Submarines: German–Swedish tensions
14 Apr 2014|

At last week’s submarine conference, the following exchange took place between Dr Hans Christoph Atzpodien of TKMS and RADM (Rtd) Göran Larsbrink of Sweden, prompted by a question from the floor. Given the potential contribution of German and Swedish industry players to project SEA 1000, and given recent press interest, we thought it worth presenting the discussion in its entirety.

Errors and omissions excepted

Kym Bergmann (Asia Pacific Defence Reporter):

…to Dr Atzpodien, we read in the European media that there’s a high level of unhappiness between TKMS and your Swedish subsidiary Kockums. Could you please comment on this for us?

Hans Christoph Atzpodien:

Just coming back to your question, actually as everybody knows we are the 100% owner of Kockums in Sweden, which in the meantime is renamed into TKMS AB. We have been invited to acquire it 15 years ago, and unfortunately now as Sweden has engaged in a national submarine program called A26 it seems that we are no longer wanted as a foreign owner— that is our perception. Of course we would have been open to any discussions and fair solutions to this new situation, but there was not much of talking—recently there was much more of, let’s say, force to deprive us of our basic ownership rights, and I can only hope that this will come to an amicable solution. Finally, at least I can say we are open for talks and have offered this various times, and I hope we will have a good solution for that in time because we feel first and foremost a responsibility also for the employees of the company.

Göran Larsbrink:

My name is Göran Larsbrink, retired Rear Admiral from Sweden. Normally there would have been speakers from Sweden here today, but there are reasons for not being here, and it’s just recently that the information about what’s going on has become public, and therefore I think it’s appropriate to mention a little bit about what’s going on since this has an influence on Australia’s choices.

And Sweden is today in a process to resume command over its own naval industry and thereby its own future. And this industry is classified as being of essential national security interests. As wrong as it was to sell Kockums to HDW in 1999, as right it is today to take it back and resume control. In doing so Sweden will be in control of and have the capability to design, produce and operate our own submarines, as well as to cooperate with whom Sweden wants to cooperate with in order to meet national security interests, all under the umbrella of government-to-government agreements. And in this Sweden possess all relevant IP and use it as we want, together with whom Sweden wants, and there is no one else that can use it without permission from our Government.

What is going on now is a swift and determined transition of submarine design and production competence from former Kockums to Saab. The infrastructure for production can and will be solved in different ways. The submarine program A26 is terminated, but instead the project NGS—Next Generation Submarine—will arise like a bird phoenix. Furthermore, there is a political will to substantially increase Sweden’s defence budget—thank you Mr Putin—including an increase of our submarine force from four to five submarines. And in this, the Government, the Opposition, all the defence authorities and the industry (meaning Saab) are agreed upon and are fully committed that it shall be done [inaudible] and successfully.

Hans Christoph Atzpodien:

Please allow me to just comment on this. Mr Larsbrink I think this is a surprising statement. You have to recognise first of all we are the legitimate owner of the company and we are living all together inside the EU, and I rate it quite surprising if you state here that you just take it back. We could, I was not going more deeply into that upon the question I was asked, but with this statement I have to because the measures to take it back resulted in hiring massively our skilled people without telling us, taking away the business licence or putting it on hold, not providing us with any further orders for shipyard in total and thereby destroying the industrial base and the employment base for almost a thousand people, and this is something which we cannot see in line with legal actions and we cannot see in line with responsibility for a company and for the employees.