“The aim of Aurora 23 is to raise the Swedish Armed Forces’ combined ability to meet an armed attack on Sweden, and contribute to stability in the region together with others,” Lieutenant Colonel Henrik Larsson – who is in charge of planning the exercise – explained in a statement.
In recent years, Sweden has significantly enhanced its military preparedness, with steps from increasing defense spending, reviving conscription and re-militarizing its largest island, Gotland, to ditching non-alignment and applying for membership of NATO.
Sweden is set to hold its biggest military exercise in more than three decades starting from 24 April.
The three-week drill, dubbed Aurora 23, will feature some 26,000 personnel from 14 countries, including the US, the UK, Finland, Poland, Norway, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Ukraine, Denmark, Austria, Germany and France. This is more than the active Swedish military force combined.
Participating soldiers will therefore work on raising Sweden’s preparedness in the face of an attack, mobilization, as well as large-scale land, air and sea maneuvers. Perfecting Armed Forces organization is yet another goal, as the Swedish military hasn’t practiced leading brigades of around 5,000 soldiers and officers in years.
An emphasis on logistics will also be made during the drill, with new ways to control and command the movement of troops and gear being tested. Furthermore, collaboration between civil and military agencies will also be enhanced during the drill, focused successful joint action in the event of an attack on the Nordic country.
The exercise will be conducted in the air, on the ground and at sea, with the provinces of Skane, and Smaland and the Baltic island of Gotland to be particularly affected. Units all over Sweden will be involved, with battleships appearing in both Stockholm and the Gothenburg archipelagos. Although the drill will primarily use the Swedish Armed Forces’ own exercise areas and firing ranges, some of the activities will also be conducted on private land.
In recent years, Sweden has been working to step up its military preparedness. In April 2022, the Swedish parliament agreed to boost defense spending to 2 percent of GDP (up from 1.3 percent in 2021), citing Russia’s special operation in Ukraine as a pretext.
In 2022, Sweden also terminated its historic policy of military non-alignment by applying to join the NATO alliance year alongside neighboring Finland. The two neighbors initially planned to enter the alliance together, but Helsinki reached that goal first, as Stockholm’s bid ran into resistance from NATO members Hungary and Turkiye.
Earlier, Sweden returned troops to the formerly demilitarized Baltic isle of Gotland, after politicians and pundits alike identified it as a possible entry point for foreign aggression. It also abandoned a previous decision and revived conscription.