Norway is to acquire a fleet of “long-range” uncrewed air vehicles (UAVs) for maritime surveillance missions as part of a proposed long-term increase in defence spending.

Oslo announced on 5 April that it would spend NKr600 billion ($56 billion) more on defence over the next 12 years – for a total budget of NKr1.6 trillion – in the period until 2036 as part of its “Norwegian Defence Pledge”.

Norway P-8-c-Norwegian defence ministry

Source: Norwegian defence ministry

Oslo is to acquire a simulator to support P-8 fleet

Cognisant of its “considerable maritime interests” and “immediate proximity to Russia’s nuclear submarine force”, Oslo says “maintaining situational awareness in the High North and in the North Atlantic is paramount”.

While much of the planned spending will be allocated for naval assets – including new frigates and submarines – multiple new aircraft are also listed in the proposals.

Highest profile among these is the acquisition of new UAVs for maritime patrol operations.

“To strengthen situational awareness, the armed forces will procure, as part of international co-operation with allies, long-range drones with sensors and systems for monitoring maritime areas of interest in the north,” the document states.

Norway is already buying a five-strong fleet of manned Boeing P-8 Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft, and as part of the latest proposals will also add a simulator for the type to be based at Evenes.

In addition, Oslo will purchase a new fleet of anti-submarine warfare helicopters, to replace the capability gap left by the early retirement of its NH Industries NH90 fleet.

“Maritime helicopters with anti-submarine warfare capability will be procured to operate as part of the frigate system,” it says.

Norway has already signed for six Sikorsky MH-60Rs as replacements for the NH90s it used for coastguard support operations.

Bell 412 Norway-c-Norwegian defence ministry

Source: Norwegian defence ministry

Norway had been planning to extend life of some Bell 412s for at least 15 years

New rotorcraft will also be acquired for the army and special forces, the document says, throwing into doubt the scope of a planned upgrade for the current inventory of Bell 412s.

Oslo in 2023 announced that it had pushed back the acquisition of new special-forces helicopters and was instead proceeding with an upgrade of nine of its 18-strong 412 fleet.

Originally slated for retirement in 2026, the elderly helicopters were expected to soldier on for at least another 15 years, but that period seems to have been reduced to around five years following an interim upgrade.

Norway says “a sufficient number of Bell 412s will be upgraded to maintain readiness” until new helicopters are in place, which it wants to acquire as soon as practicable.

The plan to upgrade the 412s went against the advice of the head of the armed forces, who said that the most cost-effective strategy would be to standardise Norway’s helicopter inventory around a single type.

Norway will also purchase an additional Lockheed Martin C-130J, the report discloses.

“The plan commits this government, future governments and the parliament over time,” says Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Store.

“It provides predictability and long-term stability for people and investments in the armed forces, and this commitment sends an important signal to our allies and others.” The proposals will now be put before parliament for approval.

This story has been updated with additional information on the Bell 412 upgrade.