, where Harold’s brother, Tostig, had been earl since 1055, there had been unrest on account of his harsh rule. Whether Tostig was really harsh or simply enforcing laws that had fallen into disuse under his predecessor, Earl Siward, cannot now be known; he is described by the author of the Vita Ædwardi as ‘a little over-zealous in attacking evil’, which perhaps implies a combination of the two. The Northumbrians seem to have had a good case: according to Florence of Worcester, the immediate cause of the rising was Tostig’s slaying of two Northumbrian nobles who were in his house under safe conduct, and the murder at court of Gospatric, a member of the old Northumbrian ruling house, in which he rather discreditably implicated his sister, Queen Edith, who organized it for him. Certainly, he seems to have doubled the taxes, which alone would be enough to cause unrest. On 3 October, while he was at court with the king, the Northumbrians rose up and killed as many of his housecarls and servants as they could find, broke open his treasury and carried off all his effects. They repudiated Tostig and sent a summons to Morcar, brother of Edwin, Earl of Mercia since the exile and death of their father Ælfgar, to be their earl; led by him, the Northumbrians advanced into England where they were joined by Edwin with his Mercian troops and some Welsh reinforcements. At Northampton they were met by Harold, sent by the king to try to effect some kind of reconciliation, but on this occasion his diplomatic powers failed. The Northumbrians refused point blank to take Tostig back. Edward tried to call out the army, as he had done in 1051, to restore Tostig by force of arms but found that on this occasion they would not fight. Confronted by the armed forces of all Northumbria and Mercia, and with a general feeling elsewhere in the country that Tostig had come by his deserts, the king had little alternative but to give in. The meeting was adjourned to Oxford where, after the feast of All Saints (1 November), Edward was obliged to agree to the exiling of Tostig and his replacement as earl by Morcar, and swore to uphold the laws of Cnut.

These events raise some interesting points, in addition to the fact that the outlawing of Tostig was almost certainly indirectly responsible for the defeat at Hastings. Firstly, although much is made of the separateness and of the Scandinavian sympathies of the inhabitants of the Danelaw, of which Northumbria was the most important part, there seems to have been no idea of any claim for independence in the rising. The Northumbrians did not want to leave the kingdom of England, they simply wanted a different earl – and the earl whom they chose, in preference to the half-Danish Tostig, was a man with no Danish blood in his veins at all. Even Cnut, a Danish king, had had difficulty with his relations with Northumbria; it was a turbulent region. Secondly, it has been suggested that the demand for the reaffirmation of the laws of Cnut indicates a demand for specifically Danish legislation for Northumbria alone; it is more likely that, since Edward, unlike so many of his predecessors, had never issued a law-code, and Harold Harefoot and Harthacnut had never had time to do so, the laws of Cnut were presumably the legal code in force over all England throughout his reign. The laws of King Edward, that the Conqueror was later symbolically to invoke, were in fact the laws of an earlier conqueror. The laws of Cnut were actually written for him by the impeccably English Archbishop Wulfstan of York and were based on the earlier laws of King Edgar. Patrick Wormald has surmised that the significance of Cnut’s law for the Northumbrian rebels was that it represented the pattern of northern rule subverted by Tostig’s government, and that their invocation of Cnut, like the Conqueror’s of Edward, was as much symbolic as practical; this seems likely.lxvi Thirdly, the insurrection caused an insuperable breach between Harold and Tostig, who blamed his brother for not supporting him and (if the Vita Ædwardi is to be believed) accused him in public of fomenting the rising to injure him. Finally, it is clear from Harold’s activities at Portskewet that the king was at that time in good enough health to be able to contemplate a hunting break there.

This was soon to change. According to the Vita Ædwardi, both Edward and the queen became ill with grief over the loss of Tostig, and a more modern biographer has guessed that the king may have suffered one or more strokes as a result of the stress.lxvii From this point on, his health declined steadily. Tostig, meanwhile, sought refuge once again in Flanders, and cast around for allies to support his restoration. He is said (there is no firm evidence) to have tried Normandy, but if he did, he got no direct help from William, who may none the less have been pleased enough to encourage him to add to Harold’s problems. He tried Denmark, but his cousin, Sweyn Estrithson, pleaded other commitments. He did rather better in Norway with Harald Hardrada.

Tostig Appears with a Fleet

Few records of Harold’s short reign survive, for obvious reasons; no one, after Hastings, would want to produce any of his charters or writs in evidence, and in fact only one writ has survived. But from what indications there are, there is no reason to doubt the general tenor of Florence of Worcester’s remarks. Of the few tangible pieces of evidence that survive, the most impressive is his coinage, elegant silver pennies of good weight, bearing his crowned head in profile, struck in more than forty mints. The number of coins minted indicates the urgent need he felt he was likely to have for ready money.

Trouble began in the late spring. On 24 April Halley’s comet made its appearance, causing wonder and consternation on both sides of the Channel. Shortly after, the exiled Tostig appeared with a fleet, pillaged along the south coast from Wight to Sandwich, pressganging men as he went, and, scared off by King Harold’s arrival, continued up to Lindsey where he is said to have burnt many villages and put many men to death. There he was encountered by Earls Edwin and Morcar, who beat him off with much loss. Most of his remaining men deserted, and he limped with his remaining twelve small ships up to Scotland where he was sheltered by King Malcolm, his sworn brother.

In the meantime, in England, Tostig had made his first contribution to the English defeat. The preliminary skirmish in May had convinced Harold that his brother was acting in league with William and that his descent upon the south coast was the preliminary to the full-scale invasion he was expecting. He called out the fyrd, and mobilized the navy. On this occasion he may well have called out the general fyrd, for the Chronicle tells us that he gathered a greater land and ship army than any king had ever raised before, but it telescopes events here, for it passes straight on from this remark to events later in the year. Florence of Worcester gives a fuller account:

King Harold arrived at Sandwich and waited there for his fleet. When it was assembled, he crossed over with it to the Isle of Wight, and, inasmuch as William, count of the Normans, was preparing to invade England with an army, he watched all the summer and autumn for his coming. In addition he distributed a land force at suitable points along the sea-coast. But about the feast of the Nativity of St Mary [8 September] provisions fell short so that the naval and land forces returned home.

These dates indicate that he had held the fyrd in service not for the statutory two months but for nearly four, including the period of harvest, so it is hardly surprising that provisions should have run out. If William held his men together at Dives and St Valéry without foraging, he did well, but it can only have been for about half the time (though we have no certain knowledge of the date when William assembled his army, the evidence points to this being in early August). With hindsight, Harold must have been aware that he had called out the fyrd too soon but his belief that Tostig and William were acting in concert was reasonable; given the time it took for the host to assemble, he dared not wait. The land fyrd went home to rescue the harvest, the fleet was sent around to London to refit. There are rumours (as has already been noted, though the E Chronicle puts it earlier than September), though no firm corroboration, that there was a sea encounter with the Normans; if there was, it might have taken place at about this time, perhaps coinciding with William’s transfer of his forces from Dives to St Valéry. It is known from the Norman sources that there were storms in the Channel at this date, in which William lost many men and ships; it is perfectly possible either that the English fleet was also damaged in the storms (it is recorded that some of Harold’s ships were lost on the way to the North Foreland), or that there was in fact an encounter between the two opposing navies in which both sides lost ships as both were moving east up the Channel. There is an interesting note in the Domesday Book of a certain Æthelric of Kelveden in Essex who ‘went away to a naval battle against King William’ and fell ill on his return.lxxxii The storms at this point give some support to Harold’s reasons for standing his forces down. By the beginning of September, the period of the equinoctial gales had arrived, and normally seafaring would stop for the winter. The likelihood of William launching an attack later than this must have seemed to him to be much reduced. In fact, William’s luck held and 1066 was to produce a St Martin’s summer.

Snorre Sturlason’s King Harald’s Saga claims that Tostig went in person to Norway before he appeared in May off the south coast of England. If he went to Sweyn Estrithson in Denmark, he might well have carried on to Norway. Snorre provides an account of his interview with Harald Hardrada. Tostig would, Snorre suggests, have reminded Harald of his own claim to the English throne through his nephew, King Magnus, and of the plunder to be expected in England; he would have suggested that, if they were to conquer England together, they could share the kingdom and its riches (he might, however, have reflected that, on past performance, Harald Hardrada was not a man likely to share a kingdom); and, possibly most persuasive of all his arguments, he would have pointed out that in York, the capital of the northern Danelaw, there would be much sympathy and support for an invader of Scandinavian origins. How far this was true is not easy to estimate now. We have seen that, when the Northumbrians rebelled in 1065 against their last earl, Tostig, they did so not to gain Northumbrian independence but to secure a non-Scandinavian replacement for him. What Tostig would have ignored in his anxiety to be reinstated in his earldom, and what he would naturally not have mentioned to Harald Hardrada, was his own great unpopularity in Northumbria generally and York in particular.

Northern Invasion

Whether or not Tostig went to Norway, whether or not Snorre’s hypothetical conversation ever took place, contact must have been made between him and Hardrada in some way. Tostig, as we have seen, retired to Scotland to lick his wounds under the protection of King Malcolm and wait for the rendezvous. Snorre is irritatingly economical with dates, but says that Harald sailed from the Solund Isles to Shetland, where he stopped only briefly, before continuing to the Orkneys which were then Norwegian territory. Here he paused to deposit one of his two wives and both his daughters, and to pick up the Orcadian earls Paul and Erland with their men and ships. It has been estimated that, with what forces Tostig had been able to recruit from Scotland, the Norwegian armada consisted of about three hundred ships and nine thousand men. There may well have been more men than that. The crew of a Scandinavian warship could be anything between forty and eighty men, and, allowing for the fact that some of the ships would be supply ships that would hold fewer and whose crew might not be fighting men, it is not impossible that Hardrada’s fighting force could have been as many as twelve thousand. He then sailed down the east coast of Scotland and England as far as Scarborough. When and where the junction with Tostig took place is uncertain. He may have picked him up off the Firth of Forth on his way south; Snorre says they did not meet until Hardrada arrived in England and that Tostig then became his man. We do not know, therefore, whether they were together when Hardrada sacked and subjugated Cleveland and Scarborough and burned the town. At Holderness an English force opposed him but was defeated. The Norwegian fleet then turned into the Humber and proceeded up it and up the Ouse as far as Riccall, driving before it Earl Morcar’s ships, which were bottled up there at Tadcaster on the Wharfe, which joins the Ouse just above Riccall. Hardrada could have continued up the Ouse as far as York itself, but would then have risked the English ships coming back down river into the Ouse to cut off his retreat. At Riccall, he was only ten miles south of York.

From Riccall, leaving a substantial body of men to guard the ships, Hardrada and Tostig marched on York on 20 September but were confronted by Earls Edwin and Morcar at Gate Fulford, barring his road to the city. The English earls had thus had the opportunity to pick their ground for battle, and had arranged themselves with their right flank on the bank of the Ouse and their left defended by a deep ditch beyond which was bog and marshland. Hardrada, facing them, also drew up his army with one flank reaching down to the river Ouse, and the other and weaker stretching inland towards the dyke and the large area of swampy ground. He placed himself towards the river end where his forces were strongest, with his menacing standard Land Waster (a white silk banner on which Odin’s bird, the black raven, gaped for slaughter with wings spread) over his head. According to Snorre, the English approached in close formation, and launched their first attack on the weaker wing opposing them. This almost immediately gave way and, as the English pursued them, Hardrada swung his stronger wing around to take them in the rear and the flank, pushing them into the boggy land. There was really no contest. The English fought well but when pushed back into the quagmire behind them, many took flight and were drowned either in the river or in the swamp – so many, in fact, that it was said that the Norwegians could cross the swamp dryshod on the bodies of the dead. Edwin and Morcar survived, and surrendered York on 24 September. They could hardly do anything else. The fact that the city was not sacked may have been because it was the capital of Tostig’s old earldom and he wanted it back. None the less, the fate of Scarborough, if known to the citizens, would have done much to persuade them to accept whatever terms were offered.

Hardrada demanded hostages from all the main Northumbrian families, helpfully identified for him by Tostig, provisions for his army and agreement that the Northumbrians would join with his forces and march south to conquer the rest of England. According to Florence of Worcester, Hardrada also gave hostages in return; if so, this was presumably in earnest of his future good faith if he conquered England and a gesture to ingratiate himself with the men of York. This is not confirmed in any of the surviving versions of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, which merely say that Hardrada took hostages. Some of these were delivered immediately, but more, and much of the commissariat, had to come from a distance. Since York was inadequately supplied to maintain the Norwegian army, Hardrada withdrew to his ships to await deliveries, which it was agreed should take place on 25 September at Stamford Bridge on the Derwent, a convenient central and strategic point where several roads met.

The Saga of Tostig II

Since he had stood down the fyrd in the first fortnight of September, King Harold must have been waiting with considerable apprehension to see which of the two invasions would come first. The speed with which he reacted to both suggests that he had already arranged some early-warning system, but he could hardly have heard of Hardrada’s landing earlier than the attack on Scarborough, and even then he may not have been certain to begin with whether it was a full-scale invasion or merely a raiding party. As soon as the gravity of the situation – too grave for the young and untried northern earls to deal with by themselves – became clear, he was faced with the alternatives of leaving the south coast undefended while he attended to the northern invasion or staying where he was, on guard for the Normans. This would have given Hardrada and Tostig, already on the spot, the opportunity to strengthen their position in a notoriously turbulent part of the country. King Harold must have been aware that the wind had been settled northerly for the past few weeks, perfect for bringing the Norwegians, impossible for the Normans. It may have seemed a worthwhile venture to march north, face Hardrada and hope to get back to the south coast before the wind changed, and he opted for it. He may have left part of his forces in the south with a watching brief; he probably resummoned the fyrd before he left. On the assumption that he might have had the news from the north at any time between 18 and 20 September, he probably left London with his housecarls and whatever other forces he could take not later than the 20th on a day and night march that brought him to Tadcaster on 24 September, an incredible feat of speed. Twenty miles was normally considered a good day’s march; the distance from London to York is about two hundred miles. To have reached Stamford Bridge in fighting order by early morning on the 25th, the English must have done between forty and fifty miles a day. At Tadcaster, according to the Chronicle, he paused to array his fleet, presumably the ships that Hardrada had bottled up there. The word lið that the Chronicle uses normally means a fleet, but it is also used occasionally for land forces and for the men who would have fought on the ships, and in this case it would make much better sense to understand it as arraying his army, which he would have supplemented with levies on his way north and with the men from the fleet. He would also have heard, on arrival or en route, of the result of the battle of Fulford and that the Norwegians were even then awaiting the delivery of hostages and provisions at Stamford Bridge. On the 25th, he marched for York, where he would have picked up Edwin and Morcar with the remnants of their men (if they were still fit for service), and passed straight through the city for Stamford Bridge. R. Allen Brown sees in the surrender of the citizens of York to Hardrada a confirmation of Northumbrian separatism at this time and a lack of enthusiasm for the rule of Harold Godwinson, the brother of Earl Tostig whom they had so recently thrown out;lxxxiv in that case, it is remarkable that no citizen of York slipped out of the city ahead of the English army to give warning of its advance. According to Snorre, Harold closed all the city gates to make sure that no warning was given. It is not known where Snorre got this information; it is not corroborated in any English accounts, but these are so sparse on the subject of Stamford Bridge that this cannot of itself be held to disprove Snorre’s assertion. At all events, no warning was given. On this occasion, the St Martin’s summer operated in Harold’s favour. Hardrada, Tostig and about two-thirds of their men were lounging by the river, waiting for the hostages and supplies. It was a hot day and the men had left their mail coats and much of their armour at the ships. In Snorre’s words,

The weather was exceptionally fine, with warm sunshine; so the troops left their armour behind and went ashore with only their shields, helmets, and spears, and girt with swords. A number of them also had bows and arrows. They were all feeling very carefree.

When they saw the cloud of dust raised by the approaching army coming over the brow of the hill, they were at first uncertain what it portended; then, ‘the closer the army came, the greater it grew, and their glittering weapons sparkled like a field of broken ice’.lxxxvi Tostig advised retreating to their ships and making a stand there, although the approach of the English host blocked the quickest way back to them; Hardrada compromised by sending his best riders to summon the rest of his army, and formed up his men into a shield wall with the wings curved so far back that it was almost circular, with his Land Waster standard in the centre.

The battle of Stamford Bridge, no less than the battle of Hastings, is encrusted with legends, and it is difficult to tell which legend originated at which battle. Hardrada, like William, fell before the battle when his horse stumbled, and claimed that a fall was good luck. King Harald Hardrada, like King Harold Godwinson, is said to have died from an arrow shot. The exchanges before the battle may have a foundation in reality, or may not. Snorre is a late witness:

Twenty horsemen from the English king’s company of Housecarls came riding up to the Norwegian lines; they were all wearing coats of mail, and so were their horses.

One of the riders said, ‘Is Earl Tostig here in this army?’

Tostig replied, ‘There is no denying it – you can find him here.’

Another of the riders said, ‘Your brother King Harold sends you his greetings, and this message to say you can have peace and the whole of Northumbria as well. Rather than have you refuse to join him, he is prepared to give you one third of all his kingdom.’

The earl answered, ‘This is very different from all the hostility and humiliation he offered me last winter. If this offer had been made then, many a man who is now dead would still be alive, and England would now be in better state. But if I accept this offer now, what will he offer King Harald Sigurdsson for all his effort?’

The rider said, ‘King Harold has already declared how much of England he is prepared to grant him: seven feet of ground, or as much more as he is taller than other men.’

Earl Tostig said, ‘Go now and tell King Harold to make ready for battle. The Norwegians will never be able to say that Earl Tostig abandoned King Harald Sigurdsson to join his enemies when he came west to fight in England. We are united in our aim: either to die with honour, or else conquer England.’

The horsemen now rode back.

Then King Harald Sigurdsson asked, ‘Who was that man who spoke so well?’

‘That was King Harold Godwinsson,’ replied Tostig.

King Harald Sigurdsson said, ‘I should have been told much sooner. These men came so close to our lines that this Harold should not have lived to tell of the deaths of our men.’

‘It is quite true, sire,’ said Earl Tostig, ‘that the king acted unwarily, and what you say could well have happened. But I realized that he wanted to offer me my life and great dominions, and I would have been his murderer if I had revealed his identity. I would rather that he were my killer than I his.’

King Harald Sigurdsson said to his men, ‘What a little man that was; but he stood proudly in his stirrups.’

We may be on safer ground with the legend of the Norwegian warrior who single-handed held the bridge across the Derwent while the Norwegian army drew itself up on the far side, and could only be killed by one of the English who took a boat under the bridge and stabbed him through the gaps between the planks. It is reported at the end of the C version of the Chronicle, though the entry is clearly a late addition in language a good hundred years later than the rest of the entry; but it is strange that Snorre should not have included a deed of Norse heroism if the story of it had been taken back to Norway.

Once the bridge was clear, the English were able to attack. According to Snorre, they opened with a cavalry charge, and this has been seized on as proof that the pre-conquest English did occasionally fight on horseback. But the lateness of this account and the many inaccuracies it contains make this a very doubtful proposition. The English, or some of them at least, may have ridden to the battlefield but would probably then have fought, as at Hastings, on foot. Hardrada’s main preoccupation would have been to withstand the attack until reinforcements from his ships could arrive; Harold’s would have been to make sure that he did not. Hardrada’s curved shield wall was essentially a defensive position, but without their body armour his men were unusually vulnerable, and, in the hand-to-hand fighting that followed, they were cut down in hordes. The first phase of the battle ended when Hardrada turned berserker himself and rushed forward into the front of the battle. ‘Neither helmets nor coats of mail could withstand him, and everyone in his path gave way before him.’lxxxviii At this point, according to Snorre, he was struck by an arrow in the throat and died.

The king’s death, as so often in mediaeval warfare, caused a hiatus in the proceedings, and at this juncture, again according to Snorre, King Harold renewed his offer to his brother and quarter to all surviving Norwegians. The offer was rejected, and the fighting around Land Waster resumed. The third phase of the battle started when the Norwegians from the ships, led by Eystein Orri, arrived to reinforce Tostig. The odds were not as uneven as might be supposed: the Norwegians were, most of them, fighting without armour, but the English were fighting without sleep, after a heroic forced march of several days; both sides were by this time exhausted by the battle and the heat – indeed, Snorre reports that even those from the ships who did have armour threw it off, and that many died from heat exhaustion without striking a blow, after covering the miles from Riccall at top speed. The fighting continued until late in the afternoon, by which time Tostig had also fallen, and those who had survived the carnage fled back to the ships, pursued by the English. There is no evidence to show who was responsible for Tostig’s death; Guy of Amiens attributes it to Harold, but this was obviously so that he could add the label of fratricide to those of perjurer and usurper. It was reported that his body was so mutilated that it could only be identified by a wart between the shoulders, and it was given honourable burial in York after the battle. Hardrada’s young son Olaf and the two Orcadian earls, who had all been with those who had remained with the ships, were given quarter and leave to return home by Harold, after swearing oaths never to attack England again, an oath that Olaf honoured when he succeeded his brother as king. Harold allowed them to take as many ships as were necessary for their remaining men. They took twentyfour, out of the three hundred that had brought them.

If it had not been for what happened so soon afterwards, Stamford Bridge would be remembered as a battle of the highest significance in its own right. The death of Harald Hardrada, the legendary and most feared warrior of his time, and the destruction of his army, marked the end of the Viking age that had influenced so much of Europe, from Byzantium to the Atlantic. It also marked the end of centuries of assault on England; although there were to be sporadic and local attacks thereafter, mainly from Sweyn Estrithson, there would be nothing on the scale of what had gone before. Under any circumstances, it was a remarkable achievement for the last Anglo-Saxon king of England, one that the bones of Alfred, Edward the Elder and Æthelred would have saluted; in the peculiar circumstances of 1066, it was astonishing. But it was not achieved without damage. The Norwegian army may have been virtually destroyed, but they took many Englishmen with them. Between the men lost by Edwin and Morcar at Gate Fulford and those killed and wounded at Stamford Bridge, the fighting strength of the kingdom was much diminished.

Type XXI ”Electric” Boat

Effect of the loss of the Atlantic bases

“… 15.9.44. Now that the French Atlantic ports are no longer in our possession, U-boat operations will be continued from Norway. A few Home ports will also be used, since the Norwegian bases have insufficient accommodation, and operational possibilities will thus be limited. The Type IXC boats will no longer be able to operate either in the Caribbean or on the Gold Coast without refuelling, and will therefore be obliged to concentrate mainly on the US coast, the Newfoundland area and also the St Lawrence, which is again accessible to schnorkel boats. As a rule we shall be unable to use the Type VIIC boats in the Channel, since the passage takes so long that they would be unlikely to arrive in a fit state to operate under such difficult conditions; the only other areas remaining to them are the Moray Firth, the Minch and the North Channel in British coastal waters, and Reykjavik.

“It must be assumed that the enemy will concentrate his A/S forces off Norway, and in the Atlantic passage, North Sea and Baltic approaches. Theoretically, he can build up such heavy concentration in these regions that the old-type boats, which need to schnorkel fairly often, are bound to be located sooner or later and subjected to a concerted attack. Hence, if it were necessary to continue the campaign with these old types, the loss of the Atlantic bases would prove to be grave and decisive; but the new Type XXI boats, by virtue of their very great endurance, high submerged speed and deep diving capability, should be able to thrust their way through the enemy A/S concentrations to operate successfully both in the North Atlantic and in remote areas…”.

This brief statement outlined the U-boat situation as FO U-boats saw it at the beginning of October 1944, irrespective of the general course of the war; and in order to understand his apparent confidence in the future success of the new-type boats, it would be well at this point, to examine the provisions of the 1943 Fleet Building Programme, in so far as they affected the U-boat.

The U-boat building programme taxes German productive capacity

A major barrier to successful implementation of the overall U-boat building programme lay in a dual requirement for both rapid achievement of mass production of the new boats and maintenance of the rate of delivery of the older types, which necessitated provision of double the quantity of materials and manufacturing capacity over a transition period of from six to eight months. One of the prime essentials was to step up the production of U-boat batteries, and to achieve this in the short time available before the new boats began to arrive from the builders was the Armaments Ministry’s most difficult task; no plant for the manufacture of batteries existed in Germany itself, so it was necessary to produce the requisite machinery and equipment for this at the expense of current contracts, except those concerned with aircraft production, which had absolute priority. An additional problem, which at first appeared insoluble, was posed by the sheer quantity of lead and rubber needed for the batteries; but this difficulty was later overcome.

The new boats had also to be equipped with very powerful electric motors and a large number of other electrical fittings, such as cruising motors, trimming and bilge pumps, echo-ranging gear, underwater listening apparatus, radio and radar sets and radar search receivers, production of which engaged a considerable part of the whole German electrical industry and was only made possible by severe curtailment of such essential work as power-station and locomotive construction.

The provision of high-grade steel plate for the pressure hulls posed another difficult problem, for this commodity constituted the worst bottleneck in the whole of the steel industry and, since the old-type boats had still to be built and the new types required even more, demand for steel plate from the autumn of 1943 was three and a half times as great as the allocation hitherto. Furthermore, because of a heavy requirement for the repair of bomb damage to warships and local installations, the dockyards, already burdened with the expanded naval building programme, were now unable to cope with the shaping of pressure-hull sections, which had therefore to be delivered ready rolled.

The Chairman of the Central Shipbuilding Committee, Herr Merker, had taken on a difficult task. Considerable risk was involved in mass-producing a fundamentally new type of U-boat without trials, for if the boat proved to be a failure, the prodigious efforts of German industry would have been in vain and material allocated for the construction of 180 to 200 U-boats would have become so much scrap. Just as great a risk was involved in the introduction of prefabrication and mass-production methods into general shipbuilding; both methods were being applied for the first time to craft of considerable size under severe wartime conditions and against the advice of many experts, while those responsible were beset by the worry of completing the task at the earliest possible date. Nevertheless, contracts were placed with German yards for 360 Type XXI and 118 Type XXIII, and in the Mediterranean ports for 90 Type XXIII U-boats.

Prefabrication and mass production

The hull of the Type XXI U-boat was made up of eight separate sections – one section to a compartment – and these sections were constructed in 13 different yards, which allowed duplication and ensured that if a number of sections were destroyed in one yard a corresponding number of U-boats would not be lost. Nevertheless, the safety of the section-building and U-boat assembly yards was a matter of much concern, and in 1944 efforts were made to provide them all with bunker protection, a step already in hand at Hamburg-Finkenwerder and Bremen-Farge, with a few others being improvised elsewhere. The situation would have been less critical if section building could have been moved inland; but this was impossible as, owing to their size, the sections could only be transported to the assembly yards by water.

The actual building process was roughly as follows. A section-building yard was supplied first with, say, 40 similar part-sections of section 1 – the stern section of the boat – and delivery of the remaining part-sections was then timed to ensure the completion of the sections in sequence; thus, at any given time there would be 40 sections in progressive stages of assembly. The larger part-sections were machined and prepared for assembly on the actual site, while the smaller ones passed through the machine shops on the conveyor-belt principle. As soon as the first section had been assembled it was fitted with the appropriate machinery, electrical equipment, messing accommodation etc., the same operation on each section being performed by the same workmen for the sake of speed.

The delivery of the completed sections to the U-boat assembly yards at Bremen (Deschimag), Hamburg (Blohm & Voss) and Danzig (Schichau), and the process of final assembly and launching, all had to follow a strict time-table, and it is not surprising that difficulties arose in the early stages of the programme. The section-building yards were at first unable to keep to the schedule, partly owing to delayed delivery from subcontractors of certain important fittings and partly to the first part-sections having been badly rolled and exceeding the specified tolerances, which necessitated additional work. As a consequence, the supposedly complete sections for the first boats arrived at the assembly yards late and in an unfinished state, which in their turn meant additional work in the time allotted for U-boat assembly. The Central Shipbuilding Committee, however, would permit no postponement of U-boat completion dates and ruthlessly insisted on strict observance of the timetable. The first boats to be launched, therefore, had much work outstanding – and a lot that was, perforce, skimped – so that they had later to spend long periods in dockyard hands. Indeed, so many imperfections showed up in the first seven boats that they could be used only for training and experimental purposes.

All these difficulties, together with prevailing differences of opinion, caused tension and antagonism between the Central Shipbuilding Committee, the Naval Command and the dockyard authorities. This unfortunate atmosphere prevailed until the summer of 1944, when there was a noticeable improvement, due in part to the influence of the Shipbuilding Commission, which under Admiral Topp had been created at the beginning of that year, and which thereafter acted as mediator between the Naval Command and the Armaments Ministry on behalf of the Shipbuilding Committee.

The war ended before the Germans could deploy their own next wave of technology embodied by the Type XXI ”Electric” boat, with much larger battery capacity that gave it a fast underwater speed. Until late 1944 Allied bombing had a disruptive rather than disastrous impact on the Type XXI program. The situation changed radically in 1945 when massive raids resulted in the destruction not only of U-boats still on the ways but also of completed U-boats fitting out, or, in some cases, after commissioning and while undergoing training. Thus, quite apart from the damage to construction facilities, 17 completed Type XXIs were sunk in harbour between December 31, 1944 and May 8, 1945: Hamburg – seven; Kiel – six; and Bremen – four.

In essence the Type XXI simply introduced too much that was new simultaneously and demanded too much of those involved in the program. The reasons for this were diverse. In part it was due to the impending defeat on the high seas and the desire to do something – anything – to prevent it. There was also a fascination in Germany for anything that was new and militarily impressive. With hindsight, there also appears to have been an air of unreality about many activities and decisions, some of which may have been due to the pressure of work and others plain ‘woolly thinking’. Unfortunately for the Kriegsmarine, the outcome of all the pressure and cutting of corners was that the boats that were actually completed were constantly having to return to the yards for repair and modification, resulting in delays in attaining full-service stratus.

Delays in completion and training

Owing to the circumstances already mentioned, the whole U-boat building programme gradually dropped about five months behind schedule and, although the first Type XXI boat was launched as planned in April 1944, she was not commissioned until June. By the end of October, 32 Type XXI and 18 Type XXIII had been commissioned, while those under construction in the assembly yards were so far advanced that, even allowing for considerable destruction through bombing, a monthly delivery rate of 15 to 20 Type XXI and six to ten Type XXIII could be expected in the immediate future. German records do not show the exact number of new-type boats completed; but from the record of those commissioned, shown in the table below, it can be seen that the expected rate was generally achieved.

As was mentioned, the unorthodox methods used in the construction of these boats was responsible for an inordinate number of defects in the first to commission, and frequent interruptions for repair and modification combined to lengthen the crew training period from the usual three months to nearly six. However, by dint of close co-operation between the Construction Office at Blankenburg, the U-boat Acceptance Staff and the Admiral in Charge of U-boat Training, the fundamental defects were eliminated within a few months and, from the autumn onwards, the necessary modifications were incorporated into all U-boats delivered from the builders.

A nucleus of experienced U-boat commanders and petty officers formed the backbone of the new crews, who buckled down to their training with great enthusiasm. Meanwhile, the U-boat Command, which had previously studied the question of tactical employment of the new-type boats, had passed on their findings to the training, experimental and trials staffs and to the U-boat commanders. It was thus possible to put the new theories quickly to the test and to incorporate suggested improvements, which thereby hastened the process of establishing a firm basis for both crew training and operational use of the boats. The final “Battle Instructions for Type XXI and XXIII U-boats” were compiled from the evaluation of extensive sea trials carried out in one boat of each type, commanded by two well-trained officers, Korvettenkapitän Topp and Kapitänleutnant Emmermann.

Outstanding fighting qualities of the new boats

During the first Type XXI trials run over the measured mile at Hela, it was at once evident that the designed submerged full speed of 18 knots for one hour 40 minutes would not be realised, the maximum submerged speed attained varying between 16 and \7\ knots for from 60 to 80 minutes. However, at medium speeds of from 8 to 14 knots the disparity between design and performance was not so great, and the cruising motors came up to expectations with a speed of 5 to 5.1 knots.

A boat proceeding on cruising motors had to schnorkel for three hours daily to keep her batteries fully charged, and at a submerged cruising speed of five knots she could thus traverse the danger area between the Norwegian coast and the south of Iceland in about five days, raising her schnorkel on only five occasions. The schnorkel head was fitted with a Tunis aerial and coated with sorbo rubber as a protection against radar, so the boats were less vulnerable to location and attack from the air than hitherto. Even if the schnorkel were to be located by radar – which by virtue of its absorbent coating was only possible at short range – a boat would be in no great danger, since a sharp alteration of course coupled with a large increase in speed would quickly take her clear of the area and out of range of the aircraft’s sonobuoys; she could then continue for as long as necessary at the silent running speed of five knots, at which it was possible to cover more than 300 miles, or at two to three knots, a speed which she could maintain for 80 to 100 hours without having to schnorkel. The new boats had, therefore, a much better chance than the old type of reaching the Atlantic unobserved.

The silent submerged cruising speed of 5 to 5.1 knots was also an excellent attack speed and, in the event that this proved too slow, a convoy attack could always be pressed home by using high speed. This capability and the newly introduced echo-ranging gear and plotting-table, specially designed for use in such attacks, gave the Type XXI a decisive advantage over the old schnorkel boats. Furthermore, the Torpedo Trials Staff had developed a special instrument for so-called “programmed firing” in convoy attacks: as soon as a U-boat had succeeded in getting beneath a convoy, data collected by echo-ranging was converted and automatically set on the Lut torpedoes, which were then fired in spreads of six, at five- and fifteen-second intervals. The torpedoes opened out fanwise until their spread covered the extent of the convoy, when they began running in loops across its mean course, making good a slightly greater or lower speed, and in so doing covered the whole convoy. In theory these torpedoes were certain of hitting every ship of from 60 to 100 metres in length; and the theoretical possibility of 95 to 99 per cent hits in an average convoy was, in fact, achieved on firing trails.

In addition to the Lut, an improved torpedo was now available which was capable of homing onto propeller noises and virtually immune to Foxer.

Even if she did not entirely fulfil our expectations, the Type XXI U-boat was an excellent weapon when assessed against the A/S capability prevailing in 1944. She had overcome her worst teething troubles; and it was our intention to use a few of these boats within the next four months to resume the battle both in the Atlantic and in remote areas, later disposing an increasing number to the west of the British Isles. By virtue of its great endurance, the Type XXI could reach any part of the Atlantic and remain there for three to six weeks; it could, in fact, have just made the passage to Cape Town and back without refuelling.

It was decided that any attempt at submerged pack tactics, with the support of air reconnaissance, should be delayed until sufficient boats became available; but communication requirements for cooperation between Type XXI U-boats and aircraft had been dealt with and the procedures exercised. For reconnaissance west of the British Isles, the Luftwaffe intended to provide Do 335 aircraft, which by reason of their high speed of 430 to 470 mph could fly direct across the United Kingdom at night. FO U-boats did not believe that sufficient aircraft would be made available for proper support in such operations, despite the Luftwaffe’s assurances; however, he was convinced that good results could be obtained without them, since the Type XXI required only one encounter with a convoy – particularly in a remote area – to fire all its torpedoes, with great prospects of attaining a number of hits.

Battle of Novara (Ariotta)

The French invasion of Milan, 1513

By the time this treaty with Venice was concluded, Louis XII, King of France (1498–1515), was rid of one of his most determined opponents. Julius II died during the night of 20 February 1513. The new pope was Giovanni de’ Medici, who took the title Leo X. Much younger than Julius, he was not so belligerent and was far more subtle and changeable in diplomacy. Those who dealt with him would find him hard to read, except they soon discovered his fixed purpose to elevate the Medici into a princely dynasty: domination over Florence was not enough. Inevitably, his elevation to the papal throne strengthened his family’s position in Florence, and Leo would effectively dictate Florentine foreign policy.

As he prepared to try to recover Milan, Louis could not be sure what the new pope would do, nor count on the Florentines as allies. He might have hoped to have neutralized at least one opponent in Italy, making a truce with Ferdinand in April for a year. But the truce covered the border war between France and Spain, not Italy, so Ferdinand could still oppose the French there. Nevertheless, Cardona had already been ordered to return to Naples with the army, leaving the infantry behind in the pay of others, if possible.

Cardona had not left before the French invaded Milan. Under the command of La Trémoille and Giangiacomo Trivulzio, the French troops – 1,200-1,400 lances, 600 light horse and 11,500 infantry – crossed the Alps and mustered in Piedmont in mid-May, with 2,500 Italian troops. In late May Massimiliano was reported to have 1,200 Spanish and Neapolitan men-at-arms, 1,000 light horse, 800 Spanish infantry, 3,000 Lombard infantry and 7,000 Swiss. But Cardona, having sent troops to help Massimiliano defend the north-west of the duchy, quickly withdrew them, thus facilitating the rapid French advance. He kept his men at Piacenza, which he had taken over with Parma for Massimiliano after the death of Julius. In order to secure the pope’s support against the French, Massimiliano agreed to give them up to Leo, but no papal troops were sent to help him. The duke was left with the Swiss and what Lombards rallied to his defence. On the other side, d’Alviano was under orders from Venice to join up with the French only if the Spanish joined up with the Swiss. The Venetians were confi dent that, lacking men-at-arms, the Swiss alone should not pose much of a problem for the French, and the campaign would soon be over.

By early June, the French had overrun much of the west of the duchy. In Genoa, with the aid of a French fleet, the Adorno and Fieschi deposed Doge Giano Campofregoso and Antoniotto Adorno became governor there for Louis. In the east, the Venetian army under Bartolomeo d’Alviano took Cremona; Lodi and the Ghiaradadda rose against Massimiliano. The city of Milan, where a French garrison still held the fortress, was in confusion, waiting to see the outcome of the campaign. Only the areas around Como and Novara, where the Swiss were concentrated, still held for Massimiliano, who was at Novara.

The Battle

Throughout the winter, Louis had been trying to come to an accord with the Swiss. The seriousness of his intent was signalled by his sending La Trémoille and Trivulzio to Lucerne to conduct the negotiations, and his ordering the surrender of the fortresses of Locarno and Lugano to the Swiss. Happy to have the fortresses, but not to have the French back in Milan, in response to the invasion the Swiss rapidly organized and despatched several thousand reinforcements. These headed for Novara; news of their approach made La Trémoille decide on 5 June to raise the siege of the city that had just begun. A column of 7,000-8,000 Swiss skirted the French positions and entered Novara that day, to join the 4,000 already there with Massimiliano.

By nightfall, the French had travelled only a few miles, and the units made camp where they halted, dispersed as they were for the march. Consequently, they were ill-prepared for the attack launched by the Swiss before dawn. The Swiss had little artillery and only a few light horse with them, and the terrain, divided by ditches bordered by bushes, could have favoured the defenders had they had time to take position behind them. But the Swiss kept their disciplined battle order under fi re from the French artillery and overcame the infantry. The stiffest resistance they encountered was from about 6,000 landsknechts, who took the heaviest casualties when they were left to fight alone after the French and Italian infantry were routed. The French men-at-arms made little effort to defend them; the ground was not suited to the deployment of heavy cavalry. Nearly all the French horse escaped unscathed, abandoning their pavilions and the baggage train to the Swiss. Their artillery was captured too, and the elated Swiss dragged it back to Novara, with their own wounded men.

The battle of Ariotta (Novara) marked the zenith of the military reputation of the Swiss during the Italian Wars. Around 10,000 men, the majority of whom had reached Novara only hours before after several days’ march (and without waiting for 3,000 further reinforcements who were hard on their heels), with virtually no supporting cavalry and very little artillery, had routed a numerically superior French army, including a contingent of landsknechts almost as large as the main battle square of around 7,000 men the Swiss had formed, over terrain ill-adapted to manoeuvring such a large formation in good order. It was a tribute to the training and discipline, as well as the bravery and physical hardiness, of the Swiss infantry. The element of surprise had of course helped them, together with the fact the French army had been so widely spread out and had not prepared a defensive position, but this did not detract from the achievement of the Swiss or the humiliation of the French.

After the rout of the French army, the Spanish finally joined the Swiss to drive them out of Italy. Cardona sent 400 lances under Prospero Colonna to support Massimiliano. He also sent Ferrante Francesco d’Avalos, marchese di Pescara, with 3,000 infantry and 200 light horse to Genoa to assist the Fregoso faction in deposing Antoniotto Adorno on 17 June and replacing him with Ottaviano Campofregoso as doge. This displeased the Swiss, who had already made advantageous terms with Adorno. The Swiss took Asti, advanced in Piedmont and pillaged much of Monferrato.

It was evident that Louis could not send another expedition to Italy that year. In France, he was facing an invasion in the north by Henry VIII of England and Maximilian; Henry took Thérouanne and Tournai, and in August inflicted another humiliating defeat on the French at Guinegatte. That month the Swiss invaded Burgundy, laying siege to Dijon. La Trémoille made a treaty with them promising large payments and renouncing the king’s claim to Milan. The Swiss withdrew, but Louis would not ratify the treaty.

More than ever, the Swiss dominated the duchy of Milan. Massimiliano acknowledged the debt he owed for the blood they had shed to secure his rule, and agreed extra payments and compensation to those who had fought for him, totalling 400,000 Rhenish florins. But he did not have the money to satisfy them, nor could he afford to pay them to attack the Venetians, as Cardinal Schinner suggested.

Swiss and Landsknechts – Rivalry and Blood-Feud

Swiss fighters were responding to several interrelated factors: limited economic opportunities in their home mountains; pride in themselves and their colleagues as world-class soldiers; and, last but not least, by a love of adventure and combat. In fact, they were such good fighters that the Swiss enjoyed a near-monopoly on pike-armed military service for many years. One of their successes was the battle of Novara in northern Italy 1513 between France and the Republic of Venice, on the one hand, and the Swiss Confederation and the Duchy of Milan, on the other. The story runs as follows.

A French army, said by some sources to total 1,200 cavalrymen and about 20,000 Landsknechts, Gascons, and other troops, was camped near and was besieging Novara. This city was being held by some of the Duke of Milan’s Swiss mercenaries. A Swiss relief army of some 13,000 Swiss troops unexpectedly fell upon the French camp. The pike-armed Landsknechts managed to form up into their combat squares; the Landsknecht infantrymen took up their proper positions; and the French were able to get some of their cannons into action. The Swiss, however, surrounded the French camp, captured the cannons, broke up the Landsknecht pike squares, and forced back the Landsknecht infantry regiments.

The fight was very bloody: the Swiss executed hundreds of the Landsknechts they had captured, and 700 men were killed in three minutes by heavy artillery fire alone. To use a later English naval term from the days of sail, the “butcher’s bill” (the list of those killed in action) was somewhere between 5,000 and 10,000 men. Despite this Swiss success, however, the days of their supremacy as the world’s best mercenaries were numbered. In about 1515, the Swiss pledged themselves to neutrality, with the exception of Swiss soldiers serving in the ranks of the royal French army. The Landsknechts, on the other hand, would continue to serve any paymaster and would even fight each other if need be. Moreover, since the rigid battle formations of the Swiss were increasingly vulnerable to arquebus and artillery fire, employers were more inclined to hire the Landsknechts instead.

In retrospect, it is clear that the successes of Swiss soldiers in the 15th and early 16th centuries were due to three factors:

• Their courage was extraordinary. No Swiss force ever broke in battle, surrendered, or ran away. In several instances, the Swiss literally fought to the last man. When they were forced to retreat in the face of overwhelming odds, they did so in good order while defending themselves against attack.

• Their training was excellent. Swiss soldiers relied on a simple system of tactics, practiced until it became second nature to every man. They were held to the mark by a committee-leadership of experienced old soldiers.

• They were ferocious and gave no quarter, not even for ransom, and sometimes violated terms of surrender already given to garrisons and pillaged towns that had capitulated. These qualities inspired fear in their opponents.




76mm Gun Motor Carriage T86, T86E1, and T87 (Amphibious)

T86 GMC (Amphibious) showing new flotation hull on M18 chassis.

T87 GMC (Amphibious) with 105mm howitzer and modified hull.

Combat experience in the Pacific led to several experiments and projects to give amphibious capability to US AFVs.

As a result of meetings held on the Ritchie Project in December 1943 and January 1944, the National Defense Research Council undertook to develop an amphibious gun motor carriage created from the M18. This involved removal of the M18 hull plate down to the sponson line and substituting a larger amphibious hull of lighter construction. The reduction gear final drive gear ratio was lowered and suspension changes were made to accommodate an M24 Light Tank type 21 inch track This vehicle was called the T86 Amphibious Gun Motor Carriage

The original T86 continued the 14-inch track of the M18 because the new tracks were not ready in time Marmon-Herrington was given the contract in January 1944 to build three pilots. The T86 was track propelled the T86E1 had twin 26-inch screws driven from a rear transfer case. The screws were in tunnels with twin cable-controlled rudders behind them. The best of these two propulsion methods was to be used in the T87. This proved to be the track type, and an improved track was incorporated in the T87 along with detail changes to the hull.

The T86 (sometimes called the Esch Device) was designed to provide a vehicle with high firepower and good performance on both land and water. Land performance turned out to be practically the same as that of the M18. It floated with about 15 inches freeboard and it had a speed of 4-6 in water using the standard M18 track. The vehicle later was modified to add a third steering position just forward of the turret and cutting off the forward corners of the deck, adding vision blocks in both corners and additional periscopes for the driver. The T86E1 began undergoing tests late in April 1944 It weighed 23 tons and developed a speed in water of 6.2 m.p.h. with no appreciable reduction in land speed The T86E1 later was modified by removing one screw.

The third pilot was to incorporate the best features of both but the armament was to be a 105-mm howitzer.

This was the T87.

The T87 with the 105-mm. howitzer weighed 1,000 pounds less than the T86E1 and was 2ft 3in shorter.

The T87 appeared in December 1944 and was still undergoing trials at the cessation of hostilities, after which it was cancelled. The T87 had the same 105mm howitzer as the T88 while the T86/T86E1 had the 76mm gun of the M18. The T87 had a slightly shorter hull. All these prototypes proved satisfactory on test with a good performance in surf. However, forward vision was generally poor due to the hull shape. In addition it was found necessary to add cable-controlled rudders at the hull rear to assist steering.

It was track propelled Marmon-Herrington also modified for the Navy Bureau of Ships an M18 into what was called the LVT 76-mm Amphibious Gun Carrier. Curiously, electrolytic action between dissimilar metals caused a fabrication problem so this vehicle was only some 30 per cent completed. It was to have had a Ford 500 h. p. V-8 engine and a Jered No 900 transmission, but these were never installed.

Variation/prototype on T87 with wadding trunk and detachable pontoon.

Variation/prototype on T86 with overhead turret protection.

SKJOLD Class Fast Attack Craft [FAC] Part I

The six SKJOLD Class FAC were built by Kvaerner/Umoe Mandal incorporating the SENIT 2000 combat management system as a joint development of DCNS (now Naval Group) and Kongsberg.

A view of Skjold, Gnist, Storm and Skudd operating together whilst on exercise in the Kristiansund at the end of January 2014. Skjold acted as the pre-production trials ship for the class design between 1999 and 2003, undertaking a lengthy deployment to the United States. She had only recently returned to operational fleet when this image was taken.

Kongsberg‘s new generation Naval Strike Missile [NSM] has been selected to equip the NANSEN and SKJOLD Class vessels of the RNoN as an anti-ship and land-attack missile. Future operators include Poland, Malaysia, the US and Germany.

With the re-delivery of the HNoMS Skjold on 29 April 2013, the Norwegian Navy finally has all six of its Skjold class fast attack craft in service. The Royal Norwegian Navy (RNN) has a long history of operating fast patrol boats, going back as far as 1873 when the steam-powered, Thornycroft-built Rap was commissioned into the fleet, placing the RNN in the forefront of fast patrol boat operators. Ever since then, fast patrol boats have been an integral element in Norway’s defence structure and the RNN has kept on refining the design of these vessels over time. However, they have never previously adopted a design as radical in so many ways as these latest ships.

The prototype Skjold class vessel has now been rebuilt to the standards of the production series. Most notably, she has acquired the revised COGAG propulsion system of two Pratt & Whitney ST18M and two Pratt & Whitney STM40 gas turbines fitted in the series-built vessels in replacement for her original CODOG propulsion system. A full outfit of weapons and sensors has also been installed. Re-commissioned in the Spring of 2013, this view shows her participating in the NATO Cold Response 2014 training exercise.


The origins of the Skjold programme date back to the mid-1980s, when the Norwegian Defence Research Establishment (NDRE) began to study a replacement for the Storm and, ultimately, the Hauk class fast attack craft, which were, respectively, commissioned into the fleet between 1965 and 1967 and between 1977 and 1980. The emerging programme for the new units, which ultimately came to be known as Project SMP 6081, required them to be survivable, stable weapons platforms capable of operating at speeds of 45 knots in Sea State 3, to have a range of at least 800 nautical miles at 40 knots, and to be able to operate outside coastal waters in a variety of scenarios, including NATO operations. In addition, the project office undertook a wide range of studies designed to reduce the vessels’ radar cross-section (RCS) and infrared (IR) signatures.

The Norwegian Navy Material Command (NAVMATCOM), together with Commander Sea Training (COMSEATRAIN), ran several analyses to balance the operational requirements with the likely available budget. For the platform system, no fewer than ten different platforms concepts were initially taken into consideration. Having examined this wide range of replacement options, the study was subsequently narrowed down to a shortlist of three concepts, viz. a conventional mono-hull, a catamaran-hull and an air-cushion catamaran/surface effect ship (ACC/SES).

The studies carried out by NAVMATCOM indicated that shock levels experienced by the SES were only one-third of that of a mono-hull.3 Similarly, the maximum displacement of structural members when subjected to shock was around half that of a comparable mono-hull. These advantages were a direct result of the SES’s elevated position in the water and its low draught. In spite of this, there was some hesitation in adopting the new hull form and a SES passenger vessel was even hired to uncover operational limitations of an SES when compared with the mono-hulled Storm and Hauk classes. Additional confidence was provided through experience gained designing and constructing the Oksøy and Alta class minehunters and minesweepers, which demonstrated the stability and large deck area inherent in the SES-catamaran hull form. Ultimately, the combination of improved resistance to shock and survivability, superior sea-keeping, greater internal volume and high speed-to-power ratio that the ACC/SES provided proved decisive in its selection.

By 1994 all staff requirements were defined and, in July 1995, a Request for Proposals [RfP] was issued. Three yards ultimately submitted bids: the Norwegian shipyards Umoe Mandal and Mjellem & Karlsen and Lürssen Werft in Germany. On 30 August 1996 Umoe Mandal was awarded a c. US$36m equivalent contract to build a pre-production unit, to be named Skjold. Following approval of construction specifications by NAVMATCOM, construction commenced in 1997. The prototype vessel was launched on 22 September 1998 and turned over to the Royal Norwegian Navy on 17 April 1999. At this stage weapons, sensors and combat management systems were not installed and 46 tons of sand ballast was subsequently provided to simulate their wight.

The pre-series vessel underwent comprehensive testing with focus on speed, sea-keeping, EMI/EMC, signatures and functionality, as well as the operational reliability tests – mainly in northern Norway during autumn and winter. There was also a year-long deployment to North America on loan to the US Navy. This initial trials programme had an important bearing on whether to proceed with the series production order and was to result in several changes to the production specification.

In spite of emerging doubts about the value of the programme in the post-Cold War naval environment, a new defence white paper approved by the Norwegian parliament in June 2001 envisaged the construction of five additional units. This decision was subsequently confirmed in October 2003 once terms and pricing for the programme had been provisionally agreed. Subsequently, on 28 November that year, the Material Investment Branch of Norway’s Defence Logistics Organisation (NDLO) awarded the Skjold Prime Consortium (SPC) a NOK3.7bn (c.US$550m) contract to build and equip the five new ships, whilst upgrading the prototype to the same standard. The SPC was an industrial alliance that brought together three partner companies to share responsibility for the delivery of the Skjold platform. It comprised Umoe Mandal (responsible for detailed design, systems integration, construction, testing and integrated logistic support); the Armaris joint venture between France’s DCN and Thales, now merged into DCNS (combat system design authority); and Kongsberg Defence & Aerospace (responsible for delivering and integrating the combat system in cooperation with Armaris). Umoe Mandal’s share of the programme consisted of about NOK2bn; Armaris received approximately NOK1bn; whilst Kongsberg Defence & Aerospace’s (KDA’s) share was valued at NOK750m. The construction of the first of the five standard production units, Storm, began in October 2005

In spite of further challenges to the class’s value and a number of project delays, commissioning of the new ships in operational configuration commenced in September 2010, with the re-delivery of the upgraded Skjold in April 2013 completing the programme. All units will achieve full operational capability by early 2015. It is the RNN’s plan to have four units available at any time, while two undergo maintenance and further upgrades.


The most distinctive feature of the Skjold class design is undoubtedly its innovative twin ACC hull form. The 47.5m long, catamaran SES-hull is made of a fibre reinforced plastic (FRP) sandwich construction, which reduces the overall weight of the ship. This material is capable of absorbing high levels of impact and, as such, minimising the extent of damage to the ship’s structure, as well as the cost of repairs. FRP also gives the ship so much buoyancy in itself that it can hardly sink. Moreover, its use enables most types of damage – from a surface scratch in the laminate through to major damage to a panel and its underlying structure – to be repaired quickly by using specially developed techniques. Another noteworthy feature is the provision of under-deck heating to prevent build-up of ice on the deck. Umoe Mandal was licensed to use the Seemann Composites Resin Infusion Moulding Process (SCRIMP) technique in constructing the class. This consists of a resin transfer moulding process that uses a vacuum to pull liquid resin into a dry lay-up. It is used for making very high quality, repeatable composite parts with almost zero VOC (volatile organic compound) emissions.

Stealth was a major preoccupation within the project office since the programme’s inception. The class has been designed to minimise all observable signatures. Controlled shaping of the ship above the waterline is evident in the absence of 90º corners and the inclination of the hull and superstructure at a small angle in order to deflect radar. The super-structure exhibits low and sleek characteristics, topside equipment is arranged to maximise concealment and there is extensive use of anechoic coatings. The air intakes to the gas turbines and lift fans are covered with a radar-absorbing mesh, the windows on the bridge incorporate a radar-absorbing material and all hatches are flush in order to reduce their RCS signatures. A similar consideration mandated the stealthy cupola provided for the Oto Melara 76mm/62 gun. The 9.6m-high main mast is constructed entirely from carbon fibre and the material is also used in beam flanges and frames.

Infra-red (IR) signature is kept to a minimum by the use of seawater cooling for the gas turbine exhausts; the water outlets are ducted into the air cushion between the two hulls and through the stern of the vessel. Similarly, the acoustic signature is decreased thanks to the fibre-reinforced plastic materials, which provide better structure-borne noise damping qualities. In addition, the water-jet propulsion generates lower hydro-acoustic signatures. The material composition in the wetted area of the twin hulls has been modified in order to produce a ‘smoother’ finish thus reducing hydrodynamic friction.

Operating in the littoral environment of fjords and archipelagos has also helped the Nordic navies become leaders in the application of present-day visual stealth and protective colourings. The Skjolds feature a camouflage scheme which is the result of the thorough study and testing of the hues and tones found in the Norwegian topography; scientists actually travelled around various areas and measured the colourings at different times of the year. The resulting paint scheme, which also incorporates high infra-red absorption properties, greatly reduces the ships’ electro-optical and visual signatures. As such, the Skjolds are hard to detect when lurking close to the coastline and are able to engage hostile forces from close range while remaining undetected. Another important asset is the class’s capability to access very shallow waters denied to other vessels. With about 75 per cent of their displacement being ‘carried on air’, a shallow draught of as little as 0.9m allows the ships to operate safely in shallow coastal waters whilst still maintaining excellent sea-keeping qualities.

A detailed view of Skudd’s bridge structure. A MASS decoy launcher is pictured in front of the bridge’s face, with the Saab CEROS-200 radar and optronic fire-control director mounted on the bridge roof. The carbon-fibre mast supports the Thales MRR-3D-NG multi-role radar on the lower platform, with a navigation radar above. The top of the mast houses the Sagem VIGY-20 electro-optical fire-control system with a pole for the ES-3701 ESM antenna immediately behind


The ships have been equipped with an advanced L-3 MAPPS integrated platform management system (IMPS) featuring multi-functional consoles with high-resolution colour monitors that display ergonomically designed graphical pages of the ship’s machinery and systems. This highly automated system incorporates an integrated bridge system (IBS) supplied by Kongsberg; a digital gas turbine control system; an integrated battle damage-control system (IBDCS); an equipment monitoring system (inclusive of a vibration monitoring capability); and a digital CCTV system. The overall system’s modular design, which combines widely distributed but intelligent and interconnected electronics, enables the crew to control, monitor and operate all platform machinery, electrical and emergency systems from several shipboard locations

The cockpit-style bridge, featuring a Kongsberg Maritime IBS, provides the pilot and navigator with full control over the bridge display consoles. It incorporates a K-Bridge autopilot, a voyage data recorder, a Kongsberg Seatex AIS 100 automatic identification system, an AGI electromagnetic log, a meteorological station, a Sagem 40 inertial navigation system, a Sperry Marine NAVIGAT 2100/SR 2100 fibre-optic gyro compass, a Trimble Navstar GPS/PPS receiver, JRC NAVTEX, a Skipper GDS 101 echo sounder and a Brudeseth optical bearing device. The bridge consoles display chart data from an Electronic Chart Display & Information System (ECDIS), radar and electro-optical (EO) data, as well as weapons system functionality.

Damage control is an important issue, with fire a principal concern. The RNN learned a lot of lessons from a catastrophic fire on board the Oksøy class minehunter Orkla in November 2002 and many of these have been incorporated into the Skjold class design. The ship is divided into six gas- and water-tight sections and features two engine rooms, one in each hull. The ship can continue to operate with one engine room out of action. Both are encapsulated with fire-retardant insulation material and incorporate Halotron and Hi-Fog water-mist fire-extinguishing systems. There is both a primary and secondary damage control station, both of which can access the IBDCS embodied in the L-3 MAPPS IPMS. This provides an instant overview of all aspects of the ship’s status and provides the opportunity to react in a very tight timeframe.

SKJOLD Class Fast Attack Craft [FAC] Part II

The Skjold class are equipped with primary and secondary machinery control rooms, which also act as the ship’s damage control stations. They provide access to the highly automated L-3 MAPPS integrated platform management system, which features a number of multi-function consoles and high-resolution colour screens, both pictured here. These allow the small crew to operate and monitor all the ship’s equipment.


The Skjold class was originally designed for a combined diesel or gas (CODOG) propulsion system. However, the RNN decided to change this to a combined gas and gas (COGAG) turbine configuration with two Pratt & Whitney ST18M and two Pratt & Whitney ST40M gas turbines driving two Kamewa 80S2 water-jets. Each hull has one propulsion train incorporating two gas turbines, a water-jet and a reduction gearbox. Adapting the ST18 and ST40 aircraft engines for use in a marine environment and the complexities of the associated COGAG layout proved to be a difficult process but was justified by the higher performance and better fuel economy offered across the full spectrum of different speeds and operating profiles. The ships have a range of 800 nautical miles at 40 knots and an endurance of around eight days. The reason for selecting water-jets as the main propulsion system was due to the combination of their favourable acoustic properties, low draught requirements and excellent manoeuvring capabilities.

Operation of the surface-effect air cushion is in the hands of a stabilisation system provided by VT Maritime Dynamics. This includes a ride control system that regulates the pressure of the air cushion between the two hulls that is created by a pair of 800kW lift fans driven by two MTU 12V 183 TE92 diesels in the bow. Flexible rubber ‘finger’ type seals in the bow and a ‘bag’ seal in the stern prevent air from leaking out of the cushion formed between the two side hulls. Vent valves and a seal management system in the stern, combined with a variable geometry inlet to the lift fans, control air flow and cushion pressure, improving the ship’s sea-keeping by minimising pitch and heave accelerations. The ability to manipulate the air cushion, combined with the water-jet propulsion, make the Skjolds both easy to handle and seaworthy. There is the option of choosing between speed and comfort, or a compromise. The class can maintain excellent sea-keeping qualities at 45 knots in Sea State 3 as well as achieving 60 knots in Sea State 1. The installation of a replenishment at sea (RAS) rig was approved following conclusion of a design review in mid-2012, offering the prospect of longer endurance.


The Skjold class is equipped with a SENIT 2000 combat management system (CMS) and associated KD2000 multi-function consoles. It is a derivative of the SENIT 8 system installed onboard the French aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle. The SENIT 2000 CMS is, however, tailored specifically for coastal warfare, with emphasis on anti-surface weapons, passive detection, tactical data-links and fast response to ‘pop-up’ air threats.

Jointly developed by DCNS and Kongsberg, SENIT 2000 migrates existing functionality to a new open architecture that is based on PowerPC processors and the Linux operating system. It provides the ships with a processing capability comparable to that of a frigate. The CMS incorporates five consoles that feature a new generation of fully multi-functional LCD flat screen displays. This is claimed to be the first such application of this technology in a warship’s combat information centre.

SENIT 2000 performs all usual combat management functions, including the operation of weapons, sensors, data links and navigational equipment. It makes use of an extensive decision support system, capable of mission planning and execution, and of holding intelligence, cartography, Electronic Support Measures (ESM) and Electro-Optical (EO) databases. The system also includes extensive realtime recording and debriefing facilities, and provides comprehensive, on-board simulation and functionality for single operator, multi-operator, command and squadron level training. There is also, a sixth, additional console that has been provided for installation of a specific Norwegian command and control system.


Although originally classified as fast attack craft the Skjolds are now often referred to as ‘littoral combat corvettes’, due to their powerful combat suite. This reflects their primary purpose as fast anti-surface warfare platforms. For long-range engagement, the units rely on KDA’s Nytt Sjømals Missil (NSM) anti-ship cruise missile.6 The system consists of two quadruple launchers aft of the deck house, which elevate to fire and then retract to maintain the low RCS. The missile efflux is vented through an opening in the vessel’s stern. The missiles are equipped with a programmable intelligent multi-purpose fuze (PIMF) semi-armour piercing warhead of 120kg, GPS-aided mid-course guidance with an advanced dual-band imaging infrared (IIR) seeker for automatic target recognition. Range is c. 185km (100 nautical miles). Their digital flight control computer allows the missile to follow the complex contours of fjords before seeking its target. Their IIR-seeker detects, classifies and selects targets and, in its terminal approach, manoeuvres the missile randomly to defeat close-in defences. The NSM test firing and evaluation programme included a first firing at sea in October 2012 and a successful test against the target vessel Trondheim in June 2013.


The Skjolds mount a state-of-the-art communications system integrated by the German Aeromaritime group. Engineered to give an optimal solution in terms of communication performance and compactness, it includes HF, VHF and UHF radio links, as well as satellite communications, and supports NATO Link 11 and 16 connectivity. From mid-2014 onwards, the class is being equipped with the Thales’ SURFSAT-S satellite communication system, which includes connections with the Inmarsat and Iridium civilian networks as well as military satellites. The overall communications system allows class members to have a secure means of sharing an overall operational picture, thereby supporting closely entwined operations.


Operating the Skjolds is personnel-intensive. Although the IMPS and IBS provide a very high level of automation and make the performance of onboard tasks both accurate and easy, the carefully organised employment of every member of the crew is imperative in order to supervise and control the class’s systems effectively. Initially the ships were designed for a crew of sixteen but, after the lessons learned from Skjold’s deployment to the United States, it was decided to increase this to twenty-one.

As far as the accommodation is concerned there is one single cabin for the commanding officer; four double cabins for the other officers; and four-berth cabins for the petty officers and the ratings. Officers and petty officers share a wardroom while ratings have their own mess. There is a modern galley, two showers and two toilets. As no spare bunks are available, any additional personnel must sleep on improvised bunks in the wardroom or ratings’ mess. The RNN is studying possibilities to augment the number of crew because long-lasting high-intensity operations have proved to be very challenging. Commander sg Ståle Kasin – Commander Corvette Squadron Norwegian Navy – said that possible solutions could either be the introduction of ‘hot bunking’ or an increase the number of bunks: ‘Some of the cabins now have two bunks, so we’re looking into possibilities to install a third.’ During operations the crew can remain inside a nuclear-biological-chemical ‘citadel’ which encompasses the critical interior spaces, i.e. the crew’s quarters, the operations room and the bridge.

Upon the return from the United States, Commander Rune Andersen – Skjold’s commanding officer – confirmed that the living and accommodation standards were quite comfortable: ‘The interiors are spacious and comfortable. She has been our home for thirteen months now without problems. The staterooms provide comfort and privacy. We produce enough fresh water to shower and do laundry, the noise level is low and the temperature inside is nice no matter what temperature you find outside. She was just as comfortable in the Arctic waters as she was in the Caribbean.’


The Skjold class vessels have participated in a variety of exercises and activities. Each year they take part in Exercise Flotex: a Norwegian exercise conducted each November; in Exercise Northern Coasts: an exercise which takes place in Danish, Finnish, German or Swedish waters during September; in the Joint Warrior series off the west coast of Scotland and, every second year, in the NATO Exercise Cold Response. In addition to these manoeuvres the vessels have been taking part in a variety of smaller national exercises and operations, varying from support to the police and customs, to live missile firings and air exercises.

Skjold (P960): Launched on 22 September 1998, Skjold first commissioned into the RNN on 17 April 1999. She immediately started an intensive test period focussing on electromagnetic compatibility, signature reduction, speed and sea-keeping, as well as general arrangement and layout functionality. Just three days after her handover, she joined Exercise Blue Game 1999 alongside other fast attack craft from Denmark, Germany and Norway. Although not yet fitted with her weapons and weapon control system, it was essential for the RNN to try to operate the ship just like any other fast patrol boat. During the exercise Skjold crossed the Skagerrak six times, achieving a best average speed of over 50 knots. Upon completion of the exercise, she sailed to Oslo for demonstrations to the Chief of Defence, Minister of Defence and a number of politicians. After this, she sailed to her home base at Haakonsvern for the first time. Although experiencing conditions up to Sea State 5, she was still able to maintain speeds of 40–50 knots.

In August, KDA mounted two SENIT CMS multifunction consoles, after which Skjold sailed to Stavanger where an Oto Melara 76mm/62 Super Rapid gun was installed. In this configuration the ship attended to the DSEi-99 Exhibition in London. This was followed by test firings with the gun towards the end of September. The Millennium-year started with cold weather trials in the Tromsø and Skjervøy area (Finnmark) until end-February. This was followed by further firing tests with the main gun to measure strains on the hull and further extensive trials of all the ship’s systems and equipment. During one of these exercises Skjold pushed her top speed to 59.8 knots. The gun was removed upon completion of this trial period.

In March 2000 the US Navy Special Warfare Command personnel visited the ship to assess whether the high-speed design had any relevance to developing network-centric warfare concepts, including the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) programme. This resulted in signature of an agreement between the US and Norwegian governments for the lease of Skjold for a twelve-month demonstration and evaluation program with the US Navy research establishments.

Prior to her departure to the United States, Skjold received a number of adjustments to her systems, including new navigation, radar, antenna and satellite equipment, as well as a device to handle US Navy type rigid inflatable boats (RIBs). The most obvious change, however, was a new colour scheme. The ship was repainted into lighter shades to reduce the surface temperature on the hull while operating in a warmer climate. Under the command of Commander Rune Andersen, Skjold departed Bergen on 4 September 2001. Calling at the Faeroe Islands and Reykjavik, she proceeded along Greenland’s eastern coast to the Eskimo village of Ammassalik. She then transited through Prince Christian Sound and called at Nanortalik and Cartwright, prior to reaching Corner Brook at the East Coast of Newfoundland. From here she sailed to Halifax, Newport, Rhode Island, and New York before arriving at the US Navy’s Amphibious Base in Little Creek, Virginia – her homeport for the next year – on 25 September. Here she became a fully integrated unit of Special Boat Squadron Two.

Skjold conducted an intensive trials programme whilst in the United States. She was used to assess the extent to which a high-speed platform of the type the ship represented could be used as a front-line ‘node’ in network-centric warfare and whether enhanced connectivity could enable such ships to undertake roles previously denied to them. The programme included simulated threats from air, surface and sub-surface sources; Special Forces and unmanned vehicle operations; and a range of instrumented tests encompassing sea-keeping, structural and signature performance. During this time, she was involved in a number of exercises. These included the mine-countermeasures focused GOMEX 02 in the Gulf of Mexico between 29 November and 14 December; and JTFEX 02-1 with the John F Kennedy (CV-67) Carrier Battle Group. Assigned to the opposition force, she reportedly managed to stay undetected and attack the aircraft carrier. Upon completion, she made several port calls in the Caribbean, conducting experimental training with the Naval Special Warfare Unit 4 SEALS Platoon at US Naval Station Roosevelt Roads, Puerto Rico. Returning to Little Creek at the end of May 2002, she participated in the Fleet Battle Experiment (FBE-J) and ‘Millennium Challenge’ exercises, followed by signature testing from airborne sensors and trials with a rig for replenishment-at-sea.

By mid-August preparations were underway for Skjold’s return trip to Norway. The homeward voyage saw calls at New York, Halifax, Cape Breton in Newfoundland, Labrador in Greenland, Reykjavik, Vestmannaeyar and the Faeroes. She arrived at Haakonsvern on 27 September 2002. The US deployment demonstrated the ship’s ability to be reconfigured quickly for disparate missions, to defend herself in a littoral environment and her suitability for Special Operations. However, the ship’s limited 800 nautical mile range was a drawback, in the US Navy’s opinion.

The RNN view was more unequivocally positive. Commander Andersen – Skjold’s first commanding officer – said, ‘She is extremely manoeuvrable and capable of maintaining high speeds in rough weather. The ship has met all the requirements laid down by the Norwegian Navy prior to her design. Since her commissioning in April 1999 she has impressed us with her high performance and high availability.’

Having served as the pre-production platform test bed for more than four years, during which she sailed some 85,000 nautical miles with high technical availability, Skjold was temporarily decommissioned on 24 June 2003. She returned to Umoe Mandal to be upgraded to final production standards and to act as training platform for the other units’ crews. She was re-delivered on 29 April 2013 and one of her first foreign visits took her to Rouen, France for the ‘Armada de Liberté’ in June 2013. This voyage was followed in November by exercise Flotex 2013. Subsequently, in 2014, Skjold took part in the Cold Response series and NATO’s Exercise Unified Vision 2014.


The Skjold class is capable of contributing substantially to a wide range of operations in both the littoral and in blue water. Although designed to patrol Norway’s littoral waters, the units have already proved to be amongst the most flexible assets in the RNN. In particular, thanks to state-of-the-art communications and sensor suites, they are able to make a significant contribution to international operations. As demonstrated by Skjold’s deployment to the United States, even lengthy out-of-area deployments can be sustained and their top speed of 60 knots could prove quite useful to the EU or NATO counter-piracy operations. In short, Skjold and her sisters are rapid, powerful and inter-operable general purpose combatants that will be useful for a wide range of tasks.

Kongsberg’s Naval Strike Missile is operational on land and at sea. It can climb and descend according to terrain when it travels over land.

Norwegian Naval Strike Missile (NSM)

The Kongsberg NSM entered service with the Royal Norwegian Navy in 2012 and is employed by their SKJOLD class missile boats and FRIDTJOF NANSEN Class frigates. The first export order was received from Poland in 2008 for a coastal defence missile version of the system for the Polish Navy, with a second batch order being placed in late 2014. In 2015 it was announced that agreement over submarine acquisition between Germany and Norway, Kongsberg noted that: “Norwegian authorities announced that the strategic partnership for submarine acquisition expands to include Kongsberg’s Naval Strike Missile (NSM). The cooperation entails further development of the missile, and that the German navy intends to acquire a significant number of NSMs for its vessels. This also enables a close cooperation on joint maintenance and logistics between the German and the Norwegian navy.”

The NSM weighs 408 kg, travels at high subsonic speed, it uses a GPS/INS navigation system and has an imaging infrared (IIR) seeker with automatic target recognition, the warhead weighs 125 kg and its operational range is 185 km (range is dependent on flight profile). Emphasis has been put on signature reduction in the shaping of the missile and this is assisted by the IIR seeker being a passive system. There is also an air-launched version of the weapon known as the Joint Strike Missile (JSM), this has been designed to fit into the internal bays of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) that Norway is acquiring. Australia is said to be interested in the JSM for its future F-35 fleet.

Future developments of the NSM/JSM potentially include a version that can be launched from the MK 41 VLS and a submarine-launched variant. In terms of future export opportunities Kongsberg have been working to get involved in the US Navy OASuW programme. The NSM was fired from the USS Coronado (LCS-4) at Point Mugu, California, in July 2014. The ability to offer both NSM and JSM provides Kongsberg with tremendous export potential, in particular the ability to achieve internal carriage on the JSF could significantly expand the potential user base.

Mikoyan MIG-23


The Soviet-designed fighters were agile. In an engagement, the enemy’s first turn would be eye-watering—unless, that is, the model in question was a MiG-23. Then, there typically was no turn at all. The MiG-23 would simply tear away so fast that it seemed like a Ferrari leaving Fords behind. A MiG-23, such had one chance to make a pass and run. Once the pilot tried to turn, he was done.

MiG-23 Floggers were the MiG-21’s replacement. Their swing-wing was patterned on that of the F-111, but unlike their US antecedent, the MiG-23s were small and light enough to serve as dogfighters. On the whole, the aircraft weren’t as capable as US models, say those who flew them. Their fit and finish were vastly inferior, characterized by such defects as protruding rivets. That does not mean they could be written off. Far from it. They performed very well for the state of technology they had.

The MiG-23 that was the maintainers’ nightmare. The Flogger was a compromised design, in the US view. Made light for speed, the airframe didn’t have sufficient strength. The wing box which carried the weight of the swing wings was particularly prone to cracks.

Performance tests

Many potential enemies of the USSR and its client states had a chance to evaluate the MiG-23’s performance. In the 1970s, after a political realignment by the Egyptian government, Egypt gave their MiG-23MS to the United States and the People’s Republic of China in exchange for military hardware. These MiG-23MS helped the Chinese to develop their Shenyang J-8II aircraft by borrowing some MiG-23 features, such as its ventral fin and air intakes, and incorporating them into the J-8II. In the US, these MiG-23MS and other variants acquired later from Germany were used as part of the evaluation program of Soviet military hardware. Dutch pilot Leon Van Maurer, who had more than 1200 hours flying F-16s, flew against MiG-23ML Flogger-Gs from air bases in Germany and the U.S. as part of NATO’s aerial mock combat training with Soviet equipment. He concluded the MiG-23ML was superior in the vertical to early F-16 variants, just slightly inferior to the F-16A in the horizontal, and has superior BVR capability.

The Israelis tested a MiG-23MLD that defected from Syria and found it had better acceleration than the F-16 and F/A-18.

Another MiG-23 evaluation finding in the US and Israel reports was that the MiG-23 has a Heads-Up Display (HUD) that doubles as a radarscope, allowing the pilot to keep his eyes focused at infinity and work with his radar. It also allowed the Soviets to dispense with the radarscope on the MiG-23. This feature was carried over into the MiG-29, though in that aircraft a cathode ray tube (CRT) was carried on the upper right corner to double as a radarscope. Western opinions about this “head-up radarscope” are mixed. The Israelis were impressed, but an American F-16 pilot criticizes it as “sticking a transparent map in front of the HUD” and not providing a three-dimensional presentation that will accurately cue a pilot’s eyes to look for a fighter as it appears in a particular direction.

Besides the Syrian defection, a Cuban pilot flew a MiG-23BN to the US in 1991 and a Libyan MiG-23 pilot also defected to Greece in 1981. In both cases, the aircraft were later returned to their countries.

The MiG-23 was the Soviet Air Force’s “Top Gun”-equivalent aggressor aircraft from the late 1970s to the late 1980s. It proved a difficult opponent for early MiG-29 variants flown by inexperienced pilots. Exercises showed when well-flown, a MiG-23MLD could achieve favorable kill ratios against the MiG-29 in mock combat by using hit-and-run tactics and not engaging the MiG-29s in dogfights. Usually the aggressor MiG-23MLDs had a shark mouth painted on the nose just aft of the radome, and many were piloted by Soviet-Afghan War veterans. In the late 1980s, these aggressor MiG-23s were replaced by MiG-29s, also featuring shark mouths.

NATO reporting names: Flogger-A, B, C, E, F, G, H and K

Country of origin: Russia

Type: Single-seat variable geometry air combat fighter and two-seat operational trainer.

Powerplant: MIG-23ML – One 83.8kN (18,850lb) dry and 127.5kN(28,660lb) with afterburning Tumansky (now Soyuz) R-35-300 turbojet.

Performance: MIG-23ML – Max speed with weapons Mach 2.35 or 2500km/h (1349kt).

Max initial rate of climb 47,250ft/min.

Service ceiling 59,055ft.

Combat radius with six AAMs 1150km (620nm), combat radius with 2000kg (4,410lb) of bombs 700km (378nm).

Weights: MIG-23ML – Empty 10,200kg (22,485lb), max takeoff 17,800kg (39,250lb).

Dimensions: MIG-23ML – Span wings spread 13.97m (45ft 10in), span wings swept 7.78m (25ft 6in), length overall exc probe 15.88m (52ft 1in), height 4.82m (15ft 10in). Wing area wings spread 37.3m2 (401.5sq ft), wing area wings swept 34.2m2 (368.1 sq ft).

Accommodation: Pilot only, or two in tandem MIG-23UM and UB.

Armament: One twin barrel 23mm GSh-23 cannon. Five external hardpoints (one centreline, two under fuselage and two underwing) can carry a max external load of 2000kg (4,410lb) on MIG-23ML. Typical air-to-air configuration of two R-60 (AA-8 ‘Aphid’) and two R-23 (AA-7 ‘Apex’) AAMs.

History: From the mid-1970s and into the 1980s the MiG-23 (NATO reporting name ‘Flogger’) was the Soviet Unions’ most capable tactical fighter.

The MiG-23 was developed to replace the MiG-21, with improvements in overall performance and in particular short field performance. Two Mikoyan designed prototypes were built, the swept wing 23-01 ‘Faithless’ and the swing wing 23-11. The 23-11 first flew on April 10, 1967 and was ordered into production as the MIG-23S, fitted with the MiG-21 S’ RP-22 radar. Fifty were built for evaluation.

The MIG-23M (‘Flogger-B’) was the first model to introduce the specially designed Sapfir-23 pulse doppler radar in a larger nose radome and also featured a more powerful engine and IRST and R-23 missile compatibility. The down spec export MIG-23MS (‘Flogger-E’) was similar, while the export and further down spec MIG-23MF (‘Flogger-B’) features the RP-22 radar and smaller nose.

Subsequent fighter MiG-23s were the lightened MIG-23ML (‘Flogger-G’) with less fuel and no dorsal fin extension, the MIG-23P interceptor that could be automatically guided to its target by ground controllers and the MIG-23MLD (‘Flogger-K’) with aerodynamic changes. The MIG-23UB (‘Flogger-C’) meanwhile is the two-seat conversion trainer.

Various MiG-23 models were also built specifically for ground attack. The first to appear was the MIG-23B with a pointy, radar-less nose and a Lyulka AL-21 turbojet. The improved MIG-23BN returned to the Tumansky turbojet. NATO called both the MIG-23B and MIG-23BN the ‘Flogger-F’. Further improved MiG-23 attack variants were the MIG-23BK and MIG-23BM, both of which borrowed nav attack systems from the MiG-27.


MiG-23-11 (`Flogger-A’): Prototype shown at Domodyedovo 9 July 1967. One Lyulka AL-7F-1 afterburning turbojet, rated at 98.1 kN (22,046 lb st).

MiG-23S (`Flogger-A’): Initial production version, with R-27-300 turbojet engine. Issued to complete fighter regiment in 1971 for development.

MiG-23SM (`Flogger-A’): As MIG-23S, but with four APU-13 pylons for external stores added under engine air intake ducts and fixed inboard wing panels.

MiG-23M (`Flogger-B’): Most produced production version; first flown June 1972; single-seat air combat fighter; first aircraft of former Soviet Union with demonstrated ability to track and engage targets flying below its own altitude; Soyuz/Khachaturov R-29-300 turbojet, rated at 122.5 kN (27,540 lb st) with afterburning; no wing leading-edge flaps initially (retrofitted later); Sapfir-23D-Sh J-band radar (NATO `High Lark’); Sirena-3 radar warning system; Doppler; TP-23 infra-red search/track pod under cockpit; standard in Soviet air forces from about 1975.

MiG-23MF (`Flogger-B’): Export version of MiG-23M, in service with non-Soviet Warsaw Pact air forces from 1978. MiG-23UB (`Flogger-C’): Tandem two-seat operational training/combat version; Tumansky R-27F2M-300 turbojet, rated at 98 kN (22,045 lb st) with afterburning; individual canopy over each seat; rear seat raised, with retractable periscopic sight; deepened dorsal spine fairing aft of rear canopy. First flown May 1969; in production 1970 to 1978.

MiG-23MS (`Flogger-E’): Export version of MiG-23M with R-27F2M-300 engine; equipped to lower standard; smaller radar (`Jay Bird’, search range 15 n miles; 29 km; 18 miles, tracking range 10 n miles; 19 km; 12 miles) in shorter nose radome; no infra-red sensor or Doppler; armed with R-3S (K-13T; NATO AA-2 `Atoll’) or R-60 (K-60; NATO AA-8 `Aphid’) air-to-air missiles and GSh-23 gun.

MiG-23B (`Flogger-F’): Single-seat light attack aircraft based on MiG-23S interceptor airframe; forward fuselage redesigned; instead of ogival radome, nose sharply tapered in side elevation, housing PrNK Sokol-23S nav/attack system; twin-barrel 23 mm GSh-23L gun retained in bottom of centre-fuselage; armour on sides of cockpit; wider, low-pressure tyres; Lyulka AL-21F-300 turbojet, rated at 11.27 kN (25,350 lb st) with afterburning; fuel tanks designed to fill with neutral gas as fuel level drops, to prevent explosion after impact; active and passive ECM; six attachments under fuselage and wings for wide range of weapons; project started 1969; first flight 20 August 1970; 24 built; developed as MiG-23BN/BM/BK and MiG-27 series.

MiG-23BN (`Flogger-F’): As MiG-23B except for Soyuz/Khachaturov R-29B-300 turbojet, rated at 11.27 kN (25,350 lb st) with afterburning, and Sokol-23N nav/attack system. Version from which MiG-27 evolved, together with MiG-23BN and MiG-23BK.

MiG-23BM (`Flogger-F’): As MiG-23BN except for PrNK-23 nav/attack system slaved to a computer. MiG-23BK: Further equipment changes, NATO reporting name `Flogger-H’ identifies aircraft with small fairing for radar warning receiver each side of bottom fuselage, forward of nosewheel doors. Iraqi aircraft have Dassault-type fixed flight refuelling probe forward of windscreen.

MiG-23ML (`Flogger-G’): Much redesigned and lightened version (L of designation for logkiy: light) built in series 1976 to 1981; basically as MiG-23M, but Soyuz/Khachaturov R-35-300 turbojet; rear fuselage fuel tank deleted; much smaller dorsal fin; modified nosewheel leg; Sapfir-23ML lighter weight radar; new undernose pod for TP-23M IRST; new missiles. Detailed description applies to MiG-23ML.

MiG-23P (`Flogger-G’): Modified version of MiG-23ML; digital nav system computer guides aircraft under automatic control from the ground and informs pilot when to engage afterburning and to fire his missiles and gun.

MiG-23MLD (`Flogger-K’): Mid-life update of MiG-23ML (D of designation stands for dorabotannyy: modified); identified by dogtooth notch at junction of each wing glove leading-edge and intake trunk; system introduced to extend and retract leading-edge flaps automatically when wing sweep passes 33º (system disengaged and flaps retracted when speed exceeds 485 kt; 900 km/h; 560 mph and wings at 72º sweep); new IFF antenna forward of windscreen; R-73A (NATO AA-11 `Archer’) close-range air-to-air missiles on fuselage pylons two R-24R on wings and two R-73 on fuselage or two R-24R on wings and four R-60 on fuselage; pivoting pylons under outer wings; radar warning receivers and chaff/flare dispensers added; built-in simulation system enables pilot to train for weapon firing and air-to-surface missile guidance without use of gun or missiles.


Czech Republic: The Czech Air Force has evaluated Lockheed Martin (formerly Loral) AIM-9P-5 Sidewinder and Matra Magic 2 air-to-air missiles as possible armaments for its fleet of MiG-23ML/MF interceptor aircraft. No order placed yet.

Hungary: The Hungarian Air Force has retrofitted its MiG-23 aircraft with the same radio and IFF equipment as its MiG-21 aircraft. `MAPO’ MIG: MiG-23MLD `Flogger-K’ mid-life update of MiG-23ML. See Versions.

Phazatron: Actively promoting retrofitting the MiG-23 with its N019M topaz radar. This would facilitate integration of active radar including the RVV-AE (AA-12) in the search mode and the simultaneous engagement of two targets.

Syria: Requirement exists for a radar, computer and other upgrades although this would rely on funds becoming available.

Operators Versions of the MiG-23 are in service with the armed forces of the following countries: Algeria (30); Angola(20); Belarus (44); Bulgaria (76, of which 46 shortly to be withdrawn); Cuba (65); Ethiopia (24); India (115); Iraq (60); Kazakhstan (71); Korea, North (55); Libya (120); Romania (29); Russian Federation (420); Sudan(6); Syria (146); Ukraine (153); and Yemen (25).

Design Features

Shoulder-wing variable geometry configuration; sweep variable manually in flight or on ground to 16º, 45º or 72º (values given in manuals and on pilot’s panel; true values 18º 40′, 47º 40′ and 74º 40′ respectively); two hydraulic wingspeed motors driven separately by main and control booster systems; if one system fails, wing sweep system remains effective at 50 per cent normal angular velocity; rear fuselage detachable between wing and tailplane for engine servicing; lower portion of large ventral fin hinged to fold to starboard when landing gear extended, for ground clearance; leading-edge sweepback 72º on fixed-wing panels, 57º on horizontal tail surfaces, 65º on fin.

Flying Controls

Hydraulically actuated; full-span single-slotted trailing-edge flaps, each in three sections; outboard sections operable independently when wings fully swept; no ailerons; two-section upper surface spoilers/lift dumpers, forward of mid and inner flap sections each side, operate differentially in conjunction with horizontal tail surfaces (except when disengaged at 72º sweep), and collectively for improved runway adherence and braking after touchdown; leading-edge flap on outboard two-thirds of each main (variable geometry) panel, coupled to trailing-edge flaps; all-moving horizontal tail surfaces operated differentially and symmetrically for aileron and elevator function respectively; ground adjustable tab on each horizontal surface; rudder actuated by hydraulic booster with spring artificial feel; four door-type airbrakes, two on each side of rear fuselage, above and below horizontal tail surface.


All-metal; two main spars and auxiliary centre spar in each wing; extended chord (dogtooth) on outer panels visible when wings swept; fixed triangular inboard wing panels; welded steel pivot box carry-through structure; basically circular section semi-monocoque fuselage, flattened each side of cockpit; lateral air intake trunks blend into circular rear fuselage; splitter plate, with boundary layer bleeds, forms inboard face of each intake; two rectangular auxiliary intake doors in each trunk, under inboard wing leading-edge, are sucked open to increase intake area at take-off and low airspeeds; pressure relief vents under rear fuselage; fin and forward portion of horizontal surfaces conventional light-alloy structures; rudder and rear of horizontal surfaces have honeycomb core.

Landing Gear

Hydraulically retractable tricycle type; single wheel on each main unit and steerable twin-wheel nose unit; mainwheel tires size 830 x 300 mm; nosewheel tires size 520 x 125 mm; main units retract inward into rear of air intake trunks; main fairings to enclose these units attached to legs; small inboard fairing for each wheel bay hinged to fuselage belly. Nose unit, with mudguard over each wheel, retracts rearward. Mainwheel disc brakes and anti-skid units. Brake parachute, area 21 m2 (226 sq ft), in cylindrical fairing at base of rudder with split conic doors.

Power Plant

One Soyuz/Khachaturov R-35-300 turbojet, rated at up to 127.5 kN (28,660 lb st) with maximum afterburning. Three fuel tanks in fuselage, aft of cockpit, and six in wings; internal fuel capacity 4,250 litres (1,122 US gallons; 935 Imp gallons). Variable geometry air intakes and variable nozzle. Provision for jettisonable external fuel tank, capacity 800 litres (211 US gallons; 176 Imp gallons), on underfuselage centreline; two more under fixed-wing panels. Two additional external tanks of same capacity may be carried on non-swivelling pylons under outer wings for ferry flights, with wings in fully forward position. Attachment for assisted take-off rocket each side of fuselage aft of landing gear.

Accommodation Pilot only, on zero/130 ejection seat in air conditioned and pressurised cockpit, under small actuated rearward-hinged canopy. Bulletproof windscreen.


Modernised SAU-23AM automatic flight control system coupled to Polyot short-range navigation and flight system. Sapfir-23ML J-band multimode radar (NATO `High Lark 2′: search range 38 n miles; 70 km; 43 miles, tracking range 29 n miles; 55 km; 34 miles) behind dielectric nosecone; no radar scope; instead, picture is projected onto head-up display. RSBN-6S short-range radio nav system; ILS, with antennas (NATO `Swift Rod’) under radome and at tip of fin trailing-edge; suppressed UHF antennas form tip of fin and forward fixed portion of ventral fin; yaw vane above fuselage aft of radome; angle of attack sensor on port side. SRO-2 (NATO `Odd Rods’) IFF antenna immediately forward of windscreen. TP-23M undernose infra-red sensor rod, Sirena-3 radar warning system, and Doppler equipment standard on RFAS version. Sirena-3 antennas in horns at inboard leading-edge of each outer wing and below ILS antenna on fin.


ASP-17ML gunsight; small electrically heated rearview mirror on top of canopy; retractable landing/taxying light under each engine air intake.


One 23 mm GSh-23L twin-barrel gun in fuselage belly pack; large flash eliminator around muzzles; 200 rounds. Two pylons in tandem under centre-fuselage, one under each engine air intake duct, and one under each fixed inboard wing panel, for radar-guided R-23R (K-23R; NATO AA-7 `Apex’), infra-red R-23T(K-23T; AA-7 `Apex’) and/or infra-red R-60T (AA-8 `Aphid’) air-to-air missiles, B-8 pack of 20 80 mm S-8 air-to-surface rockets, UB-32-57 packs of 32 57 mm S-5 rockets, S-24 240 mm rockets, bombs, container weapons, UPK-23-250 pods containing a GSh-23L gun, various sensor and equipment pods or other external stores. Use of twin launchers under air intake ducts permits carriage of four R-60 missiles, plus two R-23 on underwing pylons.