On 24 April, war breaks out in Sweden. Instability has spread in society in the past week; the drinking water has been contaminated in some areas, there is a shortage of cash and the electricity comes and goes.
In mid-April, hired military personnel as well as conscripts are mobilised. On 24 April, the government makes the decision, with a subsequent order from the Supreme Commander, to raise preparedness.
And so, the most comprehensive defence exercise yet to be conducted begins; the three-week long Aurora 23. Some 30 000 individuals, nearly all Swedish military personnel, units from 14 other countries as well as a large number of civilian actors will participate.
“The large international participation is a strong characteristic of this exercise”, says exercise director, Brigadier General Stefan Andersson.
Aurora 23 is very similar to the exercise intended for 2020 that had to be postponed due to the pandemic. The 2020 exercise was also planned with large international participation in mind and Stefan Andersson explains that it is important in several respects.
“Several of these countries will come and support us, should matters come to a head. We have to practise Host Nation Support, i.e. how we receive assistance from other countries, as well as cooperation at all levels, from staff work procedures to battle. But the exercise also sends an important signal that we are an actor to be reckoned with in security policy” he says.
We attend a meeting at the Armed Forces Command and Control Regiment, with representatives of all participating units. During the three-day long meeting, all phases of the exercises will be run through. On a gigantic map, markers are placed to indicate the locations of units at different times. In short, the exercise follows a scenario in which the opponent will initiate subversive operations, i.e. interference and sabotage activities in society, and then moves on to various armed attacks. The exercise is conducted all over Sweden, with a focus on the southernmost parts of the country, including Gotland.
The exercise features concern everything from transportation to combat on the ground, at sea and in the air. Initially, US units carrying materiel are to be moved from the Norwegian border near Trondheim, down to southern Sweden. In Vesterhavet and the Baltic Sea, coastal defence is exercised and in southern Sweden, British and American units participate in air defence exercises, when Polish aircraft attack targets.
“The current security policy situation and the fact that Sweden is about to become a NATO member has not affected the exercise significantly”, says exercise director Stefan Andersson. He stresses that the Swedish Armed Forces is able to shift from exercise into a live situation, should matters take a turn for the worse.
Aurora will end on 23 May 2023.