Sweden Tests Gotland Submarines in NATO War Games Dynamic Mongoose 2024

NATO conducts anti-submarine drills in the North Atlantic with Sweden joining for the first time, showcasing their advanced submarines.

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Joseph P Chacko
Joseph P Chacko
Joseph P. Chacko is the publisher of Frontier India. He holds an M.B.A in International Business. Books: Author: Foxtrot to Arihant: The Story of Indian Navy's Submarine Arm; Co Author : Warring Navies - India and Pakistan. *views are Personal

The NATO Dynamic Mongoose 2024 exercises began in the Northeast Atlantic in early May. Sweden is participating for the first time as a member of the alliance, possessing modern submarines. 

NATO naval forces have revived the practice of conducting anti-submarine defense exercises in the North Atlantic since 2012. The Faroese-Icelandic anti-submarine barrier is NATO’s defense line in the North Atlantic, stretching between Greenland, Iceland, the United Kingdom, and Norway. Allied forces and the German Kriegsmarine demonstrated the strategic importance of this barrier during the Second World War in the Atlantic battle. During the Cold War, this barrier became a defensive line against Soviet submarines.

These drills use surface, underwater, and aviation forces to combat potential adversaries’ submarines while also developing tactics, interaction, and understanding among exercise participants. They also conduct activities to safeguard seaports and maritime communications and deploy and use ship search and strike groups at anti-submarine barriers within the maritime zone.

The exercises typically involve around 10–15 destroyers and frigates from the navies of the United States, Canada, England, France, Germany, the Netherlands, and other countries with access to the Atlantic Ocean. Participants also field several nuclear and non-nuclear submarines and anti-submarine aircraft. Research vessels and unmanned autonomous underwater vehicles may also participate. Iceland is the primary base for maneuvers, with the Keflavik airbase being particularly important in the region. Airbases in the United Kingdom and Norway are also used. 

The current exercises involve 15 ships and vessels from 10 countries under the auspices of the 1st NATO Standing Maritime Group, including frigates from the navies of the United Kingdom (F79 ‘Portland’), Germany (F218 ‘Mecklenburg-Vorpommern’),  Spain (F-102 ‘Almirante Juan de Borbón’), the Netherlands (F831 ‘Van Amstel’), Norway (F311 ‘Roald Amundsen’ and F312 ‘Otto Sverdrup’), and other vessels. Five submarines, including non-nuclear ones, are participating from Norway, the Netherlands, and Sweden. The name and type of the U.S. nuclear submarine participating is unclear. The involvement of English nuclear submarines cannot be ruled out. Anti-submarine aircraft from Canada, Germany, Norway, the United Kingdom, and the U.S. are also involved.

Swedish Submarines

Sweden has its own unique school of submarine construction. Few people know, but between 1957 and 1962, Sweden developed a nuclear submarine – the A-11A ‘Atomic’. The Swedish engineers also created a viable air-independent propulsion system (AIP) (A-011C Closed Cycle) based on a Stirling engine, allowing the submarine to stay submerged for up to 30 days.

In 1999, an incident occurred, and Kokums’ underwater technology design bureau was sold to the German company ThyssenKrupp, a competitor. Sometime later, the kingdom’s top military and political authorities recognized they had made the wrong decision and recovered the assets in 2014. Now, it is a division of Saab AB. Thus, the Swedish submarine construction school survived the Germans. By the way, the Dutch and Italians buried their respective submarine construction schools.  

Western experts consider the Swedish conventional submarines the most advanced and technologically successful combat platforms due to their high stealth and small crew sizes. Their optimization for Baltic Sea operations enables them to compete with Russian diesel-electric submarines. Sweden is now developing a new family of non-nuclear submarines under the A26 project, which can operate in oceanic waters, be quieter, withstand shock loads from underwater explosions, and operate various underwater vehicles. In one version of this project, the submarine can carry vertical launch systems for 18 Tomahawk missiles.  

The A19 Gotland-class submarines, built between 1992 and 1997, are the world’s first serial submarines with AIP. The 60-meter-long vessel has a submerged displacement of 1600 tons and a crew of about 32 people. It is armed with six torpedo tubes with a total of 18 torpedoes. The submarine’s underwater speed reaches 20 knots. There are three submarines in the series. These are the latest submarines built for the Swedish Navy. In 2005, during exercises, the Gotland submarine managed to penetrate the defense and simulated the sinking of the American aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan. After this incident, it was even leased to the Americans for several years to practice techniques and methods of countering non-nuclear submarines, including in coastal and shallow water areas. In the second half of the 2010s, the Gotland underwent repairs and modernization. It participated in exercises such as Dynamic Mongoose 2015 and other maneuvers like the Baltops series. Although these exercises took place in the North or Baltic Sea waters, Swedish submarines had not yet trained in the Norwegian Sea.

These exercises provide Sweden with several benefits. First, they mark the beginning of the Swedish armed forces’ full integration into NATO structures. Second, due to their unique capabilities, the Gotland-class submarines will be used as analogs to prospective Russian submarines for sparring with NATO naval anti-submarine defense forces. Additionally, Swedish sailors are familiarizing themselves with a new area—the Norwegian Sea.


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