Danish version:


 You are here: 4Naval Aviation


 Campaigns & Battles

 Navy News

 Photo Albums

 Historical Time Lines

 The Flag

 The Ships

 Naval Aviation





 Weapons & Systems


 Naval Memorials

 Navy Life & Humour

 Who does What?

Edited and
Designed by:

Johnny E. Balsved


Naval Aviation (1912- ):

Danish Naval Air Service

A low flying H.M. II (HEINKEL H.E.8) passing three DRAGEN Class torpedo boats

A low flying H.M. II (HEINKEL H.E.8) passing three DRAGEN Class torpedo boats during a naval exercise in 1939.
(Photo: Archives of the Royal Danish Naval Museum)

By Johnny E. Balsved/translated by L.-H. Kongsbak Arvedsen

As early as August 1910 the Ministry of the Navy had begun investigation of using aeroplanes in the Navy, this happened less than 4 years after Ellehammer at the 12th of September 1906 had made his first 42 meters jump in the air on the island of Lindholm.

Forward looking naval officers apparently had a sense that the use of aeroplanes could strengthen the Navy and help it to carry out its tasks. Several of the officers of the navy had from the outset been participants in establishing the Aeronautical Society in 1909.

Time of pioneering

On March 25th 1912  the General Consul Ludvigsen, who was interested in airplanes, purchased a plane used by one of the pioneers of flying Robert Svendsen, a Henry Farman type aeroplanes, and donated it to the Navy.

The Navy had thus acquired its first aircraft. Since the Navy had a tradition of naming its vessels, the new possession was given the name "GLENTEN".

During the summer of 1912 civilian citizens raised the funds (43,000 kroners), for two new seaplanes in France of the DONNET-LEVESQUE type.

Upon delivery in 1913 the seaplanes MAAGEN & TERNEN  (Seagull & Tern),  this was later changed to MAAGEN 1 & 2.

By authorization in the supplementary National Budget 1912-13 the aviator Ulrich Birch was given permanent employment as "naval aviator" and instructor.

The GLENTEN, the Navy's first aircraft

The GLENTEN, the Navy's first aircraft, had a 50hp engine and
a top speed of 80 km/h.
(Photo: Archives of the
Royal Danish Naval Museum)

Ulrich Birch made his own personal plane available to the Navy, it was given the name ØRNEN (The Eagle). This was to have a very shot service career however. In October that same year the plane crashed, and Birch later died of his injuries.

The Air Service had for at start been located in the north eastern corner of Kløvermarken which was the field used by the aviation community - today part of Copenhagen city.

Guarding neutrality

When World War 1 broke out in August 1914 the Navy had at its disposal two seaplanes, MAAGEN 1 & 2, as well as 5 aviators, but even before the outbreak of war exercises of operative character had been carried out.

Consequently the day after the outbreak of war the Naval High Command could order air reconnaissance in The Sound (between Sweden & Denmark) where a god deal German naval activity was ongoing in connection with mine laying.

The World War meant a stop for purchase of materials from the war waging countries, but as early as August (month of outbreak of war) the Naval Dockyard produced a very promising project for a plane for sea surveillance.

MAAGEN 3 (F.B. II), the first flying boat

MAAGEN 3 (F.B. II), the first flying
boat built at the Naval Dock Yard..
(Photo from Air Tactical Command)

The project was an improvement on the earlier delivered French Donnet-Leveque seaplanes. August 22, 1914 the Naval Dockyard was allowed by the Ministry for the Navy to begin production of the new seaplanes - later designated F.B. II.

The new seaplane station - later named "Luftmarinestation København"

The new seaplane station - later named "Luftmarinestation København"
(Naval Air Station Copenhagen).
(Photo: Archives of the Royal Danish Naval Museum)

Around April 20th the work on establishing a seaplane station on an infill area just east of  Nyholm (part of the old Naval Base Holmen) called Margretheholmen was so advanced that the seaplanes could be moved to this facility from Kløvermarken.

The new seaplane station - later called "Luftmarinestation København" (Naval Air Station Copenhagen), was extended many times and was used as base for the seaplanes as long as the Naval Air Service existed until 1950.

The Navy's squadron in Storebælt (Great Belt) needed seaplanes to do reconnaissance flights. In order to make the most of air-time a seaplane station at Slipshavn in Nyborg Fiord was build. From here the seaplanes could support the squadron of ships.

The Naval Dockyard continued to produce seaplanes, so in spite of lack of materials, so at the end of 1917 the Naval Air Service had 12 operative seaplanes at it disposal.

In that year the first experiments with artillery spotting for the naval artillery during exercises took place. Likewise there was training of night flying skills.

The Naval Dockyards first seaplane factory at Holmen in Copenhagen.

The Naval Dockyards first seaplane factory at Holmen in Copenhagen.
(Photo: Archives of the Royal Danish Naval Museum)

Post war years

Even before the end of World War 1 independent units for submarines and seaplanes had been created – each with a Commander as CO.

On the other hand the parliament had decided to stop all domestic aircraft production – partly because of the many accidents in the preceding years.

I reality this blockage of new-building was alleviated by the vast number of materiel available on the world market after WW1.

In May 1919 the navy received five FRIEDRICHSHAFEN F.F. 49 float-planes, later designated H.B.II. The purchase was in cooperation with the Ministry of Public Works, who wanted to investigate the possibilities of air transport of domestic mail.

As soon as the autumn of 1921 the armored ships OLFERT FISCHER and PEDER SKRAM were modified, so they were able to embark a H.M. I seaplane. Thus a proper tactical cooperation had been started.

It's important to remember that radar was not invented, so these planes were the only eye “over the horizon”.

The "Defense Act" of 1922 did mean a general weakening of the navy, but did mention the Naval Air Service as part of the navy, and by September 15, 1923 the Naval Air Service was established as a unit directly under the Ministry of The Navy.

Commander, later Captain, Asger Grandjean – had training as a pilot, and became the first commanding officer of the Naval Air Service. A position he held to 1941.

Land based planes

Captain Asger E. V. Grandjean

Asger E. V. Grandjean
Commander of the
Naval Air Service

Since the start all aircraft in the navy had been seaplanes, and all training of pilots naturally had been on these aircraft.

However in England valuable experience had been gained by using land planes for elementary training and as early as 1921 five second hand AVRO 504K training aircraft with wheel undercarriage was purchased designated L.B.1.

The training of pilots started on the army training area near Avedøre, and from1923 on the airfield at Kastrup, but from 1926 the flying school was moved to the newly established Naval Air Station (Luftmarinestation) Ringsted, established on the former army training rounds there.

From 1925-1928 the AVRO 504K's were gradually replaced by the more modern 504N-version. The designation L.B.1 was kept however. The N version had a more powerful engine and was equipped so that training for instrument flying could be practiced.

Land based planes was now a significant part of the Naval Air Service.

The first fighter aircrafts

Development during and after WW1, had clearly shown the need for a dedicated combat aircraft, not least for the protection of the reconnaissance planes.

The Naval Dockyard had prepared a project for a two seater fighter seaplane, but war experience had shown that land based planes were superior to the seaplanes.

Consequently it was decided to expand the Naval Air Service with a section of modern land based fighters, and in 1925 3 planes were purchased in England.

The Naval Air Service had chosen a modified version of the English day- and night fighter Hawker Woodcock Mk II, which had just entered service with RAF.

The Service had thus acquired a fully modern fighter, and during the next two years the Naval Dockyard build further 12 of these aircraft on license from Hawker.

The Navy's and Denmark’s first fighter was a Hawker DANKOK (L.B.II)

The Navy's and Denmark’s first fighter was a Hawker DANKOK (L.B.II).
(Photo from Air Tactical Command)

It was given the designation L.B.II, and stationed on the Naval Air Station at Ringsted.

Up until now the only life saving equipment at the pilot's disposal had been a life west, but the DANKOK fighter was designed for a seat parachute, which from now was taken into use in Denmark.

The new fighters were October 12, 1926 formally placed in the newly established 2. Naval Air Flotilla at Naval Air Station Ringsted, while the seaplanes were organized in 1. Naval Air Flotilla on Naval Air Station Copenhagen.

Naval Air Station Ringsted was not a particular large place; furthermore it was surrounded by tall trees and telephone masts. It was therefore not ideal for basic pilot training.

In 1930 a ban was placed on elementary flight training at Ringsted, instead a new Naval Air Station was build on the peninsula Avnø, which had been leased for a 10 year period. From now all basic pilot training would be on Avnø approximately 30 miles due south of Ringsted.

Most numerous

2. Naval Air Flotilla had now been equipped with modern fighters and it was time to replace the old and worn H.M.I's of 1. Naval Air Flotilla.

In 1928 8 Heinkel H.E.8 float planes were purchased. These were given the obvious Danish designation H.M.II. At the same time an agreement was made for production of further H.M.II’s on license by the Naval Dockyard.

As Germany under the terms of the Versailles Treaty after the Great War was not allowed to design and build military aircraft the Heinkel H.E.8 was designed as a mail plane. However it was no problem to modify the aircraft to a very useful military aircraft equipped with 2 machine guns (8 mm), radio-equipment and attachment points for 8 bombs.

In the period from 1928-38 the Naval Dockyard build a further 16 aircraft of this type, making it the most numerous type in Naval Air Service. H.M.II was a very sturdy aircraft and set the pace in Naval Air Service and carried out numerous tasks in the period until the outbreak of WW II.

First flights in Greenland

The H.M.II was to be the first aircraft to oversee/enforce Danish sovereignty in the skies of Greenland. In the early 1930's a dispute arose between Norway and Denmark on the sovereignty of Greenland. Norway claimed that Denmark did not exercise its sovereignty of the big island.

In 1931 the situation escalated when Norwegian hunters occupied several areas in the Northeast Greenland and were given police authority by the Norwegian government in the occupied areas.

A HEINKEL H.E. 8 (H.M.II) during a flight in Greenland

A HEINKEL H.E. 8 (H.M.II) during a flight in Greenland.
(Photo: Archives of the Royal Danish Naval Museum)

In the 1932 expedition season 3 ships for 2 expeditions were fitted out. All 3 ships were equipped with Heinkel H.E.8 (H.M. II) aircraft from Naval Air Service.

Both expeditions were successfully carried out, and in spite of the difficult conditions the expeditions in each of the ensuing years were provided with one or two H.M.II's.

The dispute between Norway and Denmark was settled at the International Court in The Hague by July 1935, where the disputed area of Northeast Greenland was given to Denmark. The contribution by Naval Air Service to this result must not be underestimated.

In the years from 1932-38 the H.M.II's made a systematic Arial photography and mapping surveys in cooperation with the Geodetic Institute of vast areas in Greenland for production of maps.

More potent and offensive aircraft

The Navy had for some time wanted aircrafts of a more offensive character, bombers and torpedo planes. To this end a trimotor aircraft was purchased in 1926 in England. However the aircraft lacked stability and the contract was canceled.

Later the CO of Naval Air Service Commander A. E. V. Grandjean in 1932 obtained permission to purchase two Hawker Horsley medium range bombers from England.

The new aircraft were in Danish service given the name Hawker Dantorp, or H.B. III.

That only two aircraft were purchased was a clear recognition of the fact that dropping torpedoes was something quite new, which had to be tested thoroughly, before such a weapon could be used operationally.

In connection with the deal the Navy had obtained license to build a further 10 aircraft at the Naval Dockyard. 

It was not until 1936 that acceptable results were reached in the art of dropping torpedoes from these two aircraft.

Hawker DANTORP (H.B.III) has just released a torpedo

Hawker DANTORP (H.B.III) has just released a torpedo during an exercise
at Bramsnæsvig in 1934.
(Photo: Archives of the
Royal Danish Naval Museum)

But by then there were no money for purchase of the planned license build aircraft.

The new defence act of 1932 did not produce any changes for the Naval Air Service, this also means no improvements. The Naval Air Service should continue to consist of 2 flotillas (squadrons) - one with fighters, one with reconnaissance aircraft plus aircraft for training and special purposes.

In spite of the tight economy Grandjean managed in 1933 to get approval for purchase and license build of 12 new fighters to replace the now obsolete DANKOK fighters (L.B.II).

Two Hawker NIMROD Mk II aircraft were purchased in England and a further ten build under license at the Naval Dockyard during 1934-35. The Naval Air Service had now acquired a modern fighter, however the development within the aircraft industry was moving at a high pace in those years.

Quite soon Naval Air Station Ringsted turned out to be too small for the new fighters and in 1936 it was decided to purchase the area at Avnø, which in 1930 had been leased, and build a permanent Naval Air Station.

Next year the construction at Avnø was finished, and 2. Naval Air Flotilla, now with 12 Hawker NIMROD (L.B.V) on strength, was in 1937 transferred to the new Naval Air Station Avnø, and Naval Air Station Ringsted was closed.

Dark clouds on the horizon

The take over of power in Germany by the Nazi-party and the ensuing military rearmament not only created a destabilization of the political situation in Europe.

The aeronautical development meant an increased significance of the concept of air-power in relation to the traditional concepts of sea- and land-power. But both politically and militarily these facts did not sink in.

During the negotiations for a new Defence Act in 1936 there were proposals for a further flotilla of fighters and for a flotilla of bombers for the Naval Air Service, so that the combined strength would reach 4 flotillas.

But the necessary political support was not there, and the target in the Defense Act of 1937 was set at 2 flotillas. Seen in hindsight, this was completely unsatisfactory – but in line with the general political climate in small state Europe of the thirties – not realistic, but clinging to the hope for reason.

The politicians and the naval leadership soon had to accept, too late however, that there was a huge need to modernize the fighters, but also an acute need for the purchase of light bombers.

As a consequence Commander Grandjean was authorized to make a deal for a new light bomber and also to find a replacement for the Hawker NIMROD, which was fast becoming obsolete.

In 1938 a contract was signed with Fairey Aviation in England for the build under license of the two seater light bomber P.4/34 (British spec. for a dive bomber, build as Hawker Henley, and at Fairey as P.4/34) at the Naval Dockyard, and in 1939 the yard received the order to build 12 of these planes, but none had been finished when Denmark was occupied by the Germans April 9, 1940.

The Navy staff had realized that the NIMROD fighter's time definitely was over. The days of the biplane were clearly numbered, the monoplane fighter was the future, but time seemed to have been squandered away.

Now it was only a limited number of nations you could do business with, if you wanted to be sure of delivery.

1934 was the year that the specifications for such planes of fame as the Hawker Hurricane and Supermarine Spitfire were issued.

First flight of those were in 1936.

The choice fell on the Italian Macchi MC 200 even though the Naval Air Service would have preferred the Dutch Fokker XXI, which was standard in the Army Air Corps.

So negotiations were started for the delivery of new fighters for 2. Naval Air Flotilla.

The Italian MACCHI MC-200

The Italian MACCHI MC-200 was
chosen as a replacement for
the aging NIMROD fighter aircrafts.
(Photo from the USAF Museum)

The contract for delivery of 12 new Macchi MC-200 fighters to replace the aging NIMROD was ready for signature April 9, 1940, but was never signed.

In Denmark the establishment of a credible air defense seems to have been too much to ask for. The eternal: too little too late. Unfortunately this was not a situation that was a Danish monopoly.

The Naval Air Service During WW 2

At the outbreak of war early in September 1939 when partly mobilized Danish armed forces evolved to protect the neutrality, the Naval Air Service had on strength two operational flotillas.

1. Naval Air Flotilla with 13 H.M.II reconnaissance aircraft (Heinkel H.E.8 float planes of 1928 vintage) and 2 H.B. III torpedo aircraft (Hawker Horsley) at Naval Air Station Copenhagen.

2. Naval Air Flotilla with 9 L.B V NIMROD fighters remained at Naval Air Station Avnø, while the reconnaissance from 1. Naval Air Flotilla was distributed across the country.

Two H.M.II reconnaissance aircraft were stationed in Storebælt (Great Belt) to monitor the mine fields there, and as in the Great War a Naval Air Station was established at Slipshavn near Nyborg.

During the time running up to the German attack on Norway and Denmark in April 1940 the dominant political thought was to keep Denmark out of hostilities, as in the Great War.

In May 1939 a non aggression treaty was even signed with Germany.

Its on this line that the low key of Danish armed forces can be seen – there was even an order not to resist. This was almost not obeyed however, until orders for ceasefire came later that morning.

The Navy's NIMROD (L.B. V) fighter

The Navy's NIMROD (L.B. V) fighters were in 1939 painted in the newly introduced camouflage pattern.
(Foto fra Orlogsmuseets arkiv)

None of the Navy's NIMROD fighters took to the air – The 8 obsolete fighters would not have been a match for the Me 109's either.

The Germans prohibited any military flying. Consequently all Navy's aircraft were stored dismantled at Holmen in the hangar of the Naval Dockyard and boat-shed no 1.

After the Navy's crews scuttled their ships on August 29, 1943, the Germans began to take an interest in the planes. However on November 22 a machinists apprentice torched all the planes stored at Holmen and thus avoided that they came on German hands.

The Dornier WAL'en (F.M. I) and several wings for the H.M. II og H.M. III aircrafts are here seen after the torch on Holmen

The Dornier WAL'en (F.M. I) and several wings for the H.M. II og H.M. III aircrafts are here seen after the torch on Holmen, November 22, 1943.
(Photo by courtesy of Commander s.g. Peder Ellegaard Larsen)

Photos take before and after the fire have reviled that the NIMROD's of the Naval Air Service had disappeared. Where they had gone is still a mystery.

From Naval Air Service to Air Force

At the end of World War 2 and after the liberation of Denmark the Army Air Corps as well as the Naval Air Service stood empty handed.

For at start a number of single and twin engined aircrafts were purchased from England for the Army and Naval Air Service. These were to be used for the training of new pilots and as liaison planes.

In December 1946 the Naval Air Service received the first of altogether 7 Supermarine Sea Otter amphibious planes. These had been purchased in England primarily for observation and SAR aircraft, and became part of 1. Naval Air Flotilla at Naval Air Station Copenhagen.

And in 1947 the first Catalina PBY-5A arrived – this was to be used primarily in Greenland. Through the next many years the Catalina took part in many SAR operations in and around Greenland as well as inner Danish waters.

In the autumn 1947 the first combat aircraft for the Naval Air Service arrived in the form of the Super-marine Spitfire Mk IX.

This was not the latest model but would have to do.

In all Denmark purchased 36 of this type, which were distributed between Naval Air Service and Army Air Corps.

The Spitfires of the Naval Air Service went to 2. Naval Air Flotilla and stationed in Kastrup since Avnø was too small for this type.

Additionally  the  2. Naval  Air   Flotilla

The famous Supermarine SPITFIRE

The famous Supermarine SPITFIRE
became the Navy's first fighter
aircraft after 1945.
(Photo from Air Tactical Command)

was issued with 3 Spitfire Mk XI – This type was specially designed as a photo - reconnaissance aircraft and hence unarmed.

All the aircraft purchased for the Naval Air Service in the post war years were all second hand aircraft, and all had generally been used in the war.

But in October 1949 the first new build planes for the Naval Air Service arrived, this was the GLOSTER METEOR Mk 4 jetfighters.

Thus the Naval Air Service had in its hand a fully modern jetfighter which also was standard in the British Royal Air Force.

The Naval Air Service was first with the introduction of jetfighters in the Danish armed forces, part of the foundation for the new air force.

The new fighters were stationed at Karup with the newly established 3. Naval Air Flotilla. Karup was a huge airfield build by the Germans in central Jutland.

The Navy's and Denmark's first jetfighter

The Navy's and Denmark's
first jetfighter was

(Photo from Air Tactical Command)

October 1, 1950 a new Defense Act was passed in the Danish Parliament. This dictated that the Naval Air Service and the Army Air Corps should be amalgamated into a new independent air force, with effect from November 1st of that year.

Helicopters for Offshore Patrol Vessels

In 1962 the Navy took delivery of the first ALOUETTE III helicopters for service on the new build offshore patrol vessels of the HVIDBJØRNEN Class.

This acquisition meant that a Naval Air Service was established as a unit in the Royal Danish Air Force Squadron 722.

In the beginning of the early 1980-ties the aging ALOUETTE's were replaced with British Westland LYNX helicopters which still is in service.

The last upgrade to Super Lynx included new fuselages.

Sud Aviation S.E. 3160 ALOUETTE III

Sud Aviation S.E. 3160 ALOUETTE III
is here seen on the helo deck on the offshore patrol vessel INGOLF.

(Photo: Karsten Pedersen)

They, as the ALOUETTE's, are mainly occupied in the waters around the Faroese islands and Greenland with fishery inspection and SAR work.

It had been the intention to purchase a further 8 LYNX helicopters primarily for ASW . But the plan was scrapped for political and economic reasons.

The Westland LYNX Mk. 90B, here the S-249

The Westland LYNX Mk. 90B, here the S-249, is to day the standard helicopter
in the Royal Danish Navy.

(Photo: Naval Air Service)

At the end of 2003 for the second time it should come to the end for an independent Naval Air Service. The plan was to disband the Naval Air Service and amalgamate it into the Royal Danish Air Force, however as an independent unit, Naval Helicopter Service, and keep the LYNX tactically working with the Navy.

New Helicopters

The Naval Helicopter Service was officially established in the beginning of 2004 and moved from Air Station Vaerloese to Air Station Karup, together with the RDAF Squadron 722. And it was managed to keep it as an independent unit under the operational control of the Navy.

In the Defense Agreement for 2005 – 2009 it has been decided to further update the 8 LYNX helicopters.

Furthermore it is planned to purchase 4 new helicopters in a maritime version, for use on the new build frigates of the IVAR HUITFELDT Class, and the 2 command and support ships of the ABSALON Class which were delivered 2004-2005, presumably these helicopters will also be the EH-101 from Agusta-Westland.

This will be in addition to the already purchased 14 EH-101 Merlin Joint Support helicopters that are being delivered to 722 Squadron.

4 new maritime helicopters to be acquired

Presumably an additional 4 ea
EH-101 Merlin Join Support helicopters from Agusta-Westland will be acquired
for use on board the new large ships.

(Photo: Agusta-Westland)

With 5 new ships build for helicopter operations included and planned delivered to the Navy within the next 5 years, and a further 2 in build as helicopter capable, so after 2010 in all 11 ships can operate helicopters, naval aviation in the Danish Royal Navy is still kicking.

|To the Top

You may find complete surveys of airplanes and helicopters here:

| 1912-1918 | 1919-1940 | 1945-1950 | 1962-  |

Danish Apellations:

The Air Services introduced a Danish apellation for all airplanes in 1921; it consisted of two letters followed by a roman numeral.

The first letter would be either F for "Flyvebåde" (flying boats), H for "Hydroplaner" (hydroplanes) or L for "Landflyvemaskiner" (landbased airplanes).

The second letter would be either  B for "Biplaner" (biplanes) or M for "Monoplaner" (monoplanes).

The roman numeral was just a consecutive number,

The Danish apellations were not used after 1945.

|To the Top



Admiral Danish Fleet, Aarhus


Air Tactical Command, Karup


Danish Ministry of Defense, Copenhagen


Dansk Udenrigspolitiks Historie 1914-1945, Vol. 4 - Overleveren, by Bo Lidegaard, editors: Carsten Due-Nielsen, Ole Feldbæk & Nikolaj Petersen, Gyldendals Leksikon, Copenhagen 2003 (ISBN 87-7789-093-0)


Dansk Marineflyvning 1911-1998, by Niels M. Probst, Orlogsmuseet, Copenhagen 1998 (ISBN 87-87720-15-9)


Dansk Militærflyvnings - Hvornår skete det, by Hans A. Schrøder, Flyvevåbnets Bibliotek 2000 (ISBN 87-987748-0-8)


Danske Militærfly, by Niels Jensen, Clausen Bøger, 1978 (ISBN 87-11-03877-2)


De danske militære flyverstyrkers udvikling 1910-1940, Vol. I, by Paul E. Ancher, Odense Universitetsforlag (ISBN 87 7838 178 9)


De danske militære flyverstyrkers udvikling 1940-1945, Vol. II, by Paul E. Ancher, Odense Universitetsforlag (ISBN 87 7838 368 4)


Flådens skibe og fartøjer 1945-1995, by Gunnar Olsen & Svenn Storgaard, Marinehistoriske skrifter,  Copenhagen 1998 (ISBN 87-87720-13-2)

44You are also referred to the Naval Bibliography

- Do you miss a major event on this Site,
or do you hold a great story?

Are you able to contribute to the unfolding of the Danish Naval History,
please e-mail me, enclosures are welcome.
Please remember to list your sources.

You can also use the Naval Web Forum on this web-site.

|To the Top




This page was last updated: April 1, 2009

This page was first published: Januar 27, 2006

Copyright © 2013-2016 Johnny E. Balsved - All rights reserved - Privacy Policy