Norway's defence ministry has used a strategic defence review to underline its continued commitment to acquiring 52 Lockheed Martin F-35s, as well as outlining plans to acquire different types of manned and unmanned surveillance aircraft.
Presented by defence chief Adm Haakon Bruun-Hanssen on 1 October, the review will help inform a new long-term plan for the Norwegian armed forces expected to be released in 2016.
"We remain dependent on the timely introduction of new capabilities into our armed forces, such as the F-35,” Bruun-Hanssen said, presenting the document. “Only by completing the acquisition of 52 combat aircraft with the [Kongsberg] Joint Strike Missile will we be able to provide the full spectrum of capabilities that we need to address our future security challenges.”
Speculation had suggested that Oslo was prepared to scale back its F-35 acquisition. However, Bruun-Hanssen notes that he is “required to keep the minimum of F-35s, due to [its] importance as the future backbone of the Norwegian armed forces”.
Of the 52 required, 28 will be operational by 2020 and the other 34 by 2024 - the first F-35A for Norway, which will be based in the USA for training, was unveiled on 23 September.
The first Norwegian F-35A
"My advice to the government is to strengthen our ability to conduct surveillance and intelligence, to improve the response times of our forces, to strengthen the manning of key structural elements, while also improving our ability to protect key infrastructure," he says.
One way in which Oslo plans to bolster its intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capability is by introducing a mixed fleet of new manned and unmanned aircraft.
“Intelligence, surveillance and situational awareness is a prerequisite for solving defence tasks and creates a good basis for decisions,” the review says.
Its six-strong Lockheed Martin P-3 Orion fleet needs replacing, with the youngest example in its inventory 26 years old, according to Flightglobal’s Fleets Analyzer database.
Norway plans to begin the phased retirement of its Orions in the 2017-2020 period, while it will be completely removed from Norwegian service in the 2021-2028 timeframe.
“The maritime patrol aircraft P-3 Orion is a capable structural element which provides important information, but the system requires significant updates, and for economic reasons cannot be given priority,” the review says.
Additionally, two Dassault Falcon 20s that Norway uses for electronic warfare operations, both of which are nearing 50 years of age, will also be phased out and replaced by 2024.
A combination of satellite-based sensors plus manned and unmanned surveillance platforms will replace the P-3 and DA-20, it says, with four new ISR aircraft – assumed to be manned – operational by 2024.
The review adds that six medium-altitude, long-endurance unmanned air vehicles will be operational by 2024, along with six tactical UAVs.
Norwegian ministry of defence
Norway has also confirmed its plans to acquire a new rotorcraft type for its special forces to replace its 18-strong fleet of Bell Helicopter 412s.
Nine replacement rotorcraft are due to be operational by 2024, with the AgustaWestland AW101 - already selected by Norway for search and rescue missions - and the NH Industries NH90 - presently operated by the Royal Norwegian Air Force - expected to be pitched for the special operations requirement.