Formative Norwegian plans to acquire an unmanned air vehicle capability will play a vital role in the country establishing a joint intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition and reconnaissance (ISTAR) unit, according to its defence ministry.

The Norwegian armed forces plan to use a leased tactical UAV system during the major Battle Griffin exercise early next year, with the demonstration expected to aid its definition of requirements for a NKr500 million ($74 million) acquisition due to start later next year.

The defence ministry has established a target date of 2008-9 to field its planned ISTAR UAV capability, and Norwegian chief of defence Gen Sigurd Frisvold says: "Hopefully we will be able to invest in UAVs as soon as possible."

EMT's Luna is considered a leading candidate to fulfil the lease requirement, although the defence ministry has yet to define whether it will request the purchase of a tactical, medium- or high-altitude UAV system.

Oslo already has experience in assessing unmanned technologies, with the military's Norwegian Battle Lab Experiment having completed a series of demonstrations using a piloted aircraft equipped with reconnaissance sensors controlled from the ground via datalink.

If completed, the joint UAV acquisition will expand on the Norwegian air force's existing ISTAR capabilities, which comprise its Lockheed Martin P-3 Orion surveillance aircraft and Lockheed Martin Pantera targeting pod-equipped F-16 fighters.

The defence ministry says another ISTAR capability gap yet to be addressed covers its unfunded aspiration to acquire a nationally-owned satellite reconnaissance capability.

Source: Flight International