European amphibious operations capabilities

In 2000, five EU nations with the capacity for conducting amphibious operations formed an organisation called the European Amphibious Initiative (EAI). The initiators were France, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain and the UK.

"In an amphibious operation there is a need for a broad assembly of different abilities from both the Marine and from ground units", said Lieutenant Colonel Anders Bohman. Photo: Kristina Swaan/Swedish Armed Forces
Sweden periodically takes part in multinational exercises and with our unique abilities, we are an important player in different contexts. Photo: Kristina Swaan/Swedish Armed Forces
Sweden has the ability to work from an amphibious assault carrier, which was an important factor in the membership to the EAI. Photo: Kristina Swaan/Swedish Armed Forces
The Swedish-Finnish cooperation has developed into a joint amphibious force called SWEFIN ATU. Photo: Kristina Swaan/Swedish Armed Forces

The declaration of intent for the EAI was that the constituent nations would jointly strengthen European interoperability and, through joint training and exercises, optimise and improve Europe's amphibious operation capacity. The idea was that the European states would improve the amphibious operation capacity while at the same time the EAI would also contribute to improving NATO's power.

Full members and supporting member countries

Today there are five full members consisting of the initiating countries, in addition to seven supporting member countries, known as associates.
There are a number of criteria involved in becoming a full member, including the requirement to possess an amphibious assault carrier, which the five full-member nations have. Associates are required to possess a relevant, albeit limited, capacity to participate in an amphibious operation.

"Sweden's contribution to the EAI is based on a government decision, and through its support, Sweden became a supporting member in 2015. The Swedish Navy has unique abilities to operate in an archipelago environment, coastal waters, rivers and delta areas, which has made Sweden a valuable partner. The fact that the amphibious unit also has the ability to work from an amphibious assault carrier was another reason to approve Sweden as an associate. In addition, for a long time the amphibious regiment has enjoyed a close collaboration with the Netherlands, which is a full member in the EAI. Among other things, the partnership has resulted in joint exercises and also key efforts with amphibious assault carriers and combat boats in the Gulf of Aden last year. The Finnish Nylands Brigad is also an associate and another partner besides the Netherlands that our unit has been working with since the early 2000s. Together, we have developed the Swedish-Finnish Amphibious Task Unit (SWEFIN ATU), which falls within the framework of the EAI," told the Deputy Unit Chief Lieutenant Colonel Anders Bohman.

The future

The 2020 goal of the EAI is to be able to contribute with interoperable amphibious forces up to brigade level. The forces will then have the ability to support operations or independently carry out a mission of up to 30 days. To achieve this goal, the nations will regularly conduct joint training, exercises and exchanges. In 2010, a joint exercise was carried out in Senegal. This year the time has come again with the member states having been invited to participate in the exercise Emerald Move, which is being conducted in Sardinia in May. Various types of amphibious training will be the centre of focus during Emerald Move.

"For the next exercise, we plan to primarily participate with personnel from the unit. Throughout the year, the whole unit is taking part in large-scale multinational exercises, including BALTOPS, where together with other nations we can train in amphibious operations as part of the development within the EAI. A common misconception is that amphibious operations are limited to purely amphibious units, but the fact is that an amphibious operation is a joint operation that primarily includes naval units but also combat forces from both the air and ground arenas. In the future, perhaps Sweden's contribution can be increased," said Anders Bohman.