Sweden revamps military

Sweden is to restructure its armed forces into an expeditionary structure that will allow it to deploy as many as 50 000 soldiers, sailors and airmen in as little as a week.

Defence minister Sven Tolgfors says at present only a third of the Swedish military can deploy beyond the Nordic country`s borders and only after lead times as long as a year.   

“When I took up my post, it was obvious that defence needed to be strengthened. The political requirement at that time was only that a third of the operational organisation was to be available, within a year,” Tolgfors says.

The Military Balance publication of the International Institute for Strategic Studies credits the Swedish military with 16 900 active personnel and 262 000 reservists.

Tolgfors says one of the main reforms will be to expand the regular force to 28 000 while shrinking the total force to 50 000. However, in contrast to today, all will be deployable anywhere in the world.

The number of available manoeuvre battalions will increase from three to eight “This means more than twice as much availability. Twice as much capability for peace-support operations. It will be possible to keep 1700 people in continuous engagement in international operations,” he says.

“All operational units will have the same capability for operations, in Sweden and within and outside our region. This means that the division now existing between the international force for operations abroad and other units will be removed. Everyone should be able to serve where, and when necessary.”
“Today´s threats against Sweden cannot be dealt with by yesterday´s defence,” Tolgfors adds. “The war in Georgia [in August last year], for example, shows that developments can occur rapidly. This war went on for five days and was determined in two. Not many Russian soldiers were deployed to the area, but they came very quickly.”

Tolgfors says the Home Guard will be strengthened and will have a more important role in defending Sweden. “The Home Guard will consist of a total of 22 000 people and will be part of the operational organisation. Of these, 17 000 will make up the qualified national protection forces, who will be given better training and military equipment and will be under a service obligation even in peacetime.”

Personnel supply will be modernised so that voluntary participation will be the basis of manning the operational organisation instead of compulsory military service. This will be required for greater functionality and availability, but also for the transition to permanent and contracted units. The officer profession will be changed, with more specialist officers who train and command troops and fewer people in staff and command functions, Tolgfors says.

Outside the operational organisation, a reserve unit of four mechanised battalions will be available.

In terms of equipment, the reform pegs the Swedish Air Force`s Gripen fleet at 100 of the C/D models that are also used by the South African Air Force. Sweden currently flies 165 Gripen, mostly of the A/B variety. Some will be updated to C/D standard and the IISS says the final mix, by 2012, will be 75 C-model single-seaters and 25 D-model two-seaters.       

The number of helicopters will also increase, as will “access to splinter-proof vehicles” (mine-resistant armour protected vehicles). Sweden will also retain the Leopard II main battle tank (MBT), of which it currently operates 280 in two marks. Tolgfors says Sweden will retain and increase the number of Sridsvagn 122 (Leopard 2A5) in service. The present fleet is 120 Strv 122 and 160 Strv 121 (Leopard 2A4).     

Sweden`s artillery and anti-aircraft capability “will remain of the same size as today.”

The Swedish Navy will expand to seven corvettes, including the present five Visby stealth ships, while the silent service will retain four submarines.