Swedish military sharpens its focus on submarine tech in 2024

MILAN — Sweden plans to prioritize research on underwater technologies like mine countermeasures and submarine-related systems in 2024, with studies pending on the Navy’s capabilities in that domain.

Swedish defense contractor Saab announced Dec. 5 it had signed a contract with the country’s defense acquisition agency to conduct concept development studies focused on new technologies for submarine-related capabilities.

“This contract should be viewed as one step of a long-term plan to secure underwater capabilities for Sweden,” company spokesman Conal Walker told Defense News. “Saab will study needs and possibilities for the future underwater domain, and this will include various concepts and technologies related to both current and future capabilities.”

Meanwhile, the study’s results could find application in the company’s ongoing work on Sweden’s new submarines.

Saab signed a deal in 2015 with the Swedish Defence Materiel Administration to build two new Type A26 submarines for the country’s naval forces. The project has experienced several delays; the delivery date of the first submarine was initially scheduled for this year, but has reportedly been postponed to the 2027-2028 time frame.

If Sweden’s pending NATO membership is approved, one of the key defense assets Stockholm can contribute to the alliance is its experience in navigating the Baltic Sea, a vulnerable area shared with Russia.

The Swedish Navy currently operates five diesel-electric submarines. Once the new boats are completed, they will offer the capability to release unmanned underwater vehicles and special forces for improved subsurface operations.

Meanwhile, Swedish defense officials are also interested in the acquisition of light, autonomous, underwater vehicles to meet the mine countermeasure needs of its armed forces. A notice to that effect was published Dec. 4 by the Tenders Electronic Daily, an European online catalog of public procurements. It noted the envisioned underwater drones will cost about $14 million and must be light enough for crews to handle while riding in rigid inflatable boats.

Nations are increasingly turning to drones for the dangerous work of disabling sea mines.

NATO’s Centre for Maritime Research and Experimentation, based in Italy, has been conducting tests to determine how feasible the use of high-resolution sonars mounted on sea drones is for the identification and classification of mines.