Norway ‘forgot’ to build a long-range anti-ballistic missile defense

Early Wednesday, the announcement came that the government would be funneling NOK 12.5 billion [$1,1 billion] into bolstering Norway’s aerial defense system. The lion’s share of this funding, approximately NOK 9.4 billion [$868 million], is set aside to purchase new missiles – with delivery starting from 2028. 

Joint defense between Spanish NASAMS and US AH-64 Apache
Photo credit: YouTube

“We’re taking a significant leap towards the future of air defense,” commented Defense Minister Björn Arild Gramm in an official statement. “We’re at a critical juncture in European security, and Norway must implement modern aerial defenses swiftly.” 

However, what’s not addressed is that even after this hefty purchase, Norway will still fall short of having a truly comprehensive long-range air defense capable of warding off tactical ballistic missiles. Providing this may cost up to six times the current record allocation. Gramm also highlights that the progression of air defense will be a key topic in the impending long-term plan.

Upgraded Nasams

So, what’s the latest addition to Norway’s military artillery? The Norwegian Armed Forces are now set to receive an upgraded variant of the Norwegian/National Advanced Surface to Air Missile System [NASAMS] air defense. These high-tech systems are produced by Kongsberg Defense & Aerospace [KDA] and the US-based Raytheon. 

The missiles to be included in this upgrade are the AIM-9X Sidewinder block 2, AIM-120C Amraam, and Amraam Extended Range [ER], all supplied by Raytheon, an American manufacturer. The acquisition was made possible by the US authorities through its Foreign Military Sales [FMS] program. 

An investment of $212 million will be made to procure eight new Canister Launchers Mk II. Four state-of-the-art command and control units will also be purchased. These units will possess the capacity to handle multiple kinds of rockets simultaneously. KDA is expected to deliver this order, possibly by 2026.

According to the Ministry of Defense, out of the total expenditure of $1,1 billion, approximately $470 million will be funded through the Nansen program. The remaining $683 million comprises funds allocated from the regular follow-up budget on the long-term plan.

The multi-missile

One of the distinguishing attributes that set the modern Nasams apart is its ability to launch three disparate types of missiles from a single launcher simultaneously. 

Norway installs a digital electro-optical sensor system at NASAMS
Photo credit: Kongsberg

In collaboration with the US AFRL for SDPE, this unique feature was showcased on Andøya a year ago. 

Markedly, the missiles launched encompassed the AIM-9X Sidewinder block 2, the AIM-120 Amraam, and the Extended Range [ER] Amraam. Manufactured by Raytheon, these fire-and-forget missiles all present unique qualities, such as range, altitude coverage, and targeting capabilities. Different scenarios and missile combinations were implemented during the demonstration. 

The Amraam-ER, fully known as the “Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missile Extended Range” got its first launch on August 31, 2016, in Andøya. Another test launch was executed in the spring of 2021. 

Spain has deployed the short- to medium-range NASAMS in Latvia
Photo credit: Kongsberg

Composed of an AIM-120 C-7’s front end with radar homing and a warhead, the Amraam-ER pairs this with the rear end of an ESSM [RIM-162 “Evolved Sea Sparrow Missile”]. The engine component is supplied by Nammo. Instead of the racket being slightly wider, a marginally larger launchpad, labeled the “Canister launcher mk. II” is needed. 

It retains the same signature, shielded from varying weather conditions and vision hindrances. The command and control unit [also termed the “Fire Distribution Center”, FDC] has been modernized to manage various types of missiles at the same time. During the experiment, the FDC executed a threat assessment and utilized the most suitable type of missile against diverse target drones. 

Russian helplessness - both NASAMS had a 100% success rate
Photo credit: Twitter

Particularly, The Mark II launcher’s development was driven by the goal to facilitate multi-layered defense against air threats, inclusive of cruise missiles, in the Nasams system. 

With this missile in their arsenal, Nasams can achieve enhanced altitude coverage with the ability to engage with targets at a longer range. This missile also improves upon the Amraam in the aspects of speed and maneuver.

NOK 80 billion ($7,3 billion)

Investing in long-range air defense systems is a pricey undertaking. The Defense Commission delineated the monetary commitment required to implement the advice of the preceding two military councils.

Patriot destroyed missile using target designation provided by F-35
Photo by US Air Force photo/ Airman 1st Class Debbie Lockhart

They based their calculations on three systems, which combined to provide layered air defense over Oslo, Bergen, and Norway’s fighter air bases. These systems overlap with the ally reception areas specifically, the Oslofjord, Trondheimsfjord, and Ofoten regions. The estimated cost of such an acquisition is approximately NOK 60 billion [$5,5 billion], coupled with yearly operating expenses of about NOK 4 billion [$369 million]. 

In May, the Defense Commission suggested that the primary naval base in Bergen should be escalated on the priority list. The base should fortified close defense, area air defense, and long-range air defense. This move would necessitate an additional NOK 20 billion [$1,8 billion]. The operational costs could reach NOK 1 billion [$92 million]. 

The readily available options mostly include the American MIM-104 Patriot and the Franco-Italian SAMP/T. Alternatively, the American THAAD [“Terminal High Altitude Area Defense”] or the Israeli David’s Sling could be a feasible choice. For instance, our NATO ally Finland recently acquired the latter, developed with the involvement of Kongsberg’s partner Raytheon.

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