Sweden Assesses Next-generation Submarine Requirements and Technologies

An artist’s rendering of Sweden’s future A26 submarine at sea. Two A26 boats are currently being built. (Saab)
An artist’s rendering of Sweden’s future A26 submarine at sea. Two A26 boats are currently being built. (Saab)

Sweden is assessing requirements for a next-generation submarine, even as its new A26 Blekinge-class diesel-electric boats (SSKs) continue build.

The Royal Swedish Navy (RSwN) has a current force level requirement for five boats. This will consist of two A26s and the three in-service A19 Gotland-class SSKs.

The A26s are in build at Saab Kockums’ Karlskrona shipyard; they are scheduled to enter service in 2027-28. The A19s are going through a mid-life upgrade (MLU) programme, to remain operational through the 2030s; the final A19 – HSwMS Halland – is undergoing MLU in Karlskrona.

New submarines will be required to replace the A19s. Discussion about new boats is beginning at time when there is also discussion about increasing the force level. Later in 2022, the Swedish armed forces will submit new requirements in advance of a prospective new Defence Bill, underpinned by increased funding, being published in 2023.

“I believe – I am very positive now – that we will have an increase in numbers of submarines …. Maybe one more,” Rear Admiral Ewa Skoog Haslum, RSwN Chief of Navy, told a media briefing in Stockholm on 1 June. “We will also in the future need to replace the three Gotland-class [boats].”

While there is currently neither a formal requirement for a sixth boat nor a programme for a new class, Saab Kockums is already conducting study work to assess requirements and technology options for any future submarines, under what is referred to informally as the UB30 concept.

“The next generation after A26 is in preparation,” Dr Mats Nordin, a former RSwN submariner and now Saab Kockums’ director Naval Development, told a media briefing in Karlskrona on 2 June. Kockums is assessing the kinds of technologies that might be required.

“We need to be prepared for what the government would like to ask us to do. So, we need to prepare technologies and plans,” he explained. While underlining that there is no firm start date for any programme, Nordin added: “We always have to develop technologies to have a maturity that is at a certain level to be able to input into a new project. We separate system development and project.”

Nordin noted several research and development areas that could shape technologies in the UB30 concept, a future A26 MLU, or even any further A19 life extension. These areas include: improvements to submarine signature and sensors; introducing enhanced countermeasures like anti-torpedo torpedoes; evaluating the role of unmanned vehicles; improving command and control to enhance joint all-domain engagement; and energy storage and air-independent propulsion.

by Dr. Lee Willett