To the North of Göteborg, Sweden’s second largest city, lies the old military airfield of Säve – now a low cost carrier hub known as Göteborg City Airport. The eastern side of the airport holds a hidden gem in the form of an underground museum of aviation – the Aeroseum. Duncan Monk reports from this under exposed location.
Göta Air Force Wing (F-9 Säve, Göta Flygflottilj) was set up in 1936 and it’s purpose was to defend the import/export harbors on the west coast of Sweden. F9 was commissioned in 1940 but the airfield took until 1942 to complete.
F9 were initially commissioned with two squadrons of J8 (the Swedish designation for the Gloster Gladiator) fighters, but these were replaced fairly soon after by three squadrons of J11s (Fiat CR.42).
In 1942 the hangars and base command center were relocated into shelters blasted out of the rocks. The initial shelter area was approximately 8,000 m² (72,000 square feet). This was later increased during the 1950s to 22,000 m² (200,000 Square feet) and to a depth of 30m (100 feet) below ground level – the threat of more powerful weapons (including the nuclear option) requiring increased protection for aircraft. It is the larger area that is now home to the Aeroseum and its plethora of fascinating historical aircraft.
During 1943 the J-11 fleet were replaced by the indigenous J-22, . designed by Bo Lundberg and built at a new purpose built factory and company – Kungliga Flygförvaltningens Flygverkstad i Stockholm (“Royal Air Administration Aircraft Factory in Stockholm”). 198 examples of the type served until 1952, when the J-22 was replaced by the unique looking Saab J-21s. The J-21 was a twin boom pusher configuration aircraft, manufactured by SAAB and later re-engined with a Goblin turbojet and designated the J-21R. The J21s only served with F9 for three years until 1949 when they were replaced by the the De Havilland Vampire, known in Swedish use as the J-28B.
Again after only two years service the J28Bs were in turn replaced by the SAAB J29 Tunnan – the flying barrel. The Tunnan served for over ten years until they were eventually replaced by the J34 (Hawker Hunter), where some units flying the type were drawn from F8 Barkarby and F18 Tullinge.
The squadrons were gradually decommissioned one per year through 1967-1969 until the wing itself was decommissioned on June 30th 1969. The Swedish Air Force finally vacated the site in the 1990s.
Since the spring of 1999, the Aeroseum Foundation has been committed to preserving the Swedish Royal Air Force bunkers located at Säve Depot, next to Göteborg City airport.
The Aeroseum site at Säve is now part of the National Cultural Heritage and an award of cultural memorial status is pending. The Swedish Defence Ministry is proactive in it’s relationship with the Aeroseum, and handed over the larger hangar on January 1st 2003, when it was declassified. Since January 1st 2008 the Aeroseum has become part of a national network called Swedish Military Heritage. This means that the National Defence Museum provides economical support to help the running of the Aeroseum, as well as assisting in other facets of it’s operation.
Today there are over 50 aircraft on display ranging from cockpit sections, gliders and helicopters, to the distinctive Viggen and Draken aircraft, a few of these airframes you are permitted to sit in.
The Aeroseum is open from Tuesday to Sunday 1100 – 1800 throughout the year with a number of special events held in and around the complex.
One of notable interest this year is the Göteborg Aero Show. The show takes place at the Säve City Airport (on the Aeroseum side of the airfield) over the weekend 8 – 9 June 2013. The show provides the enthusiast with a rare chance to see the fine collection of Swedish Heritage Aircraft being put through their paces, hopefully including flying examples of the Saab J35 Draken, J29 Tunnan, and J34 Hunter.
The first signs that you are approaching the Aeroseum is the sighting of a Saab J35F Draken (appropriately coded ‘FC’!) parked at the junction where the No.35 bus stops. From there, it is a brisk 10-minute walk to the entrance of the Tunnel complex.
Outside the Aeroseum entrance, near the car park, is the cockpit section of JA37DI Viggen (37401/01-4) on a trailer. Further around is a fairly weather beaten PZL-Swidnik Mi-2 helicopter (ES-XAB) and the front section of a J35F-2 Draken (35482/14) protruding from a hill. If you follow the track up the hill you come an elevated covered viewing platform and outdoor viewpoint from which you get a great view of the airport and runway. From here with a good telescope/lens you can view various Police/Air Ambulance/Coastguard helicopters plus General Aviation and Scheduled Ryanair flights that operate from GSE. Also at the top of the hill are vehicles associated with military operations at the base, including radar vehicles and anti aircraft guns.
Approaching the entrance you can see the way the complex has been carved out of the solid rock. On entering the Aeroseum you are hit by the cold damp air in the first section, and sheer size of the place. It truly is a remarkable feat of engineering, and in an excellent structural condition given its age.
As you enter the first tunnel you see a line of aircraft disappearing down as it bends down and around to the right. The museum provides for the visitor very well, with written informative guides of the museum in various languages for you to borrow and refer to as you proceed through the labyrinth of tunnels.
The first aircraft that awaits you is a SAAB 91A Safir (SE-AUR). This is the worlds oldest airworthy Safir aircraft, and looks stunning in its silver and red scheme.
Next to this is a privately owned, but airworthy North American Harvard Mk IIB (AT-16/16068). This was undergoing deep maintenance during AeroResource’s visit.
A lovely example of the SAAB J-29F ‘flying barrel’ Tunnan (29624 ‘P’ Yellow) can then be seen. This is one of only 24 examples that are left in the world today. There is only one airframe still flying, which the Swedish Air Force Historic Flight, based at Skaraborg Air Force Wing F-7, looks after.
Following this is the SAAB J35F Draken (35586/62-10). This Fighter version of the Draken is in the Air Defence grey colour scheme.
The mighty SAAB AJSH37 Viggen (37911/55-21) then awaits you. Looking magnificent in its distinctive Swedish Splinter Camo Scheme, this huge aircraft easily fits in the underground tunnel, which again goes to show the size of the location. There are no barriers or ropes so you can really get up close and personal with most of the aircraft on display. This airframe is the nominated example of type by the National Swedish Museum of Military History. To be allowed to get this close to a prime museum piece is a rarity, but very welcome.
Following on from the jets, there follows five helicopters as you approach the door that takes you through to the larger section of the museum.
The first of the rotary aircraft is the Swedish Navy Su Aviation SE.3130 Alouette II (02036/36) displayed with inflated floats.
Behind this lies an Agusta Bell 204B (03425/95) which belonged to the Swedish Air Force Air Rescue Squadron. This frame has now unfortunately had red and white tape put around it to stop people climbing inside and damaging (and stealing parts from) the aircraft.
Following on is another aircraft that has been nominated as a Swedish National Heritage example of the type – an immaculate Bell 206B Jet Ranger (06051/51). This particular aircraft was used for Polar bear research, hence why the nose is adorned by a Polar bear symbol.
Two MBB BO105s make up the last of the helicopters in this section. One is fitted with TOW anti tank missile dispensers (09218/18), whilst the other is a clean example (09221/FC-90).
Passing through the next door you then reach the main part of the museum which is more climate controlled and has much better lighting. In this section there are a number of aircraft undergoing restoration for future display, a cafe, flight simulators, shop, toilets, an interactive area for kids and yet more fine examples of Swedish aircraft heritage. The bathroom/toilets are within the old crew quarters, and even if you don’t need to spend a penny, it is worth the walk up the stairs to see the area where aircrew and maintainers would have been accommodated.
The largest aircraft in this section, and just about hitting the ceiling, is the Boeing Vertol/Kawasaki HKP4C KV-107 (UH-46B Sea Knight) (04072/72). This aircraft arrived during the 2010 Göteborg Aero Show, before being publicly displayed in the Aeroseum. A further example (04070/70) is tucked away in a corner of the museum behind a microlight and another Alouette II. It is also positioned well behind a rope, which unfortunately means you cannot get a good look at what looks like another pristine HKP4C which is a real shame given the rarity of the type.
Another complete example of the Draken is located in this area, this model a J35F-1 (35415 20-10) – painted in the drab olive green scheme and is available for the public to sit in. The cockpit is surprisingly roomy, however a lot of equipment has been removed making it easier to get in and out. The aircraft is otherwise immaculate, like most of the aircraft on display in this museum.
The mighty SAAB J-32 Lansen (32512/03) can also be found in this section. It is a huge aircraft once you are up close and it is displayed adjacent to the flight simulator area. In front of this aircraft is a large sign with directions to other areas. If you ask nicely the volunteer staff will move it for you to enable a clean shot of the aircraft. This particular airframe attended the Royal International Air Tattoo in 1994.
In the restoration area are a number of aircraft in various states of undress. One of which is a rare Dornier Do-27A-4. This aircraft belonged to the Swedish Army Aviation Service and is coded 53271/81. Only 5 examples of this aircraft were ordered for the Swedish Army in the 1960’s, and 3 were destroyed in accidents. It was planned to restore this gem to flying status, but unfortunately it remains wingless and stored.
Moving through the small shop and cafe you will find the interactive area, where there are a number of balance challenges to test your skills as a pilot, and a small selection of aircraft to clamber in. One of which is an ex Netherlands Air Force Sud SE-3160 Alouette III (Klu reg A-471) SE-JEI, still in its camouflage colours.
Nearby to this is a second Viggen, again this example is in Splinter camouflage. This AJ-37 version (37094/57-10) is displayed with various drop tanks and weaponry, showing the many configurations that the Viggen could carry.
Finally you will find the last complete Draken, which is a J35J (35528/00-9). Once again this is the nominated example of the type by the Swedish National Heritage and appropriately wears the markings of F9 Säve, and is also in the drab olive green colour scheme.
This then returns you to where you entered the main part of the museum. It is recommended to then undertake a second lap of the museum, this time in reverse, to ensure you haven’t missed anything, before exiting and proceeding up the tunnel and outside once more. You should allow yourself a good two hours to walk around the museum, both inside and out. Tripods are allowed and a 10-20mm lens (on a 1.6x crop DSLR) would be ideal for this museum due to the close quarters display of many of the exhibits. However the Author used a 16-85mm lens for all the photography contained in this article, which was adequate.
This has to be one of the most unique museum locations in the world and has an amazing collection of Swedish aviation history contained within. It really is worth making the trip, as on top of this plethora of aviation hardware, the Swedish people are the most polite and friendly that you could wish to meet.
The Author would like to thank all the staff at the Aeroseum for their informative help whilst touring this magnificent underground museum.
Ryanair fly a direct route from Stansted to Gothenburg City Airport twice daily. If you are arriving on the morning flight you will arrive around 0930. With the museum not opening until 1100 there is the opportunity for you to head to your accommodation on the airport bus – Gothenburg is about 20 minutes away.
If you are on a day trip you will need to get a taxi around to the East side of the airport, and will probably set you back about £15 each way. It would probably take a good two hours or more to walk all the way around!
To get back to the Aeroseum from Gothenburg City you need to head to the bus terminal on the North side of the river called Hjalmar Brantingsplatsen. It is a 15-20 minute walk over the river bridge from the Central Rail station/Nils Ericsson Bus Station. Alternatively you can get the number 13 tram to Hjalmar Brantingsplatsen from Central Station or the number 5/6 Tram from Brunsparken – literally a 2 minute walk from Central Station.
To travel you will need a City Card or a Västtrafik bus ticket. You need to buy these in advance before you board your tram or bus. Västtrafik tickets are available where you see Västtrafik signs. City cards are only available from Tourist Information offices, but can be purchased before you travel and sent to your home address – but allow at least 2-3 weeks for delivery. A city card (24/48 or 72 hours) will also give you 2 for 1 travel on the airport bus and free entry to a number of top attractions as well as free travel on buses, trams and boats to the Gothenburg’s Archipelago islands.
Once at Hjalmar Brantingsplatsen proceed to bus stop ‘D’ and get the number 35 bus. Buses run every 30 minutes both ways, and it takes about 25 minutes to get there. The buses announce every stop as they approach them, you need to alight at Granhäll. You will know your approaching your stop, as you will see a Draken parked up next to a set of traffic lights.
From the bus stop cross the busy dual carriageway towards the Draken, using the crossing points provided, and follow the signs to the Aeroseum.
The Aeroseum is open Tuesday – Sunday 1100 – 1800.
Adult 80 SEK (approx £8.30)
Child aged 4-16 50 SEK (approx £5.20)
Admission is free with a 24/48/72 hour City Card.