Hunting Down the Hidden Menace

Just as many people remember exactly what they were doing when President John F Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas on a sunny morning in November 1963, so the shocking events of 11 September 2001 have been etched into the memories of people all over the world. The destruction of the World Trade Center will go down in history as an event that saw the unimaginable become reality - a small but dedicated group of terrorists showed that they were prepared to sacrifice both their own lives and those of a staggering number of innocent people.

The Downside of the Global Village

Increasing globalization results inevitably in clashes between different value systems. Consequently, international defence establishments are very concerned about the future - about the emergence of new terrorist networks committed to violence and about the continued activities and increasing technological capabilities of known operatives. The fundamental issue is how best to uncover a threat that is extremely hard to pin down. However, the silver lining of this dark cloud has been the unprecedented solidarity of diverse nations - many previously wary of each other - in a strong coalition to confront the menace. Consequently, the military industrial complex is demanding ever-more sophisticated intelligence techniques and gadgetry to expose and counter terrorist activity. Such a climate of uncertainty is accelerating the production of - and the market for - systems providing surveillance, detection, real-time communications and back-end information, as well as all manner of sensing equipment. Hand in hand with the terrorist threat goes the potential use by rogue adversaries of "asymmetric" methods to offset superior military strength, such as the use of nuclear, biological and chemical (NBC) agents delivered by missile and the disruption by hostile information systems of Command, Control, Communications, Computers and Intelligence (C4I) networks. The urgent need to develop equipment to counter such threats is high on the priority list of military planners. Globalization is also seeing the increasing participation of international forces in "out-of-area" conflicts - such as in the Balkans - with an accompanying trend towards bilateral and multi-lateral cooperation in the development of defence systems and weaponry. This mirrors growing international cooperation in many civilian industrial fields and the birth of truly multinational corporations and strategic partnerships at the level of smaller-sized companies to share knowledge and increase competitiveness.

 

The Role of the Prime Contractors

In the defence sector, owing to the huge costs of developing complex military solutions, it is only under the umbrella of transnational entities such as British Aerospace (now BAE Systems) and the recently-established European Aeronautic Defence and Space Company (EADS) - whose founding partners include Aerospatiale Matra SA of France, Construcciones Aeronauticas SA of Spain and DaimlerChrysler Aerospace AG of Germany - that national defence establishments and specialized companies can work together on projects that would otherwise not be viable financially and would be well out of reach of national military budgets. However, this development has actually been industry-driven rather than driven by national defence policies - and is a matter of economies of scale. For example, in significant projects such as the development of the Eurofighter Typhoon combat aircraft, where each unit can cost hundreds of millions of dollars to produce, the prime contractors embrace a broad range of partners and research facilities in different countries, which widens the market for the end product.

 

Targeting Niche Opportunities

For a small country like Norway, where the defence sector largely comprises small and medium-sized companies, major opportunities exist to participate in complex projects choreographed by prime contractors in Europe and further afield. The majority of Norwegian defence-related companies therefore target niches at different levels of the supply chain. Norway also enjoys a world-class reputation for engineering and high-tech innovation, so it is no surprise that around two-thirds of the members of the Norwegian Defence Industry Group (NFL) are involved in the development of sophisticated sub-systems and components for Command, Control, Communications and Intelligence (C3I) solutions. In 2000 defence-related production in Norway had a turnover of NOK 4.6 billion (USD 500 million), of which NOK 1.4 billion (USD 154 million) was in export sales to markets worldwide. These are impressive figures for an industry that employs only around 3,500 people nationwide. Spearheaded by the NFL, the sector as a whole is committed to increasing involvement in multi-national programmes and alliances in those segments where Norwegian companies can deliver world-class performance. In addition to its strength in C3I systems, other industry capabilities include naval surface-warfare systems, anti-submarine warfare systems and air-defence missiles, radio, satellite and telecommunications tools, armoured support vehicles and high-speed naval vessels. On the sub-systems front, Norwegian companies are active in producing groundbreaking solutions in missile-propulsion technology, smart cruise missiles and unmanned air vehicle (UAV) technology, electronic warfare and electronic support measures, electro-optical (optronic), infrared and laser sensoring equipment, integrated electronics systems such as advanced multi-role weapon stations, ammunition and military explosives, sonar systems for littoral and hydrographic mapping, space-related technology and precision component manufacturing. Software is also an important focus, with entrepreneurial companies such as Data Respons and Boxer Technologies providing sophisticated applications in simulation and training and for military administration - which reflects the increasing concern on the part of military forces, especially among NATO members, to cut out red tape and institute standard business practices. Products that are less high-end but of equally high quality, also made by Norwegian companies, include military clothing (notably cold-weather gear), tent and in-the-field shelter systems, emergency medical equipment and fire protection and NBC decontamination systems. Equipment is also produced for use in post-conflict zones, notably mine-clearance countermeasures. In this sector, NDS Nauteknikk has developed an innovative flail-based anti-personnel mine-clearing system that is manufactured by Kvaerner Eureka and is the first choice of humanitarian organizations in the Balkans.

 

Lateral Thinking

A main characteristic of the Norwegian defence sector as a whole is that companies largely focus on dual-use technologies that have both civil and military applications. A good example is Nammo AS, which is not only a world leader in the production of rocket motors for missiles but also developed a separation booster for the European Space Agency's (ESA) Ariane 5 rocket. Norway's largest defence producer, Kongsberg Defence & Aerospace AS, is also active in civilian space programmes, primarily in electro-optics, launcher and satellite mechanisms. The focus on dual use is also true of the defence industry internationally, where even a prime contractor such as EADS is predominantly active in civilian operations. In 2000 the organization had pro-forma sales amounting to EUR 24.2 billion, of which 80 percent derived from civil activities and 20 percent from military contracts. Although primarily involved in domestic defence projects, the Norwegian Defence Research Institute (FFI) plays an important role in forging contacts with research institutions and industry players abroad. Employing a team of over 350 engineers and scientists, it also focuses on ways in which military technologies can be applied to civil settings.

 

Talented Innovators

 Norwegians are a naturally resourceful people, renowned for their collaborative approach to problem solving and their talent for innovation. Many companies are involved in high-profile projects that draw on the expertise of home-grown aeronautic, mechanical and electrical engineers and scientists - including Kongsberg, which is one of the major driving forces within the domestic defence industry. Kongsberg has a strong presence in missile technologies and is currently developing the NSM, a new generation of medium-range anti-ship missile. Originally commissioned by the Royal Norwegian Navy to equip its fast patrol boats from 2005, and later its frigates, the NSM is the prime missile of its kind currently being developed in Europe. France-based MBDA Missile Systems, a joint venture between BAE Systems and EADS, is Kongsberg's main industrial partner in the programme. The NSM involves a number of cutting-edge technologies including a high-resolution infrared imaging head that is highly resistant to countermeasures. The NSM will also be integrated into coastal-defence installations and helicopter weapon systems as well as into naval platforms. Kongsberg also pursues its partnership with Raytheon of the USA in the development of the HAWK-AMRAAM air-defence system. Three off-the-shelf modular solutions are now being marketed: a surface-launched system, a hybrid HAWK and AMRAAM system, and the HAWK XXI system. All configurations, which can be tailored to specific customer requirements, use a cutting-edge Fire Distribution Center (FDC) developed by Kongsberg for its ground-based anti-aircraft battery system called NASAMS. The FDC features tactical workstations powered by Sun Microsystems UltraSparc computers, providing operating personnel with rapid data on aircraft altitude, course, speed, and location. HAWK-AMRAAM contracts have already been signed with the Greek and Spanish armies, and deliveries are underway. The partnership has also been commissioned to develop an SL-AMRAAM package for the US Marine Corps. Kongsberg is also a leading player in battlefield communications and has developed an array of cutting-edge multi-role radios (MRR), including handheld units, for data and voice transmission. MRRs were commissioned by the Royal Norwegian Army but tests are now being conducted by five other countries and NATO. MRRs are the only modular radio solution of their kind available on the market, incorporating unique software and hardware features that make them extra reliable in a warfare environment. They can also be easily integrated into other tactical C3I and weapons systems. Not surprisingly, Kongsberg is a major source of subcontracting for smaller Norwegian enterprises that supply a host of components and technical expertise. One such company, embedded-systems expert Data Respons, supplies industrial computer products for many of the Kongsberg programmes, including the latest NSM anti-ship missile. Reflecting Norway's strong international status in the development of software applications, an increasing number of Norwegian companies supply flexible solutions for military use. One such company is Boxer Technologies, which provides military customers worldwide with tailor-made PC training systems using multimedia learning and simulation methods. Such applications cover training needs for tactical weapons systems and avionics. Boxer's clients include the domestic air force, the Royal Netherlands Air Force, the German Air Force, and the Royal Thai Air Force. Boxer Technologies also develops administration software for military supply-chain management.

 

Consolidating a Strong Position

 Military industrial infrastructures are devoting a lot of energy to the development of flexible weapons systems with advanced command and control capabilities, as well as sophisticated systems for surveillance and detection. Norway, on its part, is working hard to maintain and nurture its reputation as a centre of innovation and as a world-class supplier of military products and services to prime contractors in Europe and internationally.

 

Coastal Combat

 Norway's long coastline and the experience gained in offshore oil and gas activities and the maritime and fishing sectors have aided the country in developing cutting-edge expertise in coastal surveying and shipbuilding. In the defence sector, such experience is being applied specifically to the development of solutions for littoral (as opposed to deep-water) naval operations. The US authorities have recently become increasingly interested in this field, and have leased a twin-hull fast patrol boat (FPB), developed by specialist Norwegian shipbuilder Umoe Mandal, for one year's testing in US waters. The craft is one of a generation of high-stealth capability, lightweight vessels constructed using FRP composite materials. Built to radar-reflective and radar-absorbent design criteria, the FPB uses waterjet propulsion systems for high speed and precision manoeuvrability.

 

The significant tactical advantage of such craft in littoral warfare situations is that rapid-reaction forces can be delivered to the battlefield with substantially reduced exposure time. The use of sonar imaging to produce detailed littoral surveys of coastal regions vulnerable to or under the control of naval strike forces is another important military concern. Specialized equipment is required to accurately visualize the seabed, where layers of fresh water and seawater can render deep-water sonar technology unreliable. Kongsberg subsidiary Simrad is a world leader in this sector, and its multibeam sonars are employed in hydrographic surveys to pinpoint hazards to military and commercial shipping. Such hydro-acoustic and oceanographic data is also necessary to rapidly visualize and disseminate the battlefield environment to shipboard command and control.

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