The human is always the most important

Equipment, man and training. It could sound like three simple orders, but the work behind building up a defence capacity has to start from the ground up and will demand both time and money.

55 000 people need to become 120 000, and the budget for purchases of defence material need to be increased from 50 to 80 billion a year in order for the Swedish National Defence to be able to manage their tasks in the new environment situation. This is shown by two recent reports.

We asked former Supreme Commander Sverker Göranson, today a consult for questions regarding defence, to explain how Sweden will be able to create a defence capacity. The words supply, man and practice are his and he likens the work with building a house, where everything needs to be built carefully from the ground up.

  • The first thing we need to do is to gauge the surrounding world. What will be needed from the different defence branches army, air force and marine? What volume is needed and what technological level do we need to place ourselves at. It is about being able to win against the enemy in every individual battle, regardless if it’s about aeroplanes, tanks or ships. That’s why it is so important for example with the update of the Gripen.


Sverker Göranson isn’t quiet about the fact that he thinks Sweden has fallen hopelessly behind after for example Russia, and he made headlines in 2013 when he as acting Supreme Commander claimed that we would last at most for a week if under attack.

  • We had a high-quality defence and civil defence during the fall of the Berlin Wall. But after the Cold War every single acting government has totally neglected the subject of defence. If you do so for nearly 25 years it will have consequences.


The high quality of the Swedish industry

At the same time he says we are lucky with the high quality of the industry.

  • We have companies such as Saab, Ericsson, BAE Hägglunds and BAE Bofors. We really could produce everything ourselves. That is extremely important since we could land in an environment position where no other country wants to sell to us. Sure, we need to co-operate with other countries, but this gives us a special position in Europe.


Further, it obviously doesn’t help to just provide the best aeroplanes in the world. You need someone to fly it as well.

  • The human is always the most important. We need both those who can handle the actual task, as well as managers in the form of tactics and specialists. I only need to look at myself. I was in the Armed Forces for 34 years before I became Supreme Commander. You can’t just go out on to the streets and find officers.

Finding trainers for all the new soldiers that are needed is one of the biggest challenges according to Sverker Göranson. It will be a slow process, but hopefully there is an officer of the reserve who has the opportunity to step in and help speed up the process, he says.


After that the important thing is to practice, practice and practice even more in order to make every individual soldier believe in their task.

  • It is crucial that each and every one is ready. In this profession it really is about life and death.


In addition to every unit working, the units within and between the different weaponries need to work together on an operative level. Sverker Göranson gives praise to the big defence exercise Aurora 17 that was carried out last autumn, but also points out that it occurred on a very basic level.

  • It was necessary to practice on such a basic level, but it also shows that it is still not possible to have exercises that are applied on the operative level.


Footnote: The evaluation regarding 120 000 people comes from the Swedish Armed Forces perspective study and the information about the cost for material comes from the state’s official investigation about the Armed Forces need of equipment.  

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