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The Baltic Sea - Military Considerations

he Baltic Sea is shallow, a major and difficult-to-navigate sea. Merchant shipping in the Baltic Sea region is brisk. The states in the region are dependent on regular shipping. The Baltic Sea is patrolled by the armed forces of many nations and NATO troops. The area is also rich in trade, labor and employment of pleasure craft and air transport. The multinational business environment, various international offices,challenges and proximity to other nations pose challenges for sea operations, both in normal and exceptional circumstances.

Frederick the Great in the Seven Years' War plan was to meet the hostile coalition with a sudden offensive against Saxony, precisely as the Germans began with France in 1914. When that offensive failed, Frederick fell back on a defensive plan under which he used his interior position to deliver violent attacks beyond each of his frontiers successively. By this means he was able for seven years to hold his own against odds practically identical with those which confronted Germany; and in the end, though he made none of the conquests he expected, he was able to secure peace on the basis of the status quo ante and materially to enhance his position in Europe.

Admiral of the Fleet, Lord John "Jackie" Fisher's War Plans from 1907 had reviewed multiple potential expeditions against the German North Sea and Baltic coasts as a secondary way of increasing pressure on Germany. devised the “Baltic Project” as opposed to Winston Churchill's Dardanelles plan, both seeking the break athe deadlock of trench warfare. In 1914 Julian Corbett, who regularly consulted with the First Sea Lord, wrote that "The only new condition in favour of the Allies is that the Command of the Sea is now against Germany... Though Frederick's method succeeded, it was once brought within an ace of failure. From the first he knew that the weak point of his system was his northern frontier. He knew that a blow in force from the Baltic could at any time paralyse his power of striking right and left, and it was in dread of this from Russia that he began by pressing us so hard to provide him with a covering fleet in that sea. Owing to our world-wide preoccupations we were never able to provide such a fleet, and the result was that at the end of 1761 the Russians were able to seize the port of Colberg, occupy the greater part of Pomerania, and winter there in preparation for the decisive campaign in the following spring. Frederick's view of his danger is typified in the story that he now took to carrying a phial of poison in his pocket. Owing, however, to the sudden death of the Czarina in the winter the fatal campaign was never fought. Russia made peace and Prussia was saved....

"... it is for consideration whether we are able to break down the situation which the German fleet has set up. Are we, in short, in a position to occupy the Baltic in such strength as to enable an adequate Russian army to land in the spring on the coast of Pomerania within striking distance of Berlin or so as to threaten the German communications eastward?

"[In 1854] we sent a Fleet into the Baltic with the idea of covering the landing of a French force within striking distance of Petrograd, which was to act in combination with the Prussian army ; but as Prussia held back, the idea was never carried out. Still, the mere presence of our Fleet-giving colour to the menace—did avail to keep a very large proportion of the Russian strength away from the Crimea, and so materially hastened the successful conclusion of the war."

Designed to support the Baltic Project championed by the First Sea Lord, the three 22,500-ton shallow-draft Courageous class ‘large light cruisers’ were what Fisher wanted: light, fast, heavily gunned ships and that meant that armor would have to be minimal. Relatively light construction and omission of heavy armour was necessary to enable them to operate in the shallow Baltic where no other big-gunned ships could venture. With their large single funnel and sweeping, curvaceous hull form, the three Courageous class (also Glorious, Furious), were impressive looking indeed. The Baltic project had been well and truly shelved by January 1917 when the first two ships were completed. Due to their strange design choices, they were nicknamed the Outrageous-class [Outrageous for Courageous, Uproarious for Glorious and Spurious for Furious]. They were dismal failures in their intended role, but all three were fully rebuilt in the 1920s as highly successful fleet aircraft-carriers.

There are several points in the Baltic Sea where governments have strategic influence. Most important for Finland's maritime traffic nodes are the Porkkala – Naissaari specter in the Gulf of Finland and the narrow gulf of Märketseas. Åland has its own special position in the Baltic Sea region. The area is demilitarized, but Finland has defense obligation.

The Danish straits consist of the three relatively shallow straits of the Great Belt, the Little Belt and Oeresund that connects the North Sea and the Baltic. Oeresund, the most direct connection, is at its narrowest point only three miles wide with a minimum depth of seven meters. Jutland and these two main islands are all connected by bridges. Zealand is also connected to Sweden by bridge, forming the Oeresund region with Swedish urban centers such as Malmö.

The shallowness of the Baltic Sea and the proximity of the coastline make fixed submerged submarines structures such as communications, gas and oil pipes cost-effective installation and maintenance. These structures also make it possible to installation and use intelligence and intelligence equipment.

The small size of the Baltic Sea, varying weather and depth conditions and the international waters limit the use of large submarines and large ships. Large ship compartments are easily exposed, and in the enemy can target the weapon effects quickly and surprisingly.

It is possible to close the limited fairway and narrow gaps effectively with mines. This can relatively easily restricts the free use of the sea, but it also causes significant disruption to maritime transport. The Baltic Sea region is primarily suitable for smaller conventional submarines and miniature submarines. For conventional diving underwater operation of a boat requires waters at least 20-30 meters deep. Short travel distances allow long operating times in the area of operation. Submarines are able to land almost to the bottom everywhere in the Baltic Sea and better than the oceans.

These archipelagoes provides shelter for land operations. Enemy control and search systems pose the difficulty in the use and the ability of the weapons to destroy targets may be limited. The use of submarines in the archipelago is difficult because of the depth variations and the waters are shallow on average. High winds and the resulting waves limit the operation of light fleet units on the high seas.

The North Baltic Sea may have annual surf with a significant wave height of more than six meters. Hard surf, icy conditions, snow and sleet as well as rainfall caused by temperature fluctuations and fog weakens the performance of control and weapon systems and make them more difficult to use. In the Baltic Sea, aircraft operate mainly working from the ground base. Short distances make possible unmanned aircraft use. Depending on the weather conditions, their range covers the whole area. Freezing of the sea limits the ability of fleet units to operate, and make it difficult to use their weapon systems and ship support and protection arrangements. Ice-winter makes mining difficult. Especially it makes submarine combat and mine-clearing more difficult.

The extent of the Baltic Sea ice cover varies considerably every year. Defined by ice cover however, the severity of an ice winter does not tell the whole truth of the resulting difficulties for shipping. Th wind effects on the ice field is to create compression that drives ice on top of each other to form icebergs. Often, there will be a situation where some ports and archipelago are frozen, but the rest of the Baltic Sea is not.

Climate change has been found to affectal Finland for decades. It has been estimated that no severe ice winters will cover the entire Baltic Sea occuronly after the 2030s. However, it has also been estimated that all of Finland's short sea areas will freeze in the 2050s even on average and mild ice winters at least for two months each year. Navies must have the ability to operate in ice conditions in the future.

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Page last modified: 30-06-2021 12:04:30 ZULU