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Tungtransportkompaniet - Försvarsmakten

Swedish Totalförsvaret Strategy and the Case for a New AFV

02 March 2021

In December 2020, the Riksdag (Swedish Parliament) announced its latest defence plan: Totalförsvaret 2021-2025 (Total Defence 2021-2025). This plan is based on the possibility of an imminent attack or a regional conflict that could affect Swedish national security. The plan makes important justifications for the rethinking of national defence in a country with a longstanding tradition of military neutrality.

Totalförsvaret 2021-2025 includes a reconsideration of the meaning of war to Sweden and a new and expanded strategy with reinforcements across all levels of the Swedish Armed Forces. To achieve this, the project includes a 40% increase in defence spending, which, according to the Swedish Defence Minister Peter Hulqvist, is the largest increase in 70 years (Government Offices of Sweden, 2020).

Totalförsvaret 2021-2025 aims to achieve a full modernisation by the 2030s to increase Sweden’s ability to defend itself independently and strengthen military cooperation with NATO members and especially with its neighbours Norway and Finland. “This is a clear signal to the Swedish people and our neighbourhood that we are taking the security situation seriously”, noted Minister Hulqvist. “To achieve our goal of peace and stability in our part of the world, we also need an active, broad and responsible foreign and security policy combined with enhanced security policy cooperation” (Government Offices of Sweden, 2020).

Substantial investment will be made at all levels to strengthen the readiness of the Swedish Forces. This includes greater efforts in cyber-security. However, the emphasis on reinforcing defensive capabilities has been placed primarily on the Army. It features a plan for the organisation of new brigades and an expansion of military personnel to various areas of the country. This is intended to cover more territory, allow a quicker response in the event of an attack, and overall, provide the ability to maintain a military resistance for at least three months (Government Offices of Sweden, 2020).

The modernisation of the Swedish Army has focussed attention on vehicles currently in service. The bill commits to upgrading and modifying infantry fighting vehicles and the main battle tank Stridsvagn 122 (Strv 122), the Swedish version of the Leopard 2. This process will take place between 2021 and 2025 and aims to rehabilitate and improve Swedish combat power and establish a realistic timeframe for replacing these vehicles. It is proposed to be completed sometime in the 2030s (Government Offices of Sweden, 2020).

This raises some interesting points: First, it seems that Sweden’s demilitarisation policy which has been in place since the early 2000s (Holmberg, 2015) and has been labelled as a “mistake”, has come to an end (The Local, 2020). Whilst the bill seeks to reinvigorate Sweden’s military strength, Swedish efforts for global peace, such as its contribution to peacekeeping missions, nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation, will undoubtedly remain unaffected. However, its right to protect its territorial integrity and preserve its peace has refocused attention to its defence capabilities. This has come amid a series of potentially dangerous events for the nation’s security.

Totalförsvaret places great importance onthe cyber domain and how it has become a relevant factor for national security. Thus, Sweden intends to defend against hybrid threats such as cyber-attacks, disinformation, or any attempt to interfere in matters of national affairs through digital platforms. Nonetheless, it recognises that conventional warfare still carries the greatest weight. Sweden recognises that despite significant technological advances that have enabled new tools for military operations such as unmanned aerial vehicles, it is difficult to conceive a comprehensive replacement for tanks and other conventional vehicles. Sweden also understands that technology must be a catalyst to refinement and improve traditional equipment to enable robust responses to competition and deter potential armed aggression.

Major General Karl Engelbrektson expressed expectations for a future vehicle during the 2021 virtual International Armoured Vehicles Conference: he noted that it should enable incremental improvements and have a favourable height for tunnel transit; be optimised for Sweden’s territorial conditions, provide survivability, be capable of conducting deception, and have reduced emissions (Janes, 2021). These caveats are similar to those of the Strv 122. Additionally, the new vehicle must be exceptionally mobile because the land surface of Sweden has particular natural characteristics that hinder armour movement if the armour is not properly conditioned. Finally, the environmental impact must be considered as Sweden remains committed to its principles of environmental preservation, even when it comes to war.

It is too early to know exactly what will replace the Stridsvagn 122. The Ministry of Defence will conduct the procurement process between 2021 and 2025 to ensure that the new vehicle is delivered in the 2030s, as laid out in Totalförsvaret. Coincidentally, France and Germany have been working together on the development of a tank that has been referred to by various sources as ‘Leopard 3’ or ‘Eurotank’, intended to replace the German Leopard 2 and the French Leclerc by the mid-2030s (DW, 2015; Defence News, 2020), and considering the performance of the Strv 122, this Franco-German tank will surely be worth considering. 

Totalförsvaret represents a major step forward for Sweden. It represents the start of what promises to be a great effort to reinvigorate its national defence to protect its sovereignty and peace. It is remarkable how this project has been assumed with total responsibility and determination to further strengthen the capabilities of the Swedish Armed Forces, ensure deterrence and continued cooperation, and coordinate interoperability with its allies, not only in conventional scenarios but also in asymmetric and hybrid warfare.

Sweden faces great challenges, but its coherent vision of future needs and its determination to restructure its forces to fulfil the commitment of defending the nation makes this project a promising one. It could serve to strengthen European armoured vehicle development.

It is worth noting that Sweden holds the Presidency of Finabel’s Executive Committee until April 2021, when Hungary will succeed.

Written by Miguel GONZALEZ BUITRAGO, Researcher at Finabel – European Army Interoperability Centre


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Defense News. (2018). British military looks to the ‘Eurotank’ as it weighs its hardware options. [online] Available at: (February 23, 2021).

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Government Offices of Sweden. (2020). Investments in the Budget Bill for 2021 to make Sweden safer and more secure. [online] Available at: (February 22, 2021).

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The Local. (2020). Sweden to ramp up military spending by 40 percent. [online] Available at: (February 23, 2021).