Saturday, August 20, 2011

Flygvapnet - An Illustrated History of the Swedish Air Force

As in many other countries, the history of military aviation in Sweden can be traced back to the balloonists of the 18th century. However, although a hydrogen-filled balloon of indigenous design was developed and flown in Sweden as early as 1784, no serious use of a balloon was to be seen until a century later. Experience from the American Civil War, where captive balloons were used for reconnaissance and fire guidance purposes, led to increased Swedish interest in balloons among military planners. Nevertheless, the first Swedish balloonist was not a military officer but an engineer, Salomon August Andr�e. Born in 1854, Andr�e graduated from the Stockholm School of Polytechnics in 1874. After working as a draughtsman for two years, he decided to visit the 1876 World Fair in Philadelphia. Andr�e had already become interested in ballooning, and while in Philadelphia he met a group of experienced balloonists who taught him the basic principles of balloon flying. After six months, Andr�e returned to Sweden, but financial constraints forced him to abandon his interest in ballooning for a while. In 1882, an international expedition was mounted to gather meteorological and physical data from the Arctic. Andr�e was hired as an assistant to the Swedish delegation, setting up a base camp on Svalbard. On returning to Sweden, he took up a position at the National Patent Office, while maintaining a great interest in ballooning.