Imagine you're playing a game of Risk. While everyone else is busy squabbling with their neighbors, you take each turn to quietly bolster your army. You sit back and build up while making friends with the right people so you can focus on your own military. This has been Sweden's plan for the last two hundred years.
Now, Sweden doesn't compete when it comes to military expenditure — they're near the bottom of the list for developed nations. The entirety of their troops, active, guard, and paramilitary, could fit inside a single arena in Stockholm. And they've even made non-alignment pacts during every major conflict in modern history, so battle-hardened leaders are hard to come by.
Despite this, they're strong allies with all NATO nations and they've sent many military observers to Afghanistan as apart of the ISAF. (Photo by Pfc. Han-byeol Kim)
Sweden's strength comes from their mastery of technology. Particularly, in three key elements of warfare: speed, surveillance, and stealth.
One of their greatest military advances is the Saab Gripen JAS 39E, a state-of-the-art aircraft that is much cheaper than its peers. The Gripen has mastered super-cruise flight, which is the ability to fly at supersonic speeds without the use of afterburners. It is also equipped with one of the world's leading active electronically scanned array systems and will soon lead the world in combining aircraft with electronic warfare capabilities.
Vikings in the air. Great. Just what the world needed. (Swedish Armed Forces)
But their advanced technology doesn't start and end with the Gripens. The next keystone of their arsenal is the unbelievable advancements they've made in drone technology, culminating in the SKELDAR UAV helicopter. It can carry a 40kg payload and remain in the air for up to 6 hours, which is amazing its size and cost.
The sleek rotary wing design for a UAV also gives it much more control over the battlefield when compared fixed wing aircraft. Once the SKELDAR locks onto a target, it won't ever let it out of its sights.
At only 4 meters in length, it's can go undetected when it's a kilometer in the air. (Swedish Armed Forces)
As impressive as these are, Sweden's biggest military boast is their war-games victory over the US Navy in 2005 when the HMS Gotland "defeated" the USS Ronald Reagan. The HMS Gotland, and all other attack submarines in the Gotland-class, are the stealthiest submarines in the ocean. This is because it was designed entirely to counter means of detection.
It's the only submarine class to use air-independent propulsion by way of the Stirling engine. Its passive sonar system is so advanced that it can detect which nationality an unknown ship belongs to simply by identifying the operating frequency of the alternating current used in its power systems. It does all of this while remaining completely undetectable to the might of even the United States Navy.
It's cool though. Sweden's Navy is a strong ally. (Photo by Photographer's Mate 1st Class Michael Moriatis)