Swedish Armed Forces

Swedish Armed Forces
Coat of Arms of the Swedish Armed Forces.
War flag and Naval Ensign of Sweden
Founded 1521 (1521)
Current form 1975
Service branches Swedish Army
Swedish Air Force
Swedish Navy
Home Guard
Headquarters Stockholm
Commander-in-Chief Government of Sweden
(Löfven Cabinet)
Minister for Defence Peter Hultqvist
Supreme Commander General Micael Bydén
Military age 16–70 years old[1]
Conscription Yes[2][3][4]
Available for
military service
3,020,782 males, age 18–47 (2017 est.),
2,760,451 females, age 18–47 (2017 est.)
Fit for
military service
4,980,592 males, age 18–47 (2017 est.),
1,649,875 females, age 18–47 (2017 est.)
Reaching military
age annually
58,937 males (2017 est.),
56,225 females (2017 est.)
Active personnel 22,500
Reserve personnel 34,500 Reservists
Budget SEK 52.7 billion (~€5.13 billion) (2018)[6]
Percent of GDP 1.24% (2015)[6]
Related articles
History Military history of Sweden
Ranks Military ranks of the Swedish Armed Forces

The Swedish Armed Forces (Swedish: Försvarsmakten, literally “Defense Force”) is the government agency that forms the military forces of Sweden, and which is tasked with defence of the country, as well as promoting Sweden's wider interests, supporting international peacekeeping efforts, and providing humanitarian aid.

It consists of: the Swedish Army, the Swedish Air Force and the Swedish Navy, with addition of a military reserve force, the Home Guard (Swedish: Hemvärnet). Since 1994, all the Swedish armed services are organised within a single unified government agency, headed by the Supreme Commander, even though the individual services maintain their distinct identities. King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden is traditionally attributed as Honorary General and Admiral à la suite.[7]

The military history of Sweden includes several unions and wars with all of its neighbour states, including extended Swedish intervention in the Thirty Years' War at the times of the Swedish Empire during the 17th and early 18th centuries. Wars with Russia culminated in the Finnish War (1808–1809), with Sweden losing Finland. During the World Wars, the Cold War and throughout the 20th century, Sweden maintained a national policy of non-alignment, while the Swedish Armed Forces strength was based upon the concepts of conscription. In 2010, peacetime conscription was abolished, replacing it with volunteer armed forces including the Home Guard – National Security Force until 2018.

Units from the Swedish Armed Forces are currently on deployment in several international operations either actively or as military observers, including Afghanistan as part of ISAF and in Kosovo. Moreover, Swedish Armed Forces contribute as the lead nation for an EU Battle Group approximately once every three years.


The military history of Sweden includes several unions and wars with all of its neighbour states, including extended Swedish intervention in the Thirty Years' War at the times of the Swedish Empire during the 17th and early 18th centuries. Wars with Russia culminated in the Finnish War (1808–1809), with Sweden losing Finland. During the World Wars, the Cold War and throughout the 20th century, Sweden maintained a national policy of non-alignment, while the Swedish Armed Forces strength was based upon the concepts of conscription. In 2010, peacetime conscription was abolished, replacing it with volunteer armed forces including the Home Guard – National Security Force. In March 2017 the Swedish government decided to reintroduce military conscription from 1 January 2018.[8]

In 2016 the Swedish armed forces included elements of gender theory into its operational training and planning, this to help relieve noncombatants of sexual violence in a conflictzone as an example.[9]


The Swedish Armed Forces have four main tasks:[10]

  1. To assert the territorial integrity of Sweden.
  2. To defend the country if attacked by a foreign nation.
  3. To support the civil community in case of disasters (e.g. flooding).
  4. To deploy forces to international peace support operations.

Sweden aims to have the option of remaining neutral in case of proximate war.[11] However, Sweden cooperates militarily with a number of foreign countries. As a member of the European Union, Sweden is acting as the lead nation for EU Battlegroups[12] and also has a close cooperation, including joint exercises, with NATO through its membership in Partnership for Peace and Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council.[13] In 2008 a partnership was initiated between the Nordic countries to, among other things, increase the capability of joint action, and this led to the creation of NORDEFCO.[14][15] As a response to the expanded military cooperation the defence proposition of 2009 stated that Sweden will not remain passive if a Nordic country or a member of the European Union were attacked.[16]

Recent political decisions have strongly emphasized the capability to participate in international operations, to the point where this has become the main short-term goal of training and equipment acquisition.[17][18][19] However, after the 2008 South Ossetia war territorial defense was once again emphasized. Until then most units could not be mobilized within one year. In 2009 the Minister for Defence stated that in the future all of the armed forces must capable of fully mobilizing within one week.[20]

In 2013, after Russian air exercises in close proximity to the Swedish border were widely reported, only six percent of Swedes expressed confidence in the ability of the nation to defend itself.[21]


Swedish Armed Forces main bases 2017
Naval Base Air Base Infantry Base Mechanized Infantry Base
Cavalry Base Artillery Base Air Defence Base Engineer Base

The Supreme Commander (Swedish: Överbefälhavaren) is a four-star general or flag officer that is the agency head of the Swedish Armed Forces, and is the highest ranking professional officer on active duty. The Supreme Commander in turn reports, normally through the Minister for Defence, directly to the Government of Sweden, which in turn answers to the Riksdag.

The King of Sweden was, before the enactment of the 1974 Instrument of Government, the de jure commander in chief (Swedish: högste befälhavare), but currently only has a strictly ceremonial and representative role with respect to the Armed Forces.[7]

The Swedish Armed Forces consists of three service branches; the Army, the Air Force and the Navy, with addition of the Home Guard (Swedish: Hemvärnet), a military reserve force. Since 1994, the first three service branches are organized within a single unified government agency, headed by the Supreme Commander, while the Home Guard reports directly to the Supreme Commander. However, the services maintain their separate identities through the use of different uniforms, ranks, and other service specific traditions.

Armed Forces Headquarters

The Armed Forces Headquarters is the highest level of command in the Swedish Armed Forces.[22] It is led by the Supreme Commander with a civilian Director General as his deputy, with functional directorates having different responsibilities (e.g. the Military Intelligence and Security Service). Overall, the Armed Forces Headquarters have about 1000 employees, including civilian personnel.[23][24]


Some of the schools listed below answer to other units, listed under the various branches of the Armed Forces.


Nordic Battle Group

The Nordic Battle Group is a temporary formation of the Swedish Armed Forces, tasked as one of the EU Battle Groups. Sweden was lead nation for a Battle Group during the first half of 2011.

International deployments

Currently, Sweden has military forces deployed in Afghanistan with the NATO-led Resolute Support Mission. Swedish forces were part of the previous International Security Assistance Force (2002–2014) in Afghanistan. Sweden is also part of the multinational Kosovo Force and has a naval force deployed to the gulf of Aden as a part of Operation Atalanta. Military observers from Sweden have been sent to a large number of countries, including Georgia, Lebanon, Israel and Sri Lanka and Sweden also participates with staff officers to missions in Sudan and Chad. Sweden has been one of the Peacekeeping nations of the Neutral Nations Supervisory Commission that is tasked with overseeing the truce in the Korean Demilitarized Zone since the Korean war ended in 1953.[27]

Past deployments

A battalion and other units were deployed with the NATO-led peacekeeping SFOR in Bosnia and Herzegovina (1996–2000), following the Bosnian War.

Swedish air and ground forces saw combat during the Congo Crisis, as part of the United Nations Operation in the Congo force. 9 army battalions were sent in all, and their mission lasted 1960–1964.


From national service to an all-volunteer force

In mid-1995, with the national service system based on universal military training, the Swedish Army consisted of 15 maneuver brigades and, in addition, 100 battalions of various sorts (artillery, engineers, rangers, air defense, amphibious, security, surveillance etc.) with a mobilization-time of between one and two days. When national service was replaced by a selective service system, fewer and fewer young men were drafted due to the reduction in size of the armed forces. By 2010 the Swedish Army had two battalions that could be mobilized within 90 days. When the volunteer system has been fully implemented by 2019, the army will consist of 7 maneuver battalions and 14 battalions of various sorts with a readiness of one week. The Home Guard will be reduced in size to 22,000 soldiers.[28]

National Service Force 1995Selective Service Force 2010All-Volunteer Force 2019
Maneuver units15 brigades2 battalions7 battalions
Auxiliary units100 battalions4 companies14 battalions
Readiness1 to 2 days90 days7 days

Re-implementing conscription

After having ended the drafting system in 2010, the following years volunteer numbers proved to be insufficient to maintain the armed forces. In 2017, a new conscription system was put into place to draft as many personnel as needed to fill the gap between voluntary recruits and required strength.[29]

Personnel structure

Military personnel of the Swedish Armed Forces consists of:

  • Officer OFF/K – Regular continuously serving officers (OF1-OF9).
  • Officer OFF/T – Reserve part-time officers (OF1-OF3).
  • Specialistofficer SO/K – Regular continuously serving NCO (OR6-OR9).
  • Specialistofficer SO/T – Reserve part-time serving NCO (OR6-OR7).
  • GSS/K – Regular continuously serving enlisted (OR1-OR5).
  • GSS/T – Reserve part-time serving enlisted (OR1-OR5).
  • GSS/P – Personnel in wartime placement (OR1-OR5).

K = Continuously

T = Part-time

P = Conscript, for personnel drafted under the Swedish law of comprehensive defense duty

Planned size of the Swedish Armed Forces 2011–2020

Category Continuously serving Part-time serving Contracted
OFF3,900 OFF/K2,600 OFF/T
SO4,900 SO/Kincluded in the above SO/T
GSS6,600 GSS/K9,500 GSS/T-
Swedish Home Guard22,000

Annual recruitment of GSS is assumed to be about 4,000 persons.


Criticism and research

In 2008, professor Mats Alvesson of the University of Lund and Karl Ydén of the University of Göteborg claimed in an op-ed, based on Ydén's doctoral dissertation, that a large part of the officer corps of the Swedish Armed Forces was preoccupied with administrative tasks instead of training soldiers or partaking in international operations. They claimed that Swedish officers were mainly focused on climbing the ranks and thereby increasing their wages and that the main way of doing this is to take more training courses, which decreases the number of officers that are specialized in their field. Therefore, the authors claimed, the Swedish Armed Forces was poorly prepared for its mission.[31]

Major changes have been made to the officer system since then.

The transformation of the old invasion defence-oriented armed forces to the new smaller and more mobile force has also been criticized. According to the Supreme Commander of the Swedish Armed Forces the present defence budget will not be enough to implement the new defence structure by 2019. And that even when finished the armed forces will only be able to fight for a week at most.[32]

During 2013 several Russian Air Force exercises over the Baltic Sea aimed at Swedish Military targets have made the future of the Swedish Armed Forces a hot topic and several political parties now want to increase defence funding.[33][34][35]


When an army based on national service (conscription) was introduced in 1901 all commissioned officers had ranks that were senior of the warrant officers (underofficerare) and non-commissioned officers (underbefäl). In a reform 1926 the relative rank of the then senior warrant officer, fanjunkare, was increased to be equal with the junior officer rank underlöjtnant and above the most junior officer rank fänrik. In 1960 the relative rank of the warrant officers were elevated further so that

  • i. The lowest warrant officer, sergeant, had relative rank just below the lowest officer rank, fänrik.
  • ii. The second warrant officer rank, fanjunkare, had relative rank between fänrik and löjtnant
  • iii. The highest warrant officer rank, förvaltare, had relative rank between first lieutenant and captain.

In 1972 the personnel structure changed, reflecting increased responsibilities of warrant and non-commissioned officers, renaming the underofficerare as kompaniofficerare, giving them the same ranks as company grade officers (fänrik, löjtnant, kapten). Underbefäl was renamed plutonsofficerare and given the rank titles of sergeant and fanjunkare, although their relative rank were now placed below fänrik. The commissioned officers were renamed regementsofficerare, beginning with löjtnant. The three-track career system was maintained, as well as three separate messes.

A major change in the personnel structure in 1983 (NBO 1983), merged the three professional corps of platoon officers, company officers, and regimental officers into a one-track career system within a single corps called professional officers (yrkesofficerare). The three messes were also merged to one.

In 2008 the Riksdag decided to create a two-track career system with a category called specialistofficerare. When implementing the parliamentary resolution the Supreme Commander decided that some ranks in this category should, like the old underofficerare ranks in 1960–1972, have a relative rank higher than the most junior officers.

Other government agencies reporting to the Ministry of Defence

Voluntary defence organizations

See also


  1. SFS 2010:448. Lag (1994:1809) om totalförsvarsplikt. Stockholm: Department of Justice. "Lag (1994:1809) om totalförsvarsplikt". Retrieved 2010-11-13.
  2. TT. "Värnplikten återinförs – tusentals kallas till mönstring". SvD.se (in Swedish). Retrieved 2017-03-02.
  3. "Regeringen inför värnplikt i Sverige – beslut i dag". Aftonbladet (in "sv"). Retrieved 2017-03-02.
  4. Försvarsmakten. "En kombination av frivillighet och plikt". Försvarsmakten (in Swedish). Retrieved 2017-03-02.
  5. Försvarsmakten. "Personalsiffror".
  6. 1 2 "Statens budget i siffror". regeringen.se. Archived from the original on 9 February 2015. Retrieved 26 July 2018.
  7. 1 2 "Duties of the Monarch – Sveriges Kungahus".
  8. Nyheter, SVT. "Värnplikten återinförs – i dag fattas beslutet av regeringen". Retrieved 22 May 2017.
  9. "Så övar försvaret på att strida med genustänk". Dagens Nyheter. 2016-09-13. Retrieved 6 November 2016.
  10. Försvarets fyra huvuduppgifter (In Swedish)
  11. "Sverige är militärt alliansfritt. Denna säkerhetspolitiska linje, med möjlighet till neutralitet vid konflikter i vårt närområde, har tjänat oss väl." Sveriges säkerhetspolitik Archived 2008-10-19 at the Wayback Machine. (In Swedish)
  12. "Nordic Battlegroup – Försvarsmakten". Mil.se. 2009-01-19. Archived from the original on June 3, 2009. Retrieved 2009-08-05.
  13. Sverige och NATO Archived 2011-06-13 at the Wayback Machine. (In Swedish)
  14. "Nordic defence cooperation – Försvarsmakten". Mil.se. 2009-03-06. Retrieved 2009-08-05.
  15. "Background to cooperation – Försvarsmakten". Mil.se. 2009-03-06. Retrieved 2009-08-05.
  16. Ett användbart försvar Archived 2015-02-25 at the Wayback Machine., last paragraph (In Swedish)
  17. Försvarsreformen (In Swedish)
  18. "Our task – Försvarsmakten". Mil.se. 2007-09-25. Retrieved 2009-08-05.
  19. "The Swedish military service system – Försvarsmakten". Mil.se. 2007-09-28. Retrieved 2009-08-05.
  20. "Ett användbart försvar – med kraftigt stärkt försvarsförmåga". regeringen.se. Archived from the original on 25 February 2015. Retrieved 25 February 2015.
  21. Benitez, Jorge (30 April 2013). "Most Swedes doubt Sweden can defend itself". acus.org. Atlantic Council. Retrieved 30 April 2013.
  22. "Armed Forces Headquarters (HKV) – Försvarsmakten". Mil.se. 2008-12-01. Retrieved 2009-08-05.
  23. (in Swedish)
  24. (in Swedish)
  25. http://www2.mil.se/en/About-the-Armed-Forces/Organisation/Address-list/
  26. Swedish Armed Forces. "Training Centres". Försvarsmakten. Retrieved 25 February 2015.
  27. Swedish Armed Forces. "Korea – NNSC". Försvarsmakten. Archived from the original on 6 April 2016. Retrieved 25 February 2015.
  28. Ivarsson, Ulf (February 2007). "Pendeln måste slå tillbaka". Hemvärnet (1): 5.
  29. Reuters: Sweden returns draft amid security worries and soldier shortage, 2 March 2017
  30. Ulf Jonsson & Peter Nordlund, Frivilliga soldater istället för plikt 8FOI 2010 12/11/2012
  31. "Karriärstyrda officerare skapar inkompetent försvar" (in Swedish). DN.se. 2008-11-06. Retrieved 2013-03-28.
  32. "Försvar med tidsgräns". SvD.se. Retrieved 25 February 2015.
  33. Stockholm TT och SvD.se. "Ryska bombflyg övade mot Sverige". SvD.se. Retrieved 25 February 2015.
  34. "Ryskt flyg övade anfall mot Sverige". SvD.se. Retrieved 25 February 2015.
  35. "Majoritet vill rusta militärt mot Ryssland". Aftonbladet. Retrieved 25 February 2015.

Manpower-numbers are taken from CIA – The World Factbook

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