OSLO ($1=9.95 Norwegian Krones) — Almost a year of talks with German and South Korean tank manufacturers, as well as tests in harsh winter weather conditions last winter, are about to be thrown out by Norway. Norway may abandon the acquisition of the main battle tank. BulgarianMilitary.com recalls that Norway left two tanks to compete in the competition – the German tank KMW Leopard 2A7 and the South Korean tank Hyundai Rotem Company [HRC] K2 Black Panther.
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In some Norwegian media, comments have already appeared, which are aimed at refusing to acquire a new battle tank. The comments are not rumors, involved senior military personnel from the Norwegian command and have their own logic to come out now.
General Eirik Kristoffersen, the chief of defense of the Kingdom of Norway, says that “the parties must reach an agreement”. What are the countries? On one side are the politicians and on the other the military.
The reason for the desire to cancel the program to acquire a successor to the well-worn Leopard 2NO is a change in the priorities of the Norwegian ground forces. The emphasis will be on mobility and firepower, not on defense like tanks.
Two Norwegian Armed Forces generals favor Norway buying new main battle tanks. They are General Yngve Odlo and General Lars S. Lervik. However, both confirm that they will comply with the Chief of Staff’s decision if the Norwegian government refuses to buy the new armored fighting vehicles. However, there is currently a public debate on the subject, which means that Norway is trying to accurately assess the need or not for the new tanks.
The decision whether Norway acquires tanks may turn out not only to be a domestic issue but an international one affecting NATO forces in the region. Sweden and Finland are expected to join the North Atlantic alliance after both countries expressed their desire in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine this February. If the two Scandinavian countries join NATO, in relation to the defense of Norway, means that Sweden and Finland will be the main players in the first phase of the defense of Norwegian territory against possible Russian aggression.
However, military experts who want Norway to acquire the tanks say that in the event of failure and a Russian takeover of parts of the Finnmark region, if Norway does not have new tanks to mount a counteroffensive, residents of the border areas will only have to wait. The question is what they will wait for: the arrival of allied troops with heavy combat equipment or Russian occupation.
The artillery is not an alternative
Some experts counter such claims, saying that artillery can be an alternative to the lack of tanks. However, military veterans and battle-hardened Norwegians do not share this opinion. According to them, any claim that artillery is an alternative and not a complementary element to the collective defense with tanks leads to a weakening of the country’s defensive capabilities. Advocates of the possible purchase of the tanks also say that acquiring them will allow Norway to maintain a balance of power vis-à-vis Russia.
Norway does not have a large tank stockpile. Currently, about 30 Leopard 2A4NO tanks are operational, while the rest are stored as a reserve. Norway actually has 44 Leopard 2A4NO units, which it received years ago from the Netherlands. These tanks are modified, experts say. They have new radios, a fire control system, and weapon mounts.
However, the government in Oslo decided years ago not to proceed with the upgrade of the Leopard 2A4NO. It would be more profitable, cost-effective, and in the interest of the country’s defense to buy new tanks. According to unofficial information, Norway needs to acquire twice as many tanks as it has today. I.e. somewhere in the range of 88-90 tanks.
As mentioned at the beginning of this article, the German Leopard and the Korean K2 are in the final phase of the race. The tests have been postponed and, at least before the debate, Oslo is expected to make a decision by the end of this year. However, it is noticed that the Korean tank is gradually beginning to recognize its market territory in Europe. After literally selling Poland what could be sold, the K2 manufacturers signed an agreement with the Finnish-Norwegian company Nammo to produce ammunition for their K2 Black Panther tanks.
Hundai Rotem is pushing
Such a move serves two main purposes. The first is – in this way HRC increases its portfolio of ammunition that can be compatible with its tank. The second goal is for the Norwegian government to be “incentivized” to make the “right decision” by choosing K2 over Leopard.
South Korea is determined to win the Norwegian market. On September 29, Korean Hyundai Rotem issued a press release announcing that a cooperation agreement has been signed with the Norwegian company Kongsberg Defense & Aerospace AS. According to reports, Hyundai Rotem is interested in the possible integration of remote weapon systems and digitally integrated systems of Kongsberg in the K2 tanks and K808 wheeled armored vehicles.
Almost a week later, Hyundai Rotem continued with attractive promises to Norway. In order not to wait until 2025, which is the requirement to receive the tanks, the Korean manufacturer is ready to deliver the first 24 tanks to Norway right next year. They will be brand new and off the assembly line immediately, as long as Oslo accepts K2 as the winning bid.
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