The soldier as a base in future combat environment

The distances in the future combat environment are growing bigger, while the soldiers are becoming more aware of each other rather than their predecessors.

In the future combat environment words such as long range, autonomous systems and sensors will lead the way.

Colonel Rickard Stridh is Head of Research at the Swedish Armed Forces since the post was reinstated last autumn.

  • Considering the fast-technological development that is happening, in order to keep up the Swedish National Defence need to direct and drive research and technology development to a greater extent, he says.

He points out that the leading technology developers today are civil, when historically it has been the military who have been at the forefront of the development.

– That creates a large need for us to be able to utilise the civil developments, and amongst other things we are starting with a military innovation programme in order to achieve this.


Time for more autonomous and remote-controlled systems?

Technology development has also had a big impact on the perspective study report that the Swedish Armed Forces released in February 2018, which describes the military development up until 2035. One of the things pointed out in the report is the development of remote-controlled autonomic systems where people in combat can operate in large distances from each other but still with precision.

  • These systems of course still need to be ran by someone and in that area, there will be certain demands on new competencies, says Rickard Stridh.

That also means an increase in the need for the ability to identify the enemy from further away, and that’s where the development of sensors come in to the picture. In the same way signature adjustments, i.e. modern camouflage,  also become increasingly important.

  • Another consequence of operating at a further distance is the fact that it does not matter as much if you happen to be physically in the wrong place. You can still operate against an opponent.

Rickard Stridh does point out however, that even in the future there will still be a need for foot soldiers.

  • The autonomic and remote-controlled systems can be used during certain operations that are deemed as dangerous or remote. But there will always be a need for soldiers who operate within the systems.


Brigadier General Mikael Frisell at the Swedish Defence’s Materiel Administration, FMV, agree that the soldier provide the foundation for the army’s ability in the combat area even in the future. Since the turn of the year he is the head of system and production management on the army side of FMV, but before then he was regiment commander at I19 in Boden, as well as head of the most northern one of the country’s four military regions. The work with increasing the land contending soldier’s ability to meet a high technological enemy is active within several areas.

  • One on side FMV are working with producing a new uniform system, which will replace Battle uniform 90. This is a Nordic collaboration project. In this case it is important that we develop a uniform system that is functional and enables the soldier to perform in armed battles in different climates and environments. The uniform system will suit both men and women, as well as different body types.
  • On the other side we have started the work with developing a new firearm system. Today the National Guard has AK 4 and the remaining forces has AK 5, which are planned to gradually be replaced. It is important to consider what types of weapons should be revoked and what soldiers and which units who should have each separate weapon type.


Even the individual soldier will be affected by the technology development. Mikael Frisell envisions an advanced and user-friendly lead support system where the individual solider has the opportunity to send text, images and other data from different sensors.

  • One challenge is the solve the issue on electricity supply. It is important to develop a system where one battery emits enough power for all the equipment the soldier is carrying, and therefore also developing possibilities to charge this battery, for example when the soldier is inside a vehicle.



Mikael Frisell points out that the technology development has already come so far that today it is mostly economy and imagination that limits what you can do. For example, he mentions that every soldier could be equipped with a so-called exoskeleton built out of everything from textiles to metal, as well as robots that carry the packing to increase mobility and stamina.

With the technology development of today this should be fully possible within 10-15 years.

  • At the same time, we don’t want it to become science fiction. Armed combat is first and foremost about a fight between different wills, and where the human and the soldier are fully central and where technology should only support the soldier. It is about creating good enough conditions to be able to win against an opponent.


First published in SOFF:s Magazine 2018 (in Swedish).

Text: Per Johansson