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Swedish Parliament Discusses the Sale of Södermanland Submarines to Poland

HSwMS „Södermanland”. Image Credit: M.Dura
HSwMS „Södermanland”. Image Credit: M.Dura

The Swedish government has begun the official process aimed at approving the sale of two Södermanland submarines to Poland. The undertaking is a consequence of a request that had been made by the Polish Ministry of Defence. was the first to inform that Warsaw would be taking steps to acquire the second-hand Swedish vessels.

The Swedish government has asked the parliament to issue an approval of the sale of two used submarines to Poland: HSwMS “Södermanland” and HSwMS “Östergötland”. The government also indicated that those vessels shall be operated by the Polish Navy. The justification indicates that the Polish government asked for a quote, concerning two Södermanland-class submarines. Considering the above, authorization of transfer of the vessels by the Swedish parliament is required before the gap-filler solution is implemented in case of the “Orka” programme. Relevant documents issued on 9th April this year have been transferred to the Parliament, being an element of the 2020 budget amendment bill.

So far, two possible scenarios have been distinguished. The former assumes that the Swedish government would be acting as the party to the submarines sale agreement. The latter, meanwhile, assumes that both Södermanlands would be transferred to the industry (Saab) that would upgrade them and then transfer them to the Polish Navy. The request did mention the fact that the “sales would involve a strategic partnership with Poland when it comes to undersea warfare which is important for the security policy in the Baltic region”. Furthermore, the Swedish authorities admit that exporting both vessels would boost Sweden’s capacity in maintaining and developing submarine technologies domestically. Svenska Dagbladet stated it directly: the funds that would be obtained by Saab Kockums through an upgrade of the submarines could allow for maintaining its capacity over a longer period.

The problem here may stem from the technical condition of the Södermanland submarines, as HSwMS „Östergötland” has been withdrawn from operations back in 2011 - being used as a source of spares for the sister vessel, the HSwMS „Södermanland”. The latter vessel would need to be upgraded. The plans that had been made earlier assumed that it would be decommissioned in 2021. Most probably, the submarine in question has not been a subject to any major overhauls, due to cost savings. The request submitted to the government directly admits - the extension of the HSwMS „Södermanland” lifecycle would require a lot of spending and this is the main reason withdrawal of this vessel was planned.

The Swedes concluded that the modernization of those vessels would not adequately improve the capabilities of the Swedish Navy. Thus, they have considered the vessels not to have any potential, when it comes to the improvement of Sweden’s naval power.

As it turns out, from the legal point of view, it is theoretically possible to sell the vessels in question to Poland. The budgetary act envisages the option of transferring a state-owned property should it be redundant, if it became useless or if it has not been acquired with the use of public funds.

Unfortunately, as the sale of the submarines would require overhauls and modifications (which could create extra costs), and as  HSwMS “Södermanland” is still used in operations, the decision of the government in Stockholm requires parliamentary approval.

Nonetheless, the request notes that the sale must have a commercial nature. Namely, the Swedes would need to receive funds from Poland covering at least the cost of modernization, training and future maintenance. The document does not mention the potential option of leasing the vessels - this, supposedly, was subject to prior consideration. The potential cost of the whole undertaking is also not mentioned there.