Norway / Norge

Finally independent of Sweden from 26 October 1905, Norway supported its neutrality with minimal armed forces, which were defeated by the Germans on 8 June 1940 after two months' fighting. Some Norwegians escaped to Great Britain to continue the war from there; but by 1945 North Norway lay devastated as Soviet forces pursued the Germans southwards. Abandoning a now-discredited neutrality, Norway expanded its forces with US aid and joined NATO. It has also supported the United Nations in Korea, Kashmir, Congo, Lebanon, Yemen and Egypt.

Norwegian territory comprised one-third of NATO's eastern frontage during the Cold War, and so there were massive defensive difficulties. The under-populated north, including the strategically vital Finnmark border county, isolated inside the Arctic Circle and sharing a 123-mile frontier with the Soviet Union, was linked to the south by a 1,200-mile road skirting a coastline pitted with deep fjords, vulnerable to landings by Soviet North Sea Fleet marines, or to an armored thrust from Murmansk across neutral Swedish Lapland.

In order to carry out the primary task of the Armed Forces, namely the defense of political sovereignty and territorial integrity, Norway is developing a series of new military capabilities and upgrading others, not least those which are of particular importance in safeguarding our interests in the northern areas. There is thus a close linkage between the Government's Northern Area strategy and the development of the Armed Forces. The Long-Term Plan for the Norwegian Armed Forces for the period 2009-2012 remained in place and the work of strengthening defense forces continued.

The Norwegian Defense is divided into defense branches: The Army, the Navy and the Air Force. The Home Guard is organised in the same manner. Peacetime strength is approximately 23,000 (including officers, civilian employees and conscripts), while the strength after mobilisation is approximately 83,000. As of 2002 peacetime strength was approximately 30,800 including officers, conscripts and civilian personnel, while strength after mobilisation was approximagely 214,000. Around 9000 of the Armed Forces' personnel each year consist of conscripts. In 2009 the Norwegian Parliament adopted a new national service act which states that women have to meet for the conscription board, examination and classification for military service just like men.

Following a decade of comprehensive reforms, Norway is putting into place a modern defense organisation based on mission-oriented forces of high quality. The Armed Forces are going through a period of renewal with a level of investment which is without equal in recent times. Norway is phasing in new frigates and missile torpedo boats and have procured new Coast Guard vessels. New transport aircraft meet the requirements for strategic lift capacity and the first new maritime helicopters were delivered in 2010.

Norwegian army units will have increased firepower, mobility, protection and, not least, an enhanced capability for working with other forces in a joint operational environment. Among other equipment an entirely new artillery system, ARCHER, is being procured. Norway is updating our CV 90 armoured assault vehicles and will be acquiring new combat reconnaissance systems. Soldiers are getting new equipment including new hand weapons and communications equipment. This means a lot for the soldiers' safety and combat capability. The Home Guard has undergone a far-reaching quality reform. Two new vessels for the Naval Home Guard in 2010 constitute a further step towards a more flexible and modern Home Guard.

This defense organisation is substantially smaller in terms of manpower than the organisation in place during the Cold War period. But the quality of the units, their combat capability and their availability have been raised to a level that represents a quantum leap when compared to the old mobilisation defense forces. It is interesting, too, to note how some of the criticism of this restructuring sounds a few years on. The reduction in numbers began towards the middle of this decade. Since 2005 the Armed Forces have in fact grown in size. Year on year.

The acquisition of a combat aircraft capability is by far the largest investment that Norway will be making over the coming years. The combat aircraft forms the cornerstone of a modern defense structure. These aircraft provide a flexible capability which can carry out a broad spectrum of missions associated with fire support, information gathering and the long range delivery of precision weapons. As well as possessing the obvious capability to carry out missions independently, combat aircraft are essential to the ability to utilise sea and land forces to the full. These aircraft therefore represent a component of central importance to the overall ability of the Armed Forces to carry out fully integrated combined operations, or network-based defense. When the new F-35 aircraft are in place, this will constitute an essential enhancement of our defense capability. In the intervening period Norway will be maintaining our inventory of F-16s in good shape through a continuing program of upgrading.

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