Gotland air defence is reinforced

Air defence missile system 23 has now regained its former strength. It was put in the materiel reserve a few years ago, but now it is back on the island.

Eldenhet 23
Launch unit 23 is the part of Missile system 23 that launches the surface-to-air missile. Photo: SAAB
Eldenhet 23
Missile vehicle can be towed by any type of pulling vehicle. Photo: Swedish Defence Materiel Administration
Eldenhet 23
On the roof of the missile vehicle is mounted a gun carriage with six launch-ready missiles and an extendable eight-meter tall mast with command radar and IR camera. Photo: Swedish Defence Materiel Administration

Air defence system 23 is a medium-range air defence that started to be developed in the 1990s and was ready in the early 2000s. One unit was trained at the Air Defence Regiment (LV6) in the town of Halmstad, but was never introduced to the then military organisation of the Swedish Armed Forces. Instead the equipment was put in the materiel reserve. Now, it has been re-activated and will be placed in Gotland.

The part of the system that launches the surface-to-air missile is called Launch unit 23, a missile vehicle that can be towed by any pulling vehicle. An operator and a sniper can fit into the vehicle, on the roof is mounted a gun carriage with six launch-ready missiles, as well as an extendable eight-meter tall mast, equipped with command radar and IR camera. The launch unit can be linked to the central reconnaissance radar, Intelligence unit 23, but it can also operate independently if necessary.

In March, Saab delivered updated Launch unit 23 to the Swedish Defence Materiel Administration.

“The system has now been tested at Saab in Karlskoga, and it is working. This update does not provide more capability; to a layman it can best be described as a service. They have been checked at delivery and handed over to the Swedish Armed Forces”, says Mikael Frisell, head of Army Materiel at the Swedish Defence Materiel Administration.

The serviced launch units will be part of the ground-based air defence.

“They are a reinforcement of the air defence as we will now have even more units available. By using already existing resources more effectively this is part of the Armed Forces’ growth. The update of Launch unit 23 can i.e. be compared to the use and update of Air Defence Missile System 15”, says Colonel Mikael Beck, head of the Air Defence Regiment.

In 2016, the Navy reintroduced the anti-ship air defence missile system 15.  The system was recreated by using parts of a formerly scrapped battery, as well as parts from discontinued vessels.

Air defence missile system 23 is now reintroduced and will be placed in Gotland.

“The tactical use of the updated units will be decided by the head of the units where they are deployed. In this case, the Gotland Regiment”, says Mikael Beck.

In 2008, the Swedish Armed Forces started to train conscript soldiers in the system.

“Currently, we will not be training conscript soldiers in this system. The Swedish Armed Forces will use the available personnel resources that are already trained in Launch unit 23”, says Mikael Beck.

The reintroduction of the missile system entails a considerable reinforcement of the Gotland air defence capability.