Indeed, Norwegian defence exports have more than tripled since 2000, as Alliance countries seek to trim logistics for more punch. Norway, too, has bought more, as security concerns grow to include terror plotters, illegal fishing, peacekeeping near hot conflicts and the potential need to stare down threats to arctic energy supplies.
Norway buys NOK 6 billion a year in locally produced military goods and services. This is the product of 5,000 people who work in the defence industry, and Norwegian producers are world leading in providing quality military equipment. A core of large producers, a handful of medium-sized firms and a great many smaller companies have changed the way Norway deploys troops at home and in far-away crises.
Close cooperation with the Armed Forces and the Defence Research Establishment, or FFI, has helped make Norwegian suppliers world leaders in the manufacture of advanced composite materials, sensor technology, simulators, electronic optics, data security and cryptography, command and control systems and advanced ordnance. Flexible deployment is the dividend, as “less becomes more.”
For the Norwegian soldier, high-tech tools and training work hand-in-glove with allies and partners. In fact, Norwegian soldiers are often wearing high-technology.
The cadres of foreign troops seen in Norway’s airports bear testimony to the new importance of the Nordic country as a training centre. While it’s significant that parts of northern Norway can look like Afghanistan, especially in the rugged north, coastal Norway is home to NATO’s Joint Warfare Centre in Stavanger.
NATO’s transformation into a modern, electronically networked alliance has partly happened at the Stavanger centre, where Afghanistan-bound commanders and alliance officers from Eastern Europe learn command and control on the inside of the alliance.
In the field, command and control has become a Norwegian technological specialty, and a number of domestic players offer secure lines of communications. The NOK 2.7-trillion-a-year Kongsberg Defence & Aerospace offers a wide range of high-speed kit for data and voice transmission in a tactical environment. Kongsberg Comms and encryption are in use by armies and air forces around the world. The company’s training simulators for individuals or units have helped rid Norway of large Cold War military bases.
Kitron manufactures a wide range of products.
Norway’s proximity to the Arctic means much military kit is tested in severe weather. The Kitron Group of companies employs its 1.200 employees in Norway and Sweden to contract produce all-weather command and control systems for European and U.S. missiles and avionics.
Sea-to-shore lines of communications are secured by compatriot firm Electronicon and its extra radio control for electronics-heavy environments, as at sea aboard submarines. This outfit’s product range includes formatters, converters and buffers of digital data.
When there is no satellite link or area digital network, when they are disabled or when travelling aboard fast craft, COMROD antennas and masts restore comms. A ride aboard a commando craft travelling at 40 knots reveals how elite soldiers (wearing Helly Hansen camouflaged dry-wet suits) can disassemble two 14- and 20-foot whip antennas in less than a minute − just as the Norwegian-made assault craft pass beneath a viaduct near the coastal city of Bergen.
International cooperation has inspired a Norwegian effort to make a soldier’s clothing and kit contribute to better command and control, both in the rank and file and among senior commanders.
The Norwegian Modular Arctic Network Soldier system, or NORMANS, is a command and control pilot project to connect every soldier and his or her vital signs to the chain of command for a real-time understanding of battlefield conditions. This unique gear is being developed under the FFI’s R&D umbrella of network-based combat systems. The Norwegian Armed Forces have helped develop the concept.
“The soldier’s performance … is increased based on an improved situational awareness, better protection [and an] emphasis on human factors,” an FFI document explains, adding that NATO insists the system, like all advanced NATO weapons systems, delivers “lethality, survivability, sustainability and mobility.”
Even the personal accoutrement of the Norwegian soldier has benefited from the willingness of Norwegian companies like NFM, or Norsk Forsvarsmateriell, to seek out and develop the toughest, most comfortable clothing and kit, including ballistic vests. NFM is well-networked with other NATO ballistic technology companies through the marketing association Protec Alliance.
Ballistic vests are also the subject of R&D overseen by the FFI and carried out by the Armed Forces and FREC Thermoplastic in the fortress town of Fredrikstad. The aim is to develop lightweight ceramic plates for bullet-proof vests and flak jackets by lining the material with a composite-fibre armour. Special, shock-absorbent material on the plate’s backside is designed to help troops withstand direct hits.
The FREC protection also falls under the NORMANS system’s plan to remake a soldier’s passive accoutrement into kit that helps his cause. Another NORMANS system is a 2 to 2.5-litre plastic drinking bladder worn in the small of a soldier’s back, under or over the new ceramic-based combat vests. As a soldier sips from its long tube, the sack empties of air for better hygiene and battlefields free of strewn water bottles. Norway’s tech-savvy Telemark Battalion in northern Afghanistan is testing the system in the arid heat of an Afghan summer and gives its thumbs-up.
A final NORMANS complement is the battle helmet built by Techni with a projectile-proof visor that tucks beneath the brim and a jaw protector of bullet-proof material.
Simrad Optronics rounds out the modern Norwegian soldier’s fighting effects with night vision equipment and laser rangefinders for direct-firing weapons. Special Forces and infantry use the GN range of night-vision goggles, said to be the most compact on the market.
Apart from testing kit, the Telemark Battalion protects reconstruction teams and a Norwegian field hospital in Farvab Province as part of a 560-strong Norwegian contingent.
The force also includes a 150-man commando unit operating from a secret base near Kabul in support of other troops of the International Stabilization Force inside the city. While patrolling to keep the Taliban out of the capital, the special unit trains elite Afghan soldiers tasked with reigning in the resurgent Taliban.
“It has become more and more dangerous in the last few months,” Vice Admiral Jan Reksten told newspaper Aftenposten from NATO’s Joint Warfare Centre near Stavanger.
Afghanistan has become so dangerous, that many a peacekeeping force arrives in the war-torn country protected by armoured personnel carriers, or APCs, fitted with Kongsberg Defence & Aerospace’s PROTECTOR automatic-cannon system (crew-served from inside the APC). The Army’s Air Defence Battalion, KD&A and Kongsberg Protech have also begun work toward combining PROTECTOR and the Air Force’s air defence system, NASAMS.
The well-equipped Telemark Battalion training with NATO during the Cold Response 2007 manoeuvres.
While ISAF battles the Taliban and Al-Qaeda for hearts and minds, ordinary Afghans incensed by civilian casualties have marched on military bases in protest. Demonstrations in Bosnia and Kosovo have also shown the potential for harm in clashes with soldiers.
To help soldiers with minimal crowd-control training, the Norwegian Defence Department recently put NOK 50 million into programs to find the best non-lethal weapons. Norway, through the FFI, has joined a NATO scientific effort under the Joint Non-Lethal Weapons Directorate to find weapons “explicitly designed and developed to incapacitate or repel personnel with a low probability of fatality or permanent injury, or to disable equipment.” Using Doppler Radar, defence researchers have tested crowd-control devices on behalf of the 800 Norwegians serving abroad. The search is on for projectiles with minimum effective ranges of from 50 metres against individuals to 100 metres against groups.
Norwegian airborne surveillance and monitoring is helped by the country’s large telecommunications and cryptographic companies, with Thales Norway among them.
When Orion surveillance planes patrol the Norwegian littoral and territorial waters in support of the coastguard or navy, the monitoring of vast areas is managed by Thales’ modern IP technology ACEcom.
This VCS, or Voice (and data) Communication System, was chosen by NATO for its Air Command Control System. Should war break out, the system would securely manage the network traffic generated by the Alliance’s airborne armada and ground installations. ACEcom would also allow for the control of Norwegian air elements sent in support of tiny Iceland in the North Atlantic.
After the shut-down of its NATO base at Keflevik airport, Iceland’s government could, on a rotational basis, receive Norwegian Orion planes, search and rescue services and F-16 fighter-bombers should the need arise.
Screening the Seas
Norway is a shipbuilding country par excellence and boasts a thriving network of yards that use the latest technology to execute contracts for the design and manufacture of offshore oil and gas vessels, fishing boats and military craft.
Composite hulls based on the materials knowledge of 150-year-old Devold AMT have given Scandinavian yards an unparalleled advantage in advanced ship design. Devold’s knitted fibre reinforcements serve the composites industry in general, while its R&D work stiffens the hull of the fastest, most stealthy warships in the world: the Skjold class littoral patrol craft and five new Nansen-class frigates. A dedicated 10-tonne NFH-90 helicopter completes the frigate’s seacreening capability.
Below the surface, Kongsberg Maritime’s autonomous underwater vehicles, or AUVs, save lives and surface ships by uncovering mines and seabed data.
Proving its R&D mettle, the Norwegian defence industry has recently won acclaim with innovation relevant to today’s threat picture. The FFI accepted a prize for the detection system CATSS, or Chemical, Atomic and Toxic compound Surveillance System. The Essen, Germany-based Red Dot Award in June 2007 attributed superior design quality to two designers and a project manager cooperating with the FFI. CATSS is designed to protect civilian and military installations by detecting chemicals, chemical weapons and sources of radiation. An international jury decided CATSS sophistication and innovative design surpassed that of the 2,548 entries from 43 other countries.
The well-equipped Telemark Battalion training with NATO during the Cold Response 2007 manoeuvres.
A Time to Decide
Reinvesting in technology has helped Norwegian defence suppliers earn contracts with the Norwegian Defence Department, NATO allies and the armed forces of other nations keen to bestow a decisive advantage on their troops.
When Norwegian defence chief General Sverre Diesen adds his recommendations to a Parliamentary committee report on future procurement strategies in the fall of 2007, one thing will be certain. “For military electronics, there’ll just be more and more. Earlier wars were decided by powder and steel, but in future, electronics will be of steadily increasing importance for the outcome on the battlefield,” Diesen wrote.
In the Armed Forces’ brand new book of doctrine, wireless communication, distributed intelligence and configurable electronics are seen as dominant trends demanding “networked thinking” from all military personnel.