On Friday the 23rd of March, 2012, the Norwegian Ministry of Defence released the new Long Term Plan for the Norwegian Defence Sector. The plan builds on the significant improvements made over the course of the previous years while ensuring that the Norwegian Armed Forces remain capable of meeting both current and future operational requirements.
During the course of this plan, Norway’s defence budget, already among the highest in Europe pr. capita, projects a real-term increase of 7%. This is the beginning of a temporary strengthening of the defence budget dedicated to the purchase of Norway’s new fleet of F-35 combat aircraft. In addition, resources that will be freed up from NATOs gradual draw-down in Afghanistan towards 2014 will be reallocated internally in the defence sector, primarily to cover the strengthening of the Army and the Home Guard.
Improved Operational Capability
The previous plan led to significant enhancements in the operational capabilities of the Norwegian Armed Forces. This development is slated to continue, with the introduction into service of the Naval Strike Missile, the NH 90 Maritime Helicopter and additional numbers of enlisted personnel. Along with further structural enhancements, both in the Army, the Home Guard and the Air Force, this will continue to develop the capabilities of the Norwegian Armed Forces as a whole. “The previous plan gave us a solid foundation to build on with a Force that finally is in balance” says Norwegian Minister of Defence, Espen Barth Eide. “We can now make changes to our structure because it is the smart thing to do, and not because we are forced to do so.”
Focus on people
The men and women of the Norwegian Armed Forces represent our greatest resource, and a key component of this plan is the announcement of a reform in the competence management of Defence sector personnel. It will improve the ability to recruit, develop, manage and retain the advanced skills and competencies required for a modern military force. “Over the past four years, we have undertaken a massive restructuring of our operational structures and equipment. The time has come to focus even more on our people” says Norwegian Minister of Defence, Espen Barth Eide.
Updated Procurement Schedule for the F-35
Preparing the procurement of new combat aircraft for the Armed Forces will be a key priority of the plan. The ambition remains for a total acquisition of 52 aircraft, including four training aircraft, and despite changes made by other partner nations Norway finds that its previous and robust real-cost estimates remain accurate. The plan also recommends that the aircraft are located on a main base at Ørland Air Force Base in Mid-Norway, with a smaller forward operating base at Evenes in Northern Norway in order to provide permanent Quick Reaction Alert capabilities in the High North. In addition, the Norwegian Ministry of Defence now outlines an updated procurement schedule that will consider both accelerating and extending the previously planned procurement process. The new timeline under consideration includes the following key elements:
- Potential acceleration of the procurement run of four F-35 training aircraft – The Government will consider moving the target date for two of the four aircraft approved in 2011 up from 2016 to 2015.
- Potential acceleration and extension of the procurement run for the main body of the procurement - A new start date of 2017 is being considered while the final procurement year may be extended to 2023 or 2024.
The Norwegian parliament will be involved in each yearly acquisition of aircraft. The final six aircraft of the main body of the procurement will also be confirmed separately at a later stage, once the initial 42 aircraft have been ordered.
“Norway chose the F-35 in 2008 after a long and thorough process, and the aircraft will play a vital part in guaranteeing Norway’s future ability to deter aggression and contribute to international peace and security” says Norwegian Minister of Defence, Espen Barth Eide.
“We remain confident that the F-35 represents the best capability for the best value possible. The purpose of the adjusted procurement plan is to give the Norwegian Government greater financial freedom of manoeuvre during the years of the main procurement by spreading out the cost more evenly. We believe this new schedule better balances this concern with the introduction of a vital new capability to the Norwegian Armed Forces” says Eide.