Friday, March 13, 2015

Sweden wants $700 million to upgrade navy's ability to hunt foreign subs

Crew members onboard a Swedish Navy fast-attack craft stand guard at the Stockholm archipelago, in Sweden, October 18 2014. 

Christopher Harrass/International Business Times

Sweden's military said on Friday it was searching an area of the sea around the Stockholm archipelago after a report on "suspicious underwater activity".
After Sweden’s hunt last autumn for two mystery vessels that may have been Russian submarines, the country’s military says it needs $700 million to upgrade the navy’s ability to hunt for foreign subs. If approved, it will be included in the country’s budget for an April vote, says local media.
“We must draw conclusions from underwater operations in Swedish seas this fall,” said defense minister Peter Hultqvist to Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter ahead of a media briefing on Thursday. "Submarine hunting is a priority. We've had incidents showing that it is very important to have an increased capacity for anti-submarine warfare.”
Hultqvist negotiated with finance minister Magdalena Andersson, claiming that the Navy needed $1.8 billion to adequately overhaul the fleet, but was only offered $229.5 million. The $700 million figure was the result of a compromise.
Sweden currently spends 1.1 percent of GDP on military spending, around $6.37 billion.
Should the budget be approved in April’s vote, the additional money will be spent from 2016 until 2020.
The debate over extra spending was the result of separate searches for two submarines last October. While Sweden has proof that at least one of the submarines did infiltrate sovereign waters near Stockholm’s archipelago, there is no evidence that either was Russian. The military believed that there may have been as many as four operating off the country’s coast.
The increase in finances will be spent on modernizing two ships, the Gavle and the Sundsvall, while also funding the permanent presence of 150 soldiers on Gotland, an island that lies between Sweden and Latvia in the Baltic Sea.
The government is also expected to invest in underwater sensors and new helicopters.  
Andersson said Thursday that “we will have to raise taxes to fund this venture,” yet some critics claim that the money is not nearly enough to adequately modernize the country’s navy. 

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