RNorAF F-35As Norway CREDIT Ministry of Defence of Norway

Frontline Tech: What Is The Extent Of Norway's Military Power?

RNorAF F-35As Norway CREDIT Ministry of Defence of Norway

Royal Norwegian Air Force F-35As over the Rondane mountain range (Picture: Ministry of Defence of Norway)

By David Hambling, technology expert

The deployment of hundreds of Royal Marines to Norway for a training exercise highlights the continuing importance of the country and its location on a new front line.

Climate change is opening up the Northern Sea Route for shipping, and at the same time, Russia is starting to exploit resources in the Arctic and is beefing up its military presence accordingly.

Norway is a small nation; its population of five million is smaller than Scotland's.

One-third of Norway is within the Arctic Circle and 10% of its population live there, so it is no surprise that the NATO Centre of Excellence for Cold Weather Operations is based in the country.

It is easy to see Norway mainly as a training centre and staging post, given that the country's most famous military installation is the cave complex outside Trondheim used for storing US military equipment.

Norway Gunners Trondheim CREDIT Ministry of Defence of Norway
Norwegian gunners carrying out force protection in the port of Trondheim (Picture: Ministry of Defence of Norway)

The caves, which were purpose-built in 1982, hold hundreds of vehicles, munitions and other gear, and are maintained by the Norwegians.

Originally the aim was simply to store equipment for American forces so they could deploy rapidly to the area, but since then the caves have supplied equipment to other theatres including Iraq and Afghanistan.

The caves would play a significant role in any US deployment to Europe in wartime.

Military planners are currently looking at increasing the caves capacity and doubling or tripling the equipment stored there.

However, Norway is not simply an arms dump, but a player in its own right, especially when it comes to Arctic warfare.

Norwegian Army Winter Exercise CREDIT Ministry of Defence of Norway
The Norwegian Army's non-commissioned officer school on a winter exercise (Picture: Ministry of Defence of Norway)

A new Smart Defence policy has placed priority on the region known as the High North to counter any potential threat.

Since 2009 the Norwegian Army’s headquarters has been in the Arctic town of Bodø, more than 1,000 miles north of the capital Oslo.

The Norwegian Navy operates anti-submarine Fridtjof Nansen-class frigates and Skjold corvettes able to work in Arctic conditions, while an expanded air base at Evenes, also inside the Arctic circle, will host a force of new F-35 fighters.

On a recent Trident Juncture exercise, the frigate Helge Ingstad collided with an oil tanker and sank (work is underway to raise the frigate, but it is likely to be written off).

Helge Ingstad Bergen Norway CREDIT Ministry of Defence of Norway
HNoMS Helge Ingstad lays on the island 'Sotra' off Bergen (Picture: Ministry of Defence of Norway).

Air defence for the northern bases is provided by the National Advanced Surface to Air Missile System (NASAMS), a uniquely Norwegian development.

NASAMS is a network-centric system with a variety of radar and other sensors (electro-optical and infra-red) all networked together, along with surface-to-air missile launchers.

One of NASAMS unusual features is that it uses an Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile (AMRAAM), originally designed to be launched from aircraft.

NASAMS can be transported by truck or rail and is effective against aircraft, helicopters, cruise missiles and drones.

The Norwegian Army’s High North defences will include battalions equipped with CV-90 armoured infantry combat vehicles and Leopard 2 tanks.

The infantry vehicles are fitted with another Norwegian development from Kongsberg, the M151 Protector Remote Weapon Station.

This is a miniature robot turret, sitting on top of the main turret operated from inside the vehicle, with a video camera and other sensors.

It can mount a .50 calibre machine gun or other weapons, plus smoke grenade launchers.

As the name suggests, Protector is intended to provide better crew protection that the traditional arrangement of a top-mounted machine-gun operated by an exposed gunner.

Like NASAMS, the M151 has also found an export market.

Black Hornet Nano Helicopter UAV MOD
A Black Hornet nano helicopter unmanned aerial vehicle (Picture: MOD).

Norway is also at the forefront of the small drone revolution.

Norwegian company Prox Dynamics first flew its Black Hornet PD-100 micro-helicopter in 2008.

At less than 20g, and with a rotor diameter of 10cm, it was by far the smallest military drone in the world. 

The great breakthrough was stability, using techniques which the company originally developed for flying toys to enable it to fly in winds of fifteen knots which would blow other drones away.

Since then the Black Hornet has gone through several generations.

In addition to being used by the Norwegian Army, it is in service with at least 18 other countries.

In spite of its small size, the Black Hornet is fitted with both thermal and daylight imaging daylight cameras.

It is virtually silent and can beam back images from several hundred metres away during a flight of up to twenty-five minutes.

The British Army used the system in Afghanistan.

While Norway may not be a major military power, it is in a strategically important location. And, in terms of military technology, it punches well above its weight.

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