Strapline: SEA 1000

Sweden blasts Defence for submarine decision.

Kym Bergmann / Canberra

In a letter obtained by APDR, the Head of Sweden’s Defence Materiel Administration – the equivalent of DMO – has called into question several aspects of Australia’s decision to exclude her country from the evaluation process. In a strongly worded letter to acting Head of the DMO Harry Dunstall dated March 3, Ms Lena Erixon has rejected several of the reasons given for the Australian decision.

While the Swedes have been unhappy for some time about their treatment, the more immediate trigger behind the letter was probably the extraordinarily abusive Parliamentary performance of Prime Minister Tony Abbott, who on February 23 ridiculed the country as only being able to produce submarines using outdated technology. This episode and a number of other matters were canvassed in detail in a previous edition of APDR:

For the Swedes – the Government, the Royal Swedish Navy and Saab Kockums – enough is enough. As Ms Erixon details in her letter, the country has refuted a number of ridiculous allegations over the years, including that it could not build large submarines (the Collins Class demonstrates that it can) and that it has been uncooperative on matters of intellectual property – when in fact all issues were resolved some time ago. She then canvasses the most recent allegation – namely that Sweden has not built a new submarine since 1996. She details all of the work that has taken place since, including the substantial upgrades of submarines for Singapore as well as Sweden.

In an assessment that should make senior Department of Defence bureaucrats duck for cover, she points out that overtures from Sweden regarding cooperation have been completely ignored and that visiting delegations have lacked people with the skills and experience necessary to evaluate the capacity of the country to design and build new submarines. While the Prime Minister is responsible for his own obnoxious phraseology, he is acting on the advice of “professionals” within the Canberra bureaucracy. Ms Erixon writes:

“We feel your decision to exclude us without a technically based dialogue very unfortunate, despite invitations from both FMV and the Swedish Armed Forces to such a dialogue. What is most surprising is the exclusion of Sweden from the evaluation process, based on what seems to be inadequate information. At no stage has DMO requested a detailed briefing about the scope and complexity of the programmes recently undertaken by Saab Kockums and how these were taken from the design stage through to build.

“We note with regret that not one of the delegations visiting Sweden has had the expertise necessary for either technical or industrial analysis.

“Even though we respect Australia’s decision, we utterly refute some of the recent media statements. To state that we would offer obsolete technology from the 1960s and 1980s is simply not true. We are able to offer the very latest generation technology from the current Swedish programme, plus all the experience gained from the Collins submarine.”


To leave Saab Kockums in SEA 1000 would have cost the Commonwealth nothing. To exclude them takes price pressure off the French and – especially – the Germans. It would seem that prejudice and point scoring has replaced rational decision making in the Australian system – and this for a strategically vital project worth in excess of $20 billion.

Saab Kockums – backed by the Swedish Government – is trying to survive in an intensely competitive international market for conventional submarines. This fact seems beyond the comprehension of Australian decision makers. The mocking words of the Prime Minister in particular will now be used endlessly to denigrate all future Swedish efforts. It’s a pity that the entire country cannot sue a handful of ignorant Australian politicians and Defence bureaucrats for defamation.



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