Sweden’s world-leading submarine fleet is a key aspect in keeping the waters navigable in a conflict. Sweden holds some of the most advanced conventional submarines ever built.
Sweden’s entry to NATO will help the alliance redress its vulnerability in northwest Europe, mainly the Baltic Sea. The Baltic Sea is a shared waterway with Russia, with a bottleneck for access to ports in eight countries including Germany.
The Baltic has an average depth of around 60 metres. This makes it too shallow for the nuclear-powered submarines of Russian and US navies. However, as per the analysis of NATO officials, the Swedish submarine fleet is well-prepared for this environment and will add greatly to NATO’s overall submarine capabilities in the Baltic Sea.
What makes Swedish submarines different than others?
Sweden’s submarines can stay underwater for weeks. While submerged, conventional submarines run on battery power. Most need to resurface after a couple of days so their diesel engines can run to recharge the batteries.
However, Swedish submarines have liquid oxygen stored in tanks on board to run the diesel engines underwater to recharge the batteries. This helps them to be submerged for longer durations and reduces the risk of detection.
With lots of rivers feeding into the Baltic, the salinity levels of the sea varies hugely. This changes both the buoyancy of a submarine and the way sound travels underwater.
Sweden, which has been operating submarines in the Baltic since 1904, has ‘regional knowledge’ which provides it with a niche advantage. “We have regional expertise, which fills a gap, expertise that NATO doesn’t have,” said Submarine Flotilla Commander Fredrik Linden. None of the neighbouring countries have been as active underwater as Sweden.
The new Swedish submarines
Presently, Sweden has three advanced Gotland-class submarines and one older model which will retire in 2027 and 2028.
Sweden has two new submarines, known as A26, on order which are due to be delivered in 2027 and 2028. The A26 are SAAB Kockums-built vessels that will be bigger and more versatile than the Gotlands. These vessels have a unique feature – a 1.5-metre diameter dive-lock, called a multi mission-portal, in the bow.
New submarines would aid in seabed warfare
The new feature of the A26 submarines will let the remotely operated vehicles (ROVs), autonomous vehicles or groups of divers in and out easily.
This in turn would make the new A26 submarines ideal for seabed warfare as they could easily protect or destroy pipelines or other critical infrastructure on the seabed.
Sweden’s alliance with NATO
In 2022, explosions wrecked the Nord Stream gas pipelines that ran beneath the Baltic. Such instances have been on the rise, making seabed warfare the hottest issue in naval circles right now.
Sweden’s alliance with NATO at such a crucial time would only help increase NATO’s overall submarine capabilities in the Baltic Sea region.
Source : Wion