On April 24, the “war” will come to Sweden. The day has been preceded by a week of instability in society; in some places, unusable drinking water, difficulties in withdrawing cash, and poor electricity supply.
The mobilization of the personnel employed by the Armed Forces and the recruits will occur in mid-April. On April 24, the government’s decision was accompanied by a subsequent order from the ÖB: take further preparation.
Thus begins the most extensive defense exercise ever carried out, the three-week Aurora 23. Nearly 30,000 people participate, in addition to almost the entire Swedish army, units from 14 other nations, and many civilian actors.
“The great international participation is one of the things that makes this exercise stand out,” says the head of the exercise, Brigadier General Stefan Andersson.
Aurora 23 is similar in many ways to the corresponding exercise that was to take place in 2020 but had to be brought forward due to the pandemic. That exercise was also planned with large international participation in mind, and Stefan Andersson explains that the international aspect is important for several reasons.
“Mainly because several of these nations come to support us in case of a critical situation. We must practice host country support, which is how we receive aid from other nations, and cooperation at all levels, from personnel to work to combat. But the exercise also sends an important signal that we are a credible player in security policy, he says.
We met him during a meeting at the Command Regiment with representatives from all participating units. During the three-day meeting, the exercise is reviewed daily, among other things. Markers are placed on a giant map indicating where various units and units will be at various times and where movements and exercises will take place.
In summary, the exercise follows a scenario in which the adversary starts with a series of so-called subversive operations, that is, activities to disrupt and sabotage society, and then carries out various armed attacks. The exercise takes place throughout Sweden but with a concentration in the southern areas, including Gotland.
The elements practiced range from transportation to combat on land, sea, and air. Initially, for example, American units with the material will be transferred from the border with Norway, near Trondheim, to the south of Sweden.
Coastal defense is practiced in the North and the Baltic Sea, and in southern Sweden, British, Finnish and American units are involved in air defense when attacking Polish aircraft.
For the first time in an exercise, moral aspects will be studied to create an image of how people act and react in an “exercise as sharp” as Aurora 23 is.
As already noted, planning is largely based on the postponed Aurora 20. The dire security policy situation and the fact that Sweden is on its way to NATO have not significantly affected the design of the exercise, says the Chief of the exercise, Stefan Andersson. But he stresses that the Armed Forces can go from exercise to acute mode in a very short time if necessary.