Denmark increases military spending, still far from 2 percent

Denmark has a new political Defense Agreement for 2018-2023. The old agreement ran out four weeks ago, and it is unusual in Denmark that a new agreement is not in place before the last one expires.

The politicians have decided to increase the Danish defense budget as a reaction to a perceived threat from Russia. It is advertised as a substantial 20 percent raise in defense spending, and the politicians are eager to point out that Denmark aims to meet NATO’s goal of spending 20 percent of the defense budget on investments in new equipment. In reality the Danish defense budget will only climb to 1.3 percent of GDP in 2023, so there is still some way to the 2 percent goal.

The recently approved national budget proposed a defense budget of 22 billion dkk ($3.65 billion). With the new defense agreement this is increased as shown in the table (based on 2018 prices).

2018 2019 2020 2021 2022 2023
Increase 0.8 0.8 1.7 1.9 2.8 4.8
Defense budget 22.8 22.8 23.7 23.9 24.8 26.8

A noteworthy detail is that the defense agreement is extended to six years, which is a year longer than the usual five years. The spending increase is modest in the first years, and the biggest increase doesn’t happen until 2023. That is on the other side of not only one but two parliamentary elections.

So the politicians are making promises of spending increases that future politicians will have to fulfill. In the past the politicians have not hesitated to revise defense agreements mid-period. The 2010-2014 defense agreement was replaced already in 2012 by a 2013-2017 defense agreement that dramatically reduced the defense budget. So while the new political agreement is definitely an interesting step, it is still early to get excited.

The most interesting aspects of the agreement are:

Establishment of a deployable brigade:
Denmark will establish a brigade of about 4000 soldiers that can be deployed and operate independently. This is an ambitious project for the Danish Army. In the early ears of the millennium there was a goal of 2000 deployable soldiers, but this goal was never met, and recently the real ability has been much lower.

The brigade will require heavy investments in equipment. This includes:

  • More operational tanks.
  • Short range ground based air defense.
  • Anti-tank missile systems.
  • More artillery.
  • More scouts.
  • More equipment for electronic warfare.
  • UAVs.
  • Logistics, engineering etc.

The brigade is to be ready in 2024 on a 180 days notice.

Conscription and military reserve:
The number of conscripts will be increased by 500 to a total of 4500 annually. Their training will be changed so they are able to take over tasks in the national portfolio when the new brigade is deployed abroad.

Denmark will reintroduce the ability to mobilize a military reserve. This was abandoned in 2004. In total it will be possible to mobilize 20.000 persons from the reserve and the Home Guard.

Air defense missiles on frigates:
The Navy will receive SM-2 air defense missiles. This gives the Danish frigates the ability to conduct area air defense and not merely self defense.

Work will be initialized for a future procurement of SM-6 missiles.

Anti-submarine warfare:
There will be invested heavily in equipment for anti-submarine warfare (ASW). This is currently a deficiency in the Danish Navy.

This includes:

  • Three of Denmark’s five large ships of the Absalon-class and Iver Huitfeldt-class will be upgraded with better sonars.
  • These ships will also be equipped with torpedo countermeasures.
  • The new Sea Hawk helicopters will be equipped with dipping sonars and torpedoes.

Fighter aircraft:
Denmark will buy 27 F-35 fighters. This is not actually news, because that decision was made already in 2016. But it will be implemented in the timeframe of this new defense agreement.

Somewhat surprising, Denmark will send naval officers on a minelaying training course. Denmark does not actually have operational minelaying capabilities, but it seems the country wants the ability to re-establish the capability quickly.

Missile defense (BMD):
Denmark will fulfill its promise to contribute to NATO’s missile defense in one way or another. Further studies will show how.

Strike missiles:
Denmark will make an analysis of the need for a strike missile capability. The Danish chief of defense has earlier expressed a military rationale for long range cruise missiles that can take out Russian missile launchers, but there is a concern in Denmark that Russia could perceive such a purchase as an aggressive escalatory step.

Support to the police:
There will be extended support to the police. This includes guards at the border an around possible terror targets. The military will also provide a helicopter at very high readiness for the police.

More special operations forces:
The number of special operations forces (SOF) will be increased by more than 50 percent. The number of active SOF patrol units will be doubled.

Cyber security:
Substantial amounts are invested in cyber security. Denmark will participate in the NATO Cooperative Cyber Defence Center of Excellence in Tallinn and the European Centre of Excellence for countering hybrid threats in Helsinki.




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