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Visby is the right concept for the littoral zone

Interview with Inspector General of the Royal Swedish Navy, Rear Admiral Anders Grenstad



“In the Swedish Navy’s operational environment, namely the littoral zone, the stealth-technology Visby-class corvettes are the right concept for the future. After final delivery and commissioning, these vessels will form the core of the Swedish Navy for years to come. And our stealth concept has already attracted considerable international attention,” says Rear Admiral Anders Grenstad, Inspector General of the Royal Swedish Navy.


He recently received a high-level visit from US Secretary of the Navy Donald C. Winter, who flew to Kallinge in his own jet with a single wish – to find out more about the Visby corvettes and take a trip aboard one of the corvettes. HMS Helsingborg and her crew had the honour of demonstrating the vessel’s paces.


“On this visit, American interest was focused entirely on the Visby corvettes, and Secretary Donald C. Winter was treated to a trip around the Karlskrona archipelago, in between all the islets and skerries,” states Rear Admiral Anders Grenstad.


The visit was kept confidential and only became public knowledge afterwards, with the publication of an article on the Swedish Armed Forces’ website. The Visby corvettes are designed for inclusion in the new rapid-reaction force. Their stealth technology makes them difficult to detect with radar and other advanced forms of detection. Everything can be seen and heard from the bridge, while the vessel itself remains undetected, offering multiple tactical benefits. The vessel can also de-activate its stealth mode, if it wishes to demonstrate its presence, and then reactivate to ‘vanish’ again. The Swedish Navy has always operated in the littoral and is highly specialized in the necessary techniques. Of course, there are many littoral zones across the globe, through which exports and imports must be shipped from and to the world’s large and growing ports. In a post 9/11 world, this is precisely where the threat lies. A well-planned terror attack could have devastating consequences.


Keen interest


The US had already expressed interest in this Swedish development project and, when Rear Admiral Grenstad was visiting the crew of the Swedish submarine HMS Gotland at the US Navy base in San Diego on the west coast two years ago, the Americans initiated discussions about the corvettes.


“They need ships that can protect their littoral zone, making the Visby concept highly interesting to monitor and about which to exchange information and experience,” states Rear Admiral Grenstad.


There is considerable international interest in the Visby corvettes: open almost any international naval journal and the impact of the Visby-class ships is immediately apparent in many new naval designs. But so far, Sweden is the only country to have built a true stealth corvette. It is of course vital that we exploit this lead. But one of the Swedish vessels must be fully operational with the Swedish Navy before export orders start arriving at Kockums, because a reference customer is crucial in securing an export order.


“I want to see the first vessel operational with the Swedish Navy during 2009, and shall subsequently closely monitor the commissioning of the other vessels of the series. The Visby corvettes will form the backbone of the Swedish Navy’s surface combat capability for years to come,” states Rear Admiral Grenstad.


Multi-mission capability

Kockums has already built four of the Visby corvettes and delivered them to the customer, FMV (the Swedish Defence Matériel Administration), which is now conducting a programme of trials and tests. The fifth of series, HMS Karlstad, is under construction. The Visby corvettes are designed to handle all types of naval mission, including mine clearance, antisubmarine warfare (ASW), surface combat, marine surveillance and the protection of commercial shipping.

How would you describe the Swedish Navy’s current capability?


“In terms of personnel and number of hulls, the Swedish Navy is smaller than it was, but we have and will receive a potent capability in terms of materiel, in which the new Visby system will play a key role from 2010. We have also, for example, improved our minehunting capability with the upgrade of the Koster-class series of MCMVs. In the longer term, I believe we need to review the onboard manning situation, and implement dual crews, to maximize efficiency,” he states.


Sweden has to monitor and defend a coast that stretches for 2 700 kilometres. Rear Admiral Grenstad believes that Sweden’s Armed Forces are currently up to the task, since there is no serious invasion threat. Nevertheless, the geopolitical security situation has recently become more tense, making naval units necessary and important.


He notes that 90 percent of our trade goes by sea, making it vital to secure sea lanes. The Navy’s primary task is to keep these sea lanes open or, for that matter, closed. And this is achieved by deploying the same units used for international missions. In short, the Swedish Navy is precisely the rapid reaction force ordered by the country’s politicians.


“But we have to be better at describing what we do. Many seem to have little idea. We actually do a lot of good simply by being on station in areas such as the Baltic,” he adds.


“Ambassador” for Sweden


The Inspector General of the Royal Swedish Navy plays an important role as an “ambassador” for the country and its defence industry at international gatherings. Rear Admiral Grenstad has travelled widely and attended many such gatherings, enabling him to build up a valuable network of personal contacts. This can lead to some unexpected visits, as when the US Secretary of the Navy turned up at short notice for a trip with HMS Helsingborg. And the trip was excellent PR, which reverberated around the world. After all, a US Secretary of the Navy is only interested in the best and latest technology.

Edited by Rick86
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