America's military faces reductions in force and spending that could have a ripple effect. Proceedings asked the leaders of the world's sea services: Some see U.S. global naval engagement diminishing and the world's power structure realigning itself over the coming decade. In what ways would this affect your navy?
The Norwegian Navy is currently undergoing a major change, both in the order of battle and in the way we employ our naval forces.
Norway has gone from a situation where our oceanic areas held a significant importance for the NATO alliance, and thus the United States, to a situation where those areas are of reduced allied focus. We have a disproportionately large and resource-rich sea area compared with our land mass.
Whereas previously there would be allied naval forces operating in, or near to, our seas, we now find ourselves in a very different situation. We are a small nation with limited military resources neighboring one of the world’s largest military powers. Although our right to economically exploit our sea areas has not yet been challenged, we have no guarantee that situation will last. We therefore need to become more self-reliant in providing for our maritime security.
The practical consequence of this affects our strategic thinking and as a consequence, our procurement programs. The Norwegian Navy has traditionally been focused on inshore operations and the fleet previously has been limited to small escort vessels and patrol boats. When we procure new ships now, they are designed for open-ocean operations. The most obvious example of this is the acquisition of the five Nansen-class frigates, which will be equipped with the long range Naval Strike Missile and NH90 helicopter. Planning is also under way to acquire a fleet tanker in order to increase both reach and sustainability. Our defense logistic organization is also investigating the possibilities of increasing the Nansen-class vessels’ area-defense capability.
Because of the small size of the Norwegian armed forces, it is impossible for us to rely on mass force to discourage possible foes or to win an armed conflict. In that context, we aim to achieve a closer tactical cooperation between our naval and air forces in order to generate sufficient combat power to deter any potential adversaries. A further cornerstone in our ability to maintain maritime security is our submarine force. As our current fleet of six Ula-class conventional attack submarines now approaches the end of its lifespan, we are looking for replacements that allow for greater sustainability in the open seas than the more coastal-mission oriented Ula class.
The Norwegian Navy has over the past decade shifted its focus from inshore to open-water operations and will continue to do so in the foreseeable future.