Simple definitions don’t work in the littoral. To say the littoral is simply “coastal waters” or “from the 12-mile limit to the high-tide waterline” fails to consider the complexity of the seaboard,
where a sophisticated understanding of the environment — on, above and beneath the sea — is necessary
for successful military operations.
A description is more useful. According to Dr. Kalev
Sepp, director of the Naval Postgraduate School’s
Littoral Operations Center, “the littoral is where
hydrography, geography, commerce, fishing, mining,
political boundaries and claims, and military maneu-
ver and sustainment issues converge, to complicate
both the offense and the defense, and to place excep-
tional demands on naval, aerial and land forces that
Sweden’s littoral environment creates operating
challenges for the Royal Swedish Navy. It has not only
adapted, but evolved to excel in what is described as
the “extreme littoral.”
Driven by the small size of Sweden’s armed forces
and the extent and intricacy of its coastline, the coun-
try has integrated all its services in a comprehensive
littoral anti-access system.
“The Swedes have achieved a
degree of jointness that, given our
force reductions, we would do well
to closely examine,” Sepp said.
“The littoral environment can
mean several things to us. It is the
archipelago around Stockholm, and
it is the Baltic, and it is the waters on
the west coast of Sweden,” said Capt.
Magnus Jönsson, commander of
Sweden’s Third Naval Flotilla. “These
are all littoral environments — as
opposed to the blue-ocean area like
the Atlantic — but they are not the
same. When we talk about littoral
warfare, the Baltic is the open sea
from our perspective. The more extreme littoral would be
the archipelago, starting, more or less, at the beaches.”
Jönsson said the underwater situation in the Baltic
is especially challenging.
“Salinity, temperature, different layers, currents in one
direction on the surface, and three meters down, there’s a
totally different direction of the current. There are not
many other nations in the world that have to deal with
that kind of environment as their natural habitat,” he said.
It’s also a busy area for maritime trade.
“If you look upon our specific environment here in the
Baltic area and on the west coast of Sweden, we have a
very heavy and busy traffic situation,” said Rear Adm. Jan
Thörnqvist, chief of staff of the Royal Swedish Navy. “At
any given moment, we have about 2,000 to 3,000 normal-sized cargo ships underway in these waters around
Sweden and the Baltic area. Last year, we had about
22,000 ships passing north from Denmark into this area,
and approximately the same going out. So it’s a complex
area, with close distances and short reaction times. We
have specialized our units to operate in this type of area;
even though we don’t have that many today,” he said.
The ‘Extreme Littoral’
Swedish naval forces must dominate in a challenging environment
By EDWARD LUNDQUIST, Special Correspondent
Comprehensive Anti-access System
Sweden has independently developed state-of-the-art solutions,
optimized for the littoral and extreme littoral, to defend the nation
and meet international obligations.
; The global littorals are a “conflict accelerant.”
; The Baltic offers a challenging combination of salinity, temperature and currents.
; Sweden has specialized ships and systems with highly trained
crews able to perform the full spectrum of surface warfare in the