With the Swedish Navy towards the Future

“Be there early and stay”

That is what the Swedish Navy strives to do. With the Baltic Sea becoming busier and busier, maintaining situational awareness require not only information sharing with partners and a solid chain of land-based sensors, but also a presence out in the thick of it. And this is tied to the biggest challenge the force faces today – out of an estimated need of 24 vessels, the fleet currently consist of 7 units. And while stealth and the ability to choose when to be visible is a force multiplier, it can only improve the situation so much. As such, increasing the number of vessels is described as “vital”.

But this leads to the next round of issues – “personnel, personnel, personnel.” On the whole recruitment is going “rather well”, but there are some difficulties. Still, if the Navy is to grow, having fully trained crews for the high-end platforms such as corvettes and submarines will take time. For the time being, no conscripts serve aboard the vessels, though this might change if the Navy starts growing rapidly.

Leadship of one of the world’s most advanced corvette classes, HMS Visby, being escorted by a Finnish Jurmo-class landing craft during exercise Northern Coasts 2018. Source: Merivoimat FB.

But in the meantime cooperation with the Finnish Navy provide added capabilities. The point was raised that cooperation between the two navies are deeper compared to the Armies and the Air Forces. This stems from the fact that the first steps are relatively easy to take, as the ships can meet in the middle of the sea, avoiding high-profile invitations and vehicle convoys passing through the territory of the host nation. This in turn gave the two navies a head start, once the drive for deeper FISE-cooperation kicked off in earnest. In a region where incidents or mishaps could escalate and increase uncertainty, both navies view the FISE-cooperation as increasing stability and security in the region.

The introduction of new Russian vessels such as the Buyan-M and the Karakourt-class corvettes provide the Baltic Fleet with “quite good capabilities”, while at the same time the Russian exercises of 2018 have been held further out at sea and farther away from the Russian bases in Kaliningrad. This is something that the Swedish Navy keeps an eye on, to determine if this is the new normal or just an outlier. What is clear is that the famed Kaliningrad A2/AD-bubble will become “even more flexible” if it is sea-based compared to being restricted to Russian land territory. However, this brings us back to the original point: with the growing range of modern weapons, the demands placed on targeting data increases, which will require presence. But presence works both ways, and the Baltic Sea is a “good spot” for a maritime hybrid operation.

Will we know if it will be war before it start? I’m not so sure

So the Swedish Navy will have to grow, and the plan is clear: it will be an evolutionary growth. The best example of this method in practice is the currently ongoing MLU of the Gotland-class submarines, where sub-systems and lessons learned will be integrated into the upcoming A26-class. In the same way the Navy plans to use the MLU on the Visby-class of corvettes as a proof-of-concept for the projected Visby Gen 2.

Soldiers of the 205. Rifle company catching some rest while a CB 90 landing craft takes them to their next destination during exercise AURORA 17. Source: Mats Nyström/Försvarsmakten

Another hot topic is the creation of a second amphibious regiment, i.e. marines. While the current Amf 1 is something of a “and the kitchen sink” unit which include several support functions which belonged to earlier iterations of the Coastal Artillery/Amphibious Corps, the new unit will be a fighting unit, centered around marine infantry and aimed towards high-end combat. As such, it will also be smaller, numbering around 800 personnel compared to the 1,200 of Amf 1. This unit will be in place by 2025, and the Navy don’t expect any recruitment issues. “Marines are the easiest to recruit, any vacancies are filled within 72 hours.”

The post is based on a briefing held under Chatham House-rules at the Meripuolustuspäivä/Naval Defence Day in November 2018. General approval for the publishing of a post based on the briefing was received, but the final text has not been shown to anyone connected with the Swedish Navy (active or retired).

6 thoughts on “With the Swedish Navy towards the Future

  1. Valium

    Is there a reason Swedish Navy would’t buy Pohjanmaa class ships? I know that has been proposed in Sweden by at least Moderaterna, and Head of Navy was more inclined towards Swedish built ships in continuation to learnings from Visby MLU. He also mentioned he would like to see SAM on Visby (really?) but that being a question of money.

    To me this doesn’t sound like the needed increase in Navy capability, but decrease. Göteborgs, Karlskrona, and some already retired auxiliary ships need to be replaced by after 2025. “Visby 2” would’t most likely be ready even close to that. It would make perfect sense to buy 2-4 Pohjanmaas to replace the retiring ships in continuation to the finnish production after 2025. Pohjanmaa would be cheap compared to any Visby iteration, spot on time, and capable of taking all the roles of retiring and needed ships, plus bringing back serious mining capability and ice capability. Not to mention that it might very well be that swedes would’t have to change almost anything to get half swedish ships, maybe just the new RBS-15 in place of Gabriel. And they could well choose somewhat different configuration for all / some of the ships because of their other needs that Pohjanmaa should be capable to fullfill?

    This in turn would give time to “Visby 2” development, and spending, to be pushed to a time to replace Visby. God knows swedish military has other spending items for few decades.

    1. Kristian

      Sweden doesn’t need a small number of big ships – we need numbers and that means smaller ships. Pohjanmaa is too big to fit the Swedish Navy. We won’t buy a MEKO light frigate for the same reason.

      1. Valium

        Is there a design that is going to fullfill the need? Kockums new corvette is about the same size as Pohjanmaa, you mean the 55 m FAC? Visby cost was 184 M€ per ship (Wikipedia). In 2025 euros, including the upgrades that have been done in last 15 years, the cost is more than Pohjanmaa, and still lacking SAM, and using older model second hand RBS-15 if I don’t remember wrong. Kockums style sandwiches are way too expensive and fragile for us.

        I can see some differences in operational environment between our countries, and there is the European way of having 30 different small warships, tanks… but I propably miss something.

  2. Valium

    …that thing could be that I am too old fashioned to see the envisioned swarm of small optionally manned ships being the solution in the late 20’s or 30’s at least. We are talking about the Baltic, it is not that big. And can you rally hide a small ship from enemy there on the open, and make it capable of taking the elements?

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