Why NATO will love Swedish high-tech submarines and fighters

Sweden is close to making a ruling on applying for NATO membership, but no final decision has been made. More clarity on the issue will emerge on May 15, when a security policy report containing recommendations for joining the alliance is released. Sweden is not known as a “carpenter”, having been militarily non-aligned and neutral for many decades. But it has a commendable military-industrial base that has produced weapons systems such as combat aircraft that are popular in the export market.

Swedish Defense Technology Force

Sweden is getting attention from the United States for its defense technology portfolio, and the Americans have funded several joint technology projects over the years. The Pentagon’s Foreign Competitive Testing Program just visited Sweden to get a summary of the latest Swedish defense programs that could get support from the US Department of Defense. The Americans are very interested in maintaining a good relationship with Saab AB, for example.

The United States has funded more than 80 CAT projects over the years. Of these, 30 have led to military sales to the Pentagon.

“Sweden have done very well over the years because they have really good defensive techniques that have been better in many cases than we have here,” Bryant Street, director of technology for research and engineering at the Pentagon, told Fedscoop.

Sweden is quite capable of bringing its prowess in developing indigenous defense technology and military platforms to NATO.

Not a great military

The Swedish army is small – very close to the size of the Finnish army. There are 16,000 personnel on active duty in Sweden, as well as 22,000 paramilitary Inland Guards. According to GlobalFirePower.com, the Swedes have only 121 tanks and 48 self-propelled howitzers in the army. The Navy has only seven cruisers, five submarines, 161 patrol ships, and nine mine battleships. The number of aircraft in the Air Force is 204 fighters, 71 fighters, 6 transport aircraft, 1 tanker and 53 helicopters.

Warplanes and submarines force

The Swedes are known for their JAS 39 Gripen fighter that can deftly intercept enemy aircraft and attack ground targets. Their Gotland-class diesel-electric submarines are small but wonderfully quiet and elegant.

stubbornly low defense spending

However, Sweden spends only 1.2 percent of its GDP on defence. From 2010 to 2020, defense spending has held steady at around 1 percent to 1.2 percent of GDP.

Political views on defense spending have changed since the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Sweden’s ambassador to the United States, Karin Olofsdotter, told Insider on May 11 that the military would become a higher priority. “We had a plan to increase our defense spending by 85 percent from 2014 to 2025, and now we’ve just made the decision to increase annual defense spending to 2 percent of GDP,” Olofsdotter said.

More investment in defense is possible

2 percent of GDP spending would bring Sweden into line with NATO’s defense spending targets. But the Scandinavian country didn’t meet that 2% target until 2028.

The main defense purchases are often from the United States and the Swedish government recently purchased Patriot surface-to-air missile systems from the Americans. Sweden also prefers to specialize its military in the areas in which it excels, such as cyber defense and psychological warfare.

More people are in favor of joining NATO

Swedish public opinion on military matters has changed since the war in Ukraine. A larger majority – 57 percent – now supports NATO membership, according to survey data from Demoscope and Aftonbladet newspaper. This is a record number of people who support joining the alliance. More Swedes would agree if Finland joined, which is increasingly likely.

JAS 39 Gripen. Image Credit: Creative Commons.

Sweden's JAS 39 . fighter

Sweden’s JAS 39 fighter. Image Credit: Creative Commons.

Dangerous military deployment may be rejected

However, the Swedes would likely not favor a military deployment that would put Swedish forces at risk, despite the growing majority supporting NATO membership. The Swedes have been neutral for so long that an aggressive defensive posture goes against their political culture. There is likely to be a heated debate in the Swedish parliament about the possibility of joining NATO.

play on her powers

The Swedish Defense Forces can specialize in certain strengths such as providing pilots and coalition warplanes. The country’s ground forces are on the weak side and will need more investment. The army needs more tanks and artillery. The number of naval vessels is low. The Swedish Navy could use at least two guided missile destroyers or invest in the land-based anti-ship missiles that the Ukrainians have used against the Russian Navy in the Black Sea.


SAN DIEGO (October 1, 2005) – The Swedish diesel-powered attack submarine HMS Gotland passes through the port of San Diego during the Sea and Air ParadeƓ held as part of Fleet Week in San Diego 2005. Fleet Week in San Diego is a three-week tribute to Army personnel in Southern California and their families. US Navy portrait by Companion Photographer Patricia R. Totemer (released)

Sweden has defense technology that allows it to be a decent partner in NATO. They need more troops in the army. They need strong political leadership to change the tradition of military neutrality. But the combined defense afforded by NATO membership would be invaluable and give the Swedes peace of mind while Russia continues to attack Ukraine. NATO could become a reality.

He is now the editor of Defense and National Security for 1945, Brent M EastwoodPh.D., is the author People, machines, and data: future directions in war. He is an expert on emerging threats and a former US Army infantry officer. You can follow him on Twitter Tweet embed.

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