An ambitious and low-profile Swedish program aiming to place one of the best-armed combat brigades in Europe in the hands of Ukraine’s generals is nearing completion and the unit will likely be a spearhead formation in Kyiv’s upcoming counteroffensive, multiple Stockholm-based news platforms confirmed on Friday.
Ukrainian soldiers operating Sweden’s flagship high tech weapons systems the Stridfordon 90 infantry combat vehicle and the Archer semi-automatic howitzer are nearing completion of training in country and will participate in Kyiv’s upcoming counteroffensive as a probable part of the breakthrough force, reports originating with the British newspaper The Times said.
Produced by BAE Systems, Stridfordon 90 (Strf 90 or CV-90) is a fighting vehicle designed to carry infantry in assaults. It is a highly-mobile, battle-tested weapon more heavily armored than and with firepower superior to not only competing Russian designs, but practically all NATO-standard armored personnel carriers.
Sweden’s Artiileriesystem 8 (Archer), is a cutting edge tech, rapid-fire artillery piece capable of striking targets 50 km. distant, landing six munitions on a target simultaneously, and firing 8-10 shells a minute – about twice as fast as any other medium-caliber howitzer, in the world.
Sweden’s major broadcaster SVT television confirmed most details of the Times report saying that a “brigade” of Ukrainian troops armed with CV-90 infantry fighting vehicles, Archer artillery pieces and the Swedish version of the Germany-produced Leopard 2 medium tank - Leopard 2A5 - will complete training “in May”.
Sweden has promised to give Ukraine 50 CV-90s, 8 Archer howitzers and 10 Leopard tanks, the monitoring site Oryx reported. Kyiv is likely to augment the howitzers and tanks with comparable weapons from Germany and the US to build a combat brigade equipped with 100-120 first class combat vehicles, military analysts said. SVT’s Begt Norborg citing Swedish sources reported the formation could become “one of Ukraine’s most powerful offensive units.”
A Stridfordon 90 pictured in Sweden in 2016. PHOTO: Wikicommons
A Feb. 28 secret US government slide on Ukrainian military readiness, and leaked in April on the Discord website, identifies western-supported “collective training” in progress for Ukrainian troops on four types of main battle tank (Challenger, Leopard 2, T-72 and T-64 tank); two types of infantry fighting vehicle (BMP, Marder and M2 Bradley), three types of armored personnel carrier (M-113, Viking and XA-185); two types of mine resistant vehicle (Dingo and MaxxPro), and three marks of the venerable M109 self-propelled howitzer.
Training locations identified in the briefing slide include Britain, Germany, Poland, Ukraine and Finland. The two heavy weapons systems produced and donated by Sweden – the Stridsforden infantry fighting vehicle and the Archer artillery system – are not mentioned in the US report, nor are training sites for them.
According to the Discord leak slide, the western coalition was planning to help Ukraine field nine combat brigades equipped with a mix of older western and Soviet-era equipment, and a smattering of top end weaponry, by early May 2023. The Sweden-trained and -equipped force first reported by Times would, effectively, be a 10th brigade available for Ukraine’s upcoming offensive, and better-armed than practically any other formation in that attack.
Other mainstream Swedish media like Expressen newspaper generally confirmed Ukrainian troops have been training in country for at least two months following Stockholm’s February decision to hand over heavy weapon systems to Kyiv.
The newspaper Dagens Nyheter on May 18 reported “When the training of the soldiers should have started is not clear from the newspaper's (Dagens Nyheter) information, nor how long the brigade should have been in Sweden, but the troops should have returned to Ukraine in May to get ready for the expected spring offensive.” Whether a full brigade of 3-5,000 men, as Times reported, or just several hundred vehicle operators and commanders were trained in Sweden, is unclear, the article said.
Ukrainian military personnel receive armoured manoeuvre training on German-made Leopard 2 battle tanks at the Spanish army's training centre of San Gregorio in Zaragoza on March 13. PHOTO: AFP
Swedish military blogger Lars Wilderang in a May 18 post said the Times’ announcement a Sweden-equipped combat brigade is in or very will soon be in Ukraine, is likely an intentional information leak by Sweden’s defense ministry to message to the Kremlin steps taken by Stockholm, without confronting Russian leader Vladimir Putin directly. The brigade most likely is not fully combat-ready and will require some additional training in Ukraine, he said.
Some Swedish military bloggers and news reports pointed to the Swedish defense exercise Aurora 23, the largest of its kind in more than 30 years, which took place between 17 April and 11 May, as a possible piece of the Ukrainian troop training. A total of 26,000 Swedish military participated in maneuvers mostly in the south of the country, and in and around the Baltic Sea, to practice allied operations, air and sea space control and joint defense.
Fourteen other nations sent contingents to the maneuvers, most from the United States and Great Britain. Ukraine also sent troops, the Unian news agency reported, but it was not clear whether the Ukrainians involved in Aurora 23 were the soldiers training to use the combat vehicles.
Despite its neutral status Sweden was an early supporter of Ukraine in its war against Russia, initially sending hundreds Carl Gustav rockets - an anti-tank weapon popular across the Ukrainian infantry for its ease of use and effectiveness - and later dispatching 60 instructors to help train new Ukrainian army recruits, as a participating nation to the Operation Interflex program, in England. A key Swedish training focus, the Ukrainska Pravda web magazine reported on May 11, is teaching Ukrainian soldiers the construction, emplacement, and assault of fortifications and obstacles.
Ukrainian soldiers heading home in mid-May after two months’ training in Britain posted video of Swedish military instructors standing on the side of the road and saluting as the Ukrainians’ troop buses exited a base.
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