Increased cooperation across our national borders is of key importance to the shaping of our future defence forces. The level of ambition with regard to national and international operations and the future of universal national service are other important questions being considered in the Armed Forces' latest perspective plan.
Each year the Swedish Armed Forces submits a forward-looking report to the Government, a so-called perspective plan. The plan highlights the possible options for the future development of Swedish defence irrespective of the political guidelines that happen to apply at the present time. The purpose of the report is to provide a basis for the continuing development of the Swedish Armed Forces.
This year's perspective planning report builds on the conclusions of last year's report and the Armed Forces' own analysis of long-term developments in the world at large. The Armed Forces take the view that for the foreseeable future there will be a need to retain a broad and versatile defence capability.
The report outlines three concepts for the continuing development of the Swedish Armed Forces in a 20-year perspective. The concepts do not represent the Armed Forces' proposals for future development but have been produced primarily to highlight the consequences of the different development options.
Concept A should be seen primarily as a reference alternative and it builds on the model used in shaping today's armed forces, assuming the same level of ambition as at present both nationally and internationally. The fundamental point is to ensure in the longer term, if the world situation should change, the capability to counter an armed attack on Sweden. Existing units could, exactly as they can today, also be used in international missions.
Concept B entails possible enhancement of military capability both internationally and nationally, with lighter and more flexible ground forces, regularly modernised Air Force units and naval units with a higher degree of availability. This alternative builds on a combination of mandatory and voluntary service. The concept maintains operational capability in all its dimensions. The number of units remains approximately the same as today but some will be capable of more rapid deployment.
"With this concept we have the ability to act more rapidly both at home and internationally, without compromising our all-round operational capability. And we might need this, given the unpredictability of future developments," says Rear Admiral Jörgen Ericsson, head of strategic planning.
Concept C is clearly oriented towards participation in international missions and entails a limited level of ambition in a national context. There are fewer units but their level of readiness for deployment in international operations is substantially higher. This concept would mean radical changes to the Armed Forces with fewer units and substantially altered manning arrangements. In practice this alternative would mean abandoning the universal national service scheme in its present form.
"This system is designed with participation in international missions in mind, but the resources could equally well be deployed at home if future developments should require it. Such a high degree of readiness to deploy internationally would mean military personnel serving on contracts," says Rear Admiral Jörgen Ericsson.
The danger inherent in this system is primarily that some operational capabilities will have to be sacrificed (some types of unit will disappear), something that experience has shown to have its own consequences.
"It takes a very long time to rebuild a capability once it has been lost, so such a decision must not be taken without an extremely thorough assessment of the possible consequences."
None of these three concepts represents the recommendation of the Swedish Armed Forces. They are only intended to highlight the consequences of choosing any one of the paths that they represent.
"Now we have to study the consequences of the various concepts. During this autumn we expect to be able to present the Armed Forces' proposals for the way ahead. This might be a whole new concept, or indeed some combination of the three," says Rear Admiral Jörgen Ericsson.
Irrespective of the path chosen, continuing and expanded cooperation with other countries offers the possibility of increased effectiveness, believes the Admiral.
"Given the present level of defence funding, continuing rationalisation will be necessary if any of these alternatives are to be afforded. The rapid reaction units are few in number, which means that they offer very limited scope for rationalisation. This in turn means that we must find new ways to boost efficiency. Possibilities include common training and the joint production of units. We can exercise together and focus on system commonality between services.
"Sweden and many other smaller states have much in common in terms of both requirements and solutions. We have initiated an analytical study jointly with Norway to see what advantages collaboration can offer and would welcome a similar arrangement with Finland, for example," says Rear Admiral Jörgen Ericsson.