Sweden’s eventual accession to NATO could significantly strengthen the alliance’s power in Northwestern Europe, especially in the Baltic Sea region. This waterway, shared with Russia, serves as a critical access point for ports in eight countries, including Germany. Sweden’s world-class submarine fleet is a key asset in maintaining seaworthiness during conflicts.
Sweden’s submarine fleet is considered one of the most advanced in the world, therefore, if the country joins, NATO can significantly strengthen this type of weapon in the Baltic region. The Baltic Sea, often referred to as a “flooded meadow” due to its average depth of about 60 meters, it is too shallow for the nuclear-powered submarines that make up the majority of the fleets of the Russian and US navies.
Sweden currently operates three modern Gotland-class submarines, as well as an older model that will be retired with the delivery of the two new A26 vessels in 2027 and 2028. This will bring the number of submarines in Sweden to five by the end of the decade.
Sweden is distinguished by its extensive experience in operating submarines in the Baltic Sea since 1904, which no neighboring country can match. Submarine Flotilla Commander Fredrik Linden highlights this regional expertise as a unique advantage that NATO currently lacks. The complex waterway of the Baltic Sea, characterized by varying salinity due to its many rivers, requires local knowledge for successful navigation.
Swedish submarines are designed for long-term underwater operations.
Conventional submarines run on batteries and must surface every few days to recharge their diesel engines. Swedish submarines use liquid oxygen tanks stored on board to operate diesel engines underwater. This allows them to remain underwater for longer while minimizing the risk of detection.
The Swedish government plans to purchase new A26 vessels, which will be larger and more versatile than their Gotland-built counterparts. These submarines are ideal for subsea warfare: protecting or destroying pipelines or other critical subsea infrastructure. Seabed warfare has received significant attention recently after the 2022 explosions that damaged the Nord Stream gas pipelines under the Baltic Sea.
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