Swedens Defense Ministry plans to transform their armed service from a Cold War-style territorial defense force to a leaner expeditionary force and plans to do so on less money. The government intends to make a new commitment to international peacekeeping operations and a network-centric move is expected to force changes both on the countrys military and its defense industry.
Swedish has participated in U.N. peacekeeping operations since 1956, but deployments would typically come about after the shooting has stopped. Todays missions are more higher-intensity peace enforcement (i.e. parties still shooting at one another and at peacekeepers) deployments. Sweden has deployed troops and logistical support into Afghanistan, Bosnia, Kosovo, and Macedonia, and deployed a re-enforced mechanized infantry in Liberia. Officials have expressed interest in sending troops to Darfur in Sudan if there is an authorized U.N. operation, but it would require another country to provide air transport since their own airlift resources are currently tied up in Afghanistan.
International operations require a high level of interoperability with allied forces, and Sweden has been challenged in this role since it has been a neutral and non-NATO country. The most visible sign of Swedens new commitment to interoperability is upgrading its small fighter fleet with the JAS-93C twin-seat Gripen fighter to NATO-standard Link-16 communications. A force of eight Gripens will be available to fly fighter and reconnaissance missions anywhere on the planet. Sweden is also sponsoring the Nordic Air Meet to exercise common procedures for interoperability. Gripens will fly with and against Hungarian Mig-29 fighters, British Tornado fighters, Norwegian F-16s, and Finnish and Swiss F/A-18s.
Sweden is moving to networked military systems because they expect to have to interoperate with allied forces network-centric systems based on U.S. common standards, no doubt, say officials in the future. But the investment is going to come on a smaller budget. In 1985, Sweden spent 2.5 percent of their gross domestic product on defense. After the Cold War ended, spending was down to 1.9 percent in 2002. Doug Mohney