Sweden settles on US Patriot missiles

Sweden will buy Patriot missiles to replace the country’s old Hawk air defense system. Political turmoil has preceded the 10 billion kroner deal.

Sweden will go ahead with the Patriot air defense system to replace the country’s aging Hawk batteries. That is clear after a broad coalition of political parties has decided to ask the Defense Materiel Administration (FMV) to commence negotiations regarding the procurement.

The initial price of Sweden’s Patriot system is expected to be in the 10-12 billions SEK price range, but that only includes the radar system, fire control systems, and the launchers. It does not include the missiles themselves, of which Sweden can choose between different variants. The total cost may therefore exceed 20-25 billions SEK. The system will be fully implemented in 2025.

What are Patriot missiles

Patriot is an American air defense system manufactured by Raytheon. It gets its name from the backronym “Phased Array Tracking Radar to Intercept on Target” which indicates how the radar system works. Development of the system started in 1976, and it was first operational in 1984. Since then the system has received modernizations through “Patriot Advanced Capability” upgrades known as PAC-1, PAC-2, and PAC-3.

PAC-1 missiles have an operational range up to 70 kilometers. PAC-2 missiles have a range of 100-150 kilometers and can reach an altitude of up to 24 kilometers. They are useful against both ballistic and atmospheric targets. The PAC-3 missiles are specialized against ballistic missiles, and they are probably not on the table for the Swedish defense.

Why has Sweden chosen Patriot

There were two missile systems in the Swedish competition, and Patriot won over the French-Italian Aster SAMP/T system. In several ways the SAMP/T is a more modern system than Patriot with the ability to control more missiles simultaneously, a larger range, 360 degrees radar coverage (Patriot has only 120 degrees), and better fire-and-forget capabilities. However, Patriot won the competition, and Swedish defense minister Hultqvist assures that the decision was entirely based on the technical merits of the systems where Patriot was a better match for Sweden. It is commonly speculated, though, that a desire to nurture political relationships made the needle swing towards the American system.

Political turmoil

The decision to buy the Patriot system was disturbed somewhat in October when internal disagreements in the social democratic party threatened to stall the process. Apparently foreign minister Margot Wallström and finance minister Magdalena Andersson were heavily against the purchase, finding it to be too expensive and an unnecessarily aggressive move at a time when diplomatic relationships with Russia need improvement.

Right wing opposition parties also expressed concerns about the costs of the system but from a very different angle. They were fundamentally concerned that the system would be so expensive that it would steal resources from other projects in the armed forces that also need improvements. Some were worried that the total costs of the system were too uncertain.

In the end, the politicians found each other to make the deal. It is speculated that one of the political costs for defense minister Hultqvist for the acquisition of the Patriot system was to accept that Sweden will sign the controversial UN resolution to ban nuclear weapons.

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