Red October Revisited – Yes, there was a foreign submarine

Let’s repeat as the info currently spreading gives the wrong impression:

Swedish defence forces collected as well as received from the public multiple pieces of evidence for the underwater intrusion in autumn of 2014. Of these roughly 300 reported issues, around half were written off immediately, with half being analysed further. In the end, 21 were deemed “particularly interesting”, leading to the conclusion (after a year of analysis) that there was proof “Beyond all reasonable doubt” that there had been a foreign underwater intruder in Swedish waters during the Red October-incident. The Swedish defence forces never based this on any single crucial piece of evidence, but on the analysis of the collected information. This was made public last September, and again confirmed yesterday.

Fresh tracks left by the submarine on the bottom, one of the pieces of evidence still valid. Source: Fö

The sound recording now attributed to a Swedish source was not amongst the 21 “particularly interesting” pieces of evidence, despite it having featured prominently in the discussions during and immediately after the incident, as it had been disproved during the more thorough analyses done during the year following the incident. This was also revealed already in September 2015, though the true source was not given back then.

Anyone spreading versions of the story that there was no submarine, either hasn’t read particularly much on the so called Red October-incident, or is knowingly spreading false information that hurts the reputation of the defence forces. The big question is why?

Interesting thing is that the original SR-piece (Swedish national radio) is on the whole rather correct, though it uses the term “crucial evidence” in an unclear/misleading fashion. Still, e.g. reputable Finnish newspaper Helsingin Sanomat, citing this article with a link, reported the news in a fashion that makes it possible to easily misunderstand the importance of the evidence, and one could even get the impression that there was no intrusion at all!

There are also those claiming that the submarine’s identity was given as Russian back when the operation was ongoing, which is another lie. No official Swedish spokesperson or agency ever did so. The theory that it indeed was Russian does remain popular amongst the larger crowd, based on a combination of history, current threatening behaviour, available capability, and the Russian media reporting of the incident being full of outright lies trying to lay the blame on everyone else.

Exactly how (and why) this change in tone and message happened is unclear to me, but while some have pointed at malice on the part of SR, as noted their original article is not that far off. A more plausible explanation in my opinion is the one given by Editor-in-Chief for News at the Finnish News Agency STT, Minna Holopainen, who reasons that a combination of journalists retelling the news too quickly coupled with lack of fact-checking and the Swedish submarine hunts being an easy target all added up to a “Chinese whispers”-situation. STT also did a proper second article, in which they laid out the background in further details.


In the end, this is just another warning of the danger of skipping proper source checking in an age of ever increasing media, and of the need of proper quick responses by government agencies to swiftly terminate any hurtful rumours developing.

6 thoughts on “Red October Revisited – Yes, there was a foreign submarine

  1. Russia or not Russia?
    “There are also those claiming that the submarine’s identity was given as Russian back when the operation was ongoing, which is another lie.”

    Svenska Dagbladet gives very detailed SIGINT-information about SOS-messages sent in Russian from Swedish water to Kaliningrad on a channel used by Russians. They cite Swedish military sources for this should-be-classified information.

    The official information is not giving a nationality for the submarine. However, SvD is a trustworthy newspaper. Do you think they are lying? Why would they? Have you seen a source trustworthily discrediting the information given by SvD?

    Claiming a lie is something you should have proof of. Do you have any proof for your claim?

    1. Seems rather odd to say at least, that SIGINT information would “leak” to the press. No matter how war-hungry those officers would be, you simply don’t leak that type of information. SIGINT capabilities are among the most tightly kept secrets for any military in the world – seems bizarre that some intelligence officer would do this just so that some newspaper could get flashy headlines BEFORE the actual press announcements.

      That said, out of the two possible owners of the mystery sub, Russia or NATO (both of which have been doing illegal trespassing in Sweden’s waters), the former still seems more likely, especially considering when this happened.

      1. What do you think about the SvD-information I linked in here? Do you think SvD lied about the information to get flashy headlines? Or would there be a reason to leak them in order to get the information out without official announcement? Or …. ?

  2. Kristian

    As far as I know the SIGINT info has never been supported by official Swedish sources such as the MoD. Only journalists and their private experts have pushed it. That, in my opinion, can only mean one of two things: 1) It is true but classified, or 2) it is fake.

    There is no way of knowing if 1 or 2 is correct.

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