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Tuesday 6 December 2022

Drones, Nord Stream and international speculation

Since the sabotage on the Nord Stream pipelines on September 26 I have, as a result of my work on under water capability, maritime systems, threat and risk management, defence capability and emerging technology, been heavily contacted by Swedish and international media. The questions often relate to what are likely explanations to what we have seen and to what the different investigations find. At least two large challenges remain: the information is still limited and the approach used for the sabotage may have been one of the unlikely ones.

I have noticed that the knowledge on what is technically possible and what that means in terms of possible sabotage approaches as well as feasible protective measures is low. This creates large challenges especially if we want to act proactively on future threats and not just focus on the things that already has happened.

Therefore I want to promote the Master’s program Innovation, Defence and Security, if you want to contribute to creating solutions for a safer world. Next time to apply is no later than January 16.

Read more here and make the society’s defence and security your business!

The Master’s programme Innovation, Defence and Security provides you with a systems understanding of the systems that contribute to a society’s defence and security. You will study how these systems are developed and used, and how organizations and technical components interact.

The program is interdisciplinary with a sociotechnical perspective and the program focus on problem-solving.

Or are you looking for a journal article, read this one on military organisations and emerging technologies and how unmanned systems find a role in future navies by Therese Tärnholm and Hans Liwång in Journal of Military Studies.


Tärnholm, T. & Liwång, H. (2022). Military organisations and emerging technologies – How do unmanned systems find a role in future navies? Journal of Military Studies.

Styrishave, N. (18 Nov 2022). Svenske efterforskere finder rester af sprængstof og bekræfter sabotage på Nord Stream.

Mackrael, K. & Hirtenstein, A (18 Nov 2022) Explosives Found in Vicinity of Nord Stream Blasts, Sweden Says.

Thursday 14 April 2022

Need to dig deeper to find out more about drone incidents

The Swedish Chief Prosecutor has now commented on the drone incidents over Swedish nuclear plants in January 2022. This after that the preliminary investigation has been discontinued because they have not been able to tie any person or organization to the incidents. Additionally, the police has not been able to establish if the flights were initiated by another state or not. However, they state that:

- In some of the cases, it has been established that this are professional drones or drones used for industrial use. This is based, among other things, on the speed and size of the drones.

They therefore rule out hobby pilots. I am personally skeptical to this finding, given the limited information the police have nothing can be ruled out. The knowledge and power of hobbies is impressive, the finical power and knowledge needed for the hobby pilot to hack commercial professional drones or to build your own “professional drone” is accessible to enough people. I may also argue that such a hobby is more constructive and less risky than for example illegal street racing (which is something we know is happening).

Drones is an example of technology that blur the lines, not only between civilian and military, but also between prank and military violation, and between the so called military operating domains air, land, cyber, electronic warfare and cognition etc. This is very much proven by the non-professional, but very capable, Aerorozvidka group in Ukraine supporting the Ukraine defense forces with drone operations. This is a fact known by military powers, but our thinking is still too much fixed in a past where it was fruitful to draw lines between military and civilian technology. Without more information gathered at the instance of a drone flight, the possibility to find the person or organization responsible and the intent is down to extreme luck. At least two things are needed:

  • Increase the risk involved for the person or organization behind the incidents (so that fewer are prepared to take the risk and the number of possible suspects are reduced).
  • During the flight gather more information about the drone, its activity, and the takeoff and landing site(s).

The first bullet point can be supported by the second, but also potentially by taking down the drone (in a way that pose a low risk to others).

For a civilian, but valuable and strategic, and stationary installation such as a nuclear power plant installing systems that automatically can gather more information at the time of a drone incident is possible and feasible. The system should be able to detect small flying objects, but also to record any signals from or to the drone. Only with this extended information, about signals, type of signals or absence of signals, is it possible to classify the drone and to say something about the intent of the flight. It will also increase the possibility to act against the persons launching or retrieving the drone.

This text draw from the following sources:

  • Swedish news reports on the drone flights over Swedish nuclear plants in January 2022, especially Filmer visar dronare över svenska karnkraftverk.
  • International news reports on the Aerorozvidka group, their activity and their drones.
  • Black, J., Lynch, A., Gustafson, K., Blagden, D., Paille, P., & Quimbre, F. (2022). Multi-Domain Integration in Defence, Conceptual Approaches and Lessons from Russia, China, Iran and North Korea (p. 97). RAND Europe.

Wednesday 26 January 2022

Defense development: The role of co-creation in filling the gap between policy-makers and technology development

There is a gap between policy-makers and technology development. This gap leads to risks concerning nontechnical system properties and ineffective interactions between technical and social components.

My study investigates co-creation between government, industry, and academia and how nontechnical system properties and interactions between technical and social components are considered in the early phase design of systems for security and defense. Co-creation is here understood as a specific form of research collaboration facilitating results that would not have been possible without a joint approach between policy-makers and technology development. Throughout the analysis, an example of AI and air defense is used as a case to exemplify the challenges and solutions discussed.

The study analyses how higher education institutions can create an arena for relevance, rigor and design joining the hard perspectives of the industry with the soft perspectives of policy, social and critical sciences. The study identifies that involved parties must acknowledge the need for a pragmatic relationship to traditional scientific traditions to capture the multitude of perspectives present. It is identified that the proposed co-creation can contribute to articulating societal challenges, conflicting values, and alternative design principles into the solution at early concept design phases.

Co-creation could also be an arena for joint development of the more specific design approaches needed for later design steps. However, this contribution depends on an openness to the challenges and knowledge gaps and that higher education institutions maintain their autonomy.

Read more, cite and download the article: Hans Liwång (2022) Defense development: The role of co-creation in filling the gap between policy-makers and technology development. Technology in Society 68, 1-10, 101913,

(I would translate "research co-creation" into "forskningssamverkan" in Swedish)

Tuesday 18 January 2022

Drones over Swedish installations of importance

I’ve, during the beginning of 2022, been involved in the discussions on the implications of that drones, and sometimes big drones, have been sighted above Swedish installations of importance such as such as nuclear plants and the Royal Castle.

About this much can be said and the reasons for these incidents are so far not uncloaked and may remain so. Most often unsuitable drone flights are a result of mistakes and not antagonistic intent. However, it cannot be assumed that is the case also these times.

Compared to traditional threats there are some important aspects that govern drone incidents.

  • No borders between civilian and military activity.
  • Low entry cost/effort.
  • Low risks associated with the operation.

These three aspects lead to that the number of potential persons and organizations that has the capability and possibility to perform an attack are many and varying.

For many installations drones does not pose a particularly potent threat, but the possible high frequency of drone flights and incidents still lead to that the problem needs to be taken seriously.

It is only one of the three aspects above that can be affected by protection and that is to increase the risk associated with antagonistic drone flights. Such protections measures during peace time need to be implemented with low cost and low risk to other activity and third persons. The measures also need to be effective. To be able to early detect, disturb and jam drones can potentially change the number of incidents drastically. For some events and sites such measures are standard.

Saturday 29 August 2020

Difficult, but sorted out – oil on board the wreck of Finnbirch

In my research on intact stability the loss of the ship Finnbirch has been an example of the urgency of balancing operational and design stability measures in order to increase the safety at sea, in Swedish waters, but also internationally. Read more here and here.

The wreck was also high on the Swedish list of wrecks that needed to be drained of oil in order to avoid further environmental damage (see also earlier post on the environmental risk from wrecks off Sweden). However, the work of draining the vessel of oil was not straight forward. This because Finnbirch is located at a depth of almost eighty meters.

Now in the summer of 2020 the wreck is drained of 88 cubic meters of heavy oil (see article in Swedish here). According to the Danish company tasked with the work it has it has been cold - and sometimes too poor visibility. In order to get the thick oil out, they have had to heat it with steam. The divers could only be down at the wreck for about 25 minutes and then it took at least two hours to get them to the surface.

Friday 21 February 2020

Piracy statistics for Africa 1992-2019

I have over the last months gotten questions from Swedish media about the recent piracy attacks on ships off West Africa. Piracy off West Africa has been a large and real problem since at least the end of the 90-tees. I have as a result of the interview updated my graph based IMB statistics, see picture below.

Monday 12 November 2018

Can a “physics based” approach capture safety of a ship’s operation? (Part 2 of 2)

To widen the understanding of the risks in relation to intact stability 36 intact stability incidents at sea have been analysed. These incidents does not represent a complete list of incidents and therefore not intended to be used for calculating probabilities or frequencies. The list is used to highlight the different types of conditions and different stability failure modes that lead to an intact stability incident, the often severe consequences that follow with an intact stability incident, and the large variations in the operational conditions.

The aim is to discuss qualitative aspects of intact stability risk. Most of the incidents described are serious accidents, i.e., leading to one or more fatality, damage to the vessel that interrupt the service or vessel lost. The 36 incidents add up to more than 408 fatalities. The incidents described in Table 2 can all most often be contributed to a combination of causes and for many of the accidents the cause is uncertain.

Many of the incidents (approximately 20 out of 36) are cases were the operational condition and ship state was not according to design. For example, vessels that are over loaded and/or operated in heavy weather with hatches open potentially in combination with forces from fishing gear. Cargo shift is also common. These conditions lead to a poor recoverability after large heel angles.

For cargo vessels the cargo and ship status is generally changed under controlled circumstances (often at port). There is a potential for a high level of internal and external control. Therefore, a high level of detail in the data on the ship status is possible. On the other hand, vessels such as fishing vessels are an example of an operation where the ship status is changed at sea dynamically without external control which lead to large uncertainties.

This difference in potential control over the ship’s loading condition produce different conditions for safety work, different reliability of the passive safety designed into the craft, and different reliability as well as different need for operational safety measures. However, knowledge on safe operations, based on knowledge about the vessel’s limitations and weaknesses (edge awareness) could increase the reliability of the crew decisions taken on-board in relation to intact stability especially for ships and vessels that relatively often operate beyond the operational conditions defined during the design. Therefore, operational safety measures can be an effective approach to reach acceptable levels of safety, especially for operations with large uncertainties.

It is here argued that the conditions for operational measures differs between ship types as a result of different types of operations and different conditions for implementing the measures on-board. Therefore, it is here proposed that there is an important distinction between a ship’s general likelihood for intact stability incidents such as large roll motions (vulnerability to intact stability failures) and if the ship at a specific situation will not, when it experience an intact stability incident, return to a safe mode (recoverability after intact stability failures). Vulnerability is then typically a result of ship design whereas recoverability can be a result of ship design as well as operational aspects such as decisions taken on-board in relation to loading or unclosed hatches.
The safety introduced by design measures can deteriorate by lower control of ship condition (large uncertainties) and the resulting operations outside the design conditions.

The second-generation intact stability rules mainly investigate the vulnerability to intact stability failure for ships operating within the operational conditions. However, the ships recoverability to intact stability failure as well as other life saving measures need to be included if the safety effects of high vulnerability to intact stability failure is to be assessed. It is still not identified that high vulnerability alone is enough to introduce a safety problem according to IMOs definitions of.

Ships with high recoverability and high vulnerability includes for example modern PCTC with high possible control and specialized hull forms (that lead to vulnerability to specific intact stability failure modes) and superstructures that can contribute to high recoverability after large heel angles. For such ships high-end on-board simulations can be an effective way of supporting the master’s decisions about routing as well as manoeuvres to avoid intact stability incidents. However, as mentioned above, such on-board operational guidance is not necessarily needed to meet IMO’s safety level ambitions according to the FSA and should if that is the case not be mandatory. The operational safety measures are motivated by the aim to increase effectiveness and quality of service, i.e. with the aim to reduce injuries to personnel and damages to cargo during the incident. Suitable operational measures for these ships need to be ship specific and supported by support tools, i.e., operational guidance. Therefore, the exchange of stability knowledge between the design phase and the development of stability management support systems should be facilitated by the IMO rules.

For ships with high control and standard configuration standard operational safety measures is enough.

For ships with low recoverability and moderate to high vulnerability the uncertainty in relation to the effectiveness of engineering solutions is high (because the conditions defined during design cannot be assumed to be valid). The effective approach is most likely found in making sure that risk drivers, such as open hatches and overloading, are reduced, especially in situations when the ship is more vulnerable to intact stability incidents. In such situations decisions support, such as operational guidance, can be ineffective as a result of the limited possibility to take in the information presented by such support. Identifying and tending to risk drivers is a work that has to be performed by the whole crew by strengthening risk knowledge and risk awareness on-board thru safety management. Operational safety measures are a precondition for safe operations for this type of ships. Specific knowledge and risk management could be the primary choice for safety assurance (compare with the UK Safety Case approach for the offshore industry and the risk based approach for the Norwegian offshore industry).

A wider understanding of the terms for operational measures is needed, especially in relation to a ship’s recoverability after intact stability incidents. They cannot be judged in the same way as passive engineering solutions for safety. Such a view takes away the strength of safety solutions in the ship operation. However, the acceptable level of uncertainty varies between types of ships and especially with the ship’s recoverability after stability incidents.

Link to more info on the original article:

More articles can also be found here.