Norway buys K9 Thunder howitzers from South Korea

Norway has bought the K9 Thunder 155mm self-propelled howitzer, reports the Norwegian Defence Materiel Agency. The contract includes 24 new howitzers and an unspecified number of K10 designated ammunition resupply vehicles. In addition to this there is an option for the purchase of another 24 howitzers. The initial cost is 1.8 billion NOK, and that will grow to 3.2 billion NOK if Norway uses its option for additional vehicles.

The K9 Thunder is a South Korean made vehicle with a shooting range up to about 40 kilometers. It weighs 47 tons and has a maximum speed of 65 km/h. It is operated by a crew of five persons.

Norway will be the third European country to buy the K9 Thunder, after Finland and Estonia announced their decisions to buy it earlier this year. Poland also has howitzers based on the K9 chassis but they have been refitted with other equipment and are called the AHS Krab.

The deliveries of the artillery vehicles will begin in 2019, and the delivery will be completed in 2021. Six of the vehicles will be used at the Army’s school in Rena, and 18 will be part of Brigade Nord and stationed in Setermoen.

At present Norway has 56 American made M109A3GN self-propelled howitzers. They were originally bought in 1969-1970 as M109G and later upgraded in Germany to the M109A3GN standard. Of these 14 are in actual use by the Army, and 42 are in storage.

Ocean capable corvettes could be affordable force enablers

Yesterday the Russian Ministry of Defense announced that Soobrazitelnyy, a corvette from the Baltic Fleet, had passed through the Suez Canal from the Red Sea into the Mediterranean. This was the latest in a series of press releases covering the journey of two Steregushchiy class corvettes and an auxiliary vessel from the Baltic Fleet.

The three ships Boiky, Soobrazitelnyy, and Kola departed from Baltiysk on 14 October, and it was announced that they would complete tasks in the Atlantic Ocean. Since then, the ministry’s press service has been generous with updates on the journey. Reports have been made on the passage of the Strait of Gibraltar, AAW and ASW exercises, a port visit in Limassol, how the ships split up with Boiky completing tasks in the Mediterranean (I suppose around Syria) and Soobrazitelnyy passing the Suez Canal to participate in anti-piracy operations and visit the port of Djibouti. With the ships reunited in the Mediterranean I suppose it is reasonable to assume that the group will head home soon, perhaps in time for Christmas which in Russia is on 7 January.

Obviously, with this massive press coverage one has to wonder whether the point of the whole journey was to generate attention. Nevertheless I do think that the proof of concept is really interesting. Medium sized warships that are large enough to endure the ocean yet small enough to be affordable could prove very useful in the future.

These are ships with a displacement around 2000 tons. Aside from the Russian Steregushchiy class, I think the German Braunschweig class and the British Batch 2 River Class are interesting examples of such warships. A look at the Baltic navies reveals that most only have ships that are much larger or much smaller.

For countries like Denmark, Norway, and Poland such medium sized warships could permit the country to participate in low-risk maritime security operations while the larger frigates could focus on tasks where their broad warfare capabilities are needed. For other countries like Sweden ocean capable corvettes could make it possible to participate at all.

Historic procurement of Nordic Combat Uniforms reaches prequalification

The Nordic Combat Uniform (NCU) project is moving ahead with an official invitation to possible candidates for prequalification. The goal is that Denmark, Finland, Norway, and Sweden will buy new combat uniforms together, albeit with national variations in colors and camouflage patterns.

By making the procurement together the Nordic countries hope to attract big players that are able to provide higher quality uniforms for less money. The expected value of the contract is between 290 and 425 million euros.

The project is run in a NORDEFCO group that was established in February 2016. Since then the countries have worked out legal and technical details regarding the combat uniform system. There have been some different preferences among the countries with some focusing on Arctic features while others had wishes regarding uses in tropical weather conditions. Overall, though, the countries had very similar requirements to a combat uniform system.

The tender process is officially coordinated by the Norwegian defense. If you are interested in selling a uniform system to the Nordic countries, you can find the procurement documents here.

Nordic countries agree to exchange radar data for air surveillance

The Nordic countries have agreed to enhance air surveillance through the exchange of radar data between the members of NORDEFCO. The defense ministers of Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden have signed a Memorandum of Understanding on Nordic Cooperation for Air Surveillance Information Exchange during their meeting in Helsinki yesterday. Several sources report this, but I have found the Norwegian government to have the most informative announcement.

The ambition is to create a better total picture of the airspace over the region. Of course this is only a political agreement that makes the political framework to allow the exchange of data, and it may take a long time before any data is actually exchanged. It is technically difficult to make systems communicate with each other, and sometimes the bureaucracies in the countries move slower than the political ambitions. Nevertheless, the agreement to exchange radar data is a step in the right direction. Let’s hope the technicians can make it work quickly.

F-35 arrives in Norway on Thursday

The first three Joint Strike Fighters will arrive in Norway on Thursday, according to this official statement by the government. Officially the three aircraft will be received at a ceremony on Friday, November 10 at the Ørland Main Air Station.

Norway has already received seven F-35s that are being used in USA for training. In total, Norway has ordered 52 aircraft, and the remaining 42 will be delivered at a pace of six per year until 2024.

This is truly a big occasion for the Norwegian defense, marking the culmination of a process that started in 2005 when the official competition for a new fighter aircraft was initiated. By the time all aircraft are delivered, the entire process will have taken almost 20 years.

Jamming of phones and GPS during Zapad causes concerns

Did Russia jam GPS signals in Norway and phone services in Latvia and Sweden and during exercise Zapad in September? Apparently there are many indications that they did, and now Secretary-General of NATO Jens Stoltenberg has expressed his concerns about the Russian demonstrations of electronic warfare capabilities.

Ideally, military units have redundant systems so they are able to continue operations despite the application of electronic warfare on the battlefield. This may not always get enough attention during exercises, but at least military units are aware that electronic countermeasures exist, and they have some kind of prepared response to it. Military ships, for example, should be able to navigate safely without GPS.

The civil society is much more vulnerable. For most people cellular phones are crucial in emergency situations, and effective GPS jamming could be dangerous for transportation systems, potentially leading to accidents.

Suspicions are that the Russian GPS jamming in Norway was applied in order to disrupt their own forces during training, whereas the phone jamming in Latvia and Sweden was perhaps a deliberate attempt at disturbing these countries. Regardless, it is dangerous to apply such measures, and it shouldn’t be done without prior notice. The Latvian emergency phone service was shut down for several hours, and although there are no reports of anybody not receiving necessary help during the attack, real people could have suffered as a result.

Nordic countries enhance cyber collaboration

Nordic countries are enhancing collaboration about cyber defense. Sweden, Denmark, Finland, and Norway have agreed to develop capabilities under NORDEFCO. And apparently Finland is taking the lead.

Gerard O’Dwyer writing for Fifth Domain:

Within NORDEFCO, Finland has taken the lead role to develop Computer Emergency Response Team capabilities that have the capacity to better protect Nordic defense IT, core force systems and critical infrastructure against cyberattacks.

The deepening of Nordic collaboration is running parallel to increasing defense and hybrid threat cybersecurity investments by governments in all four countries.

New Marine rotation arrives in Norway

The second rotation of American Marines has arrived in Norway, reports Marine Corps Times:

The Norwegian government has approved six-month rotations of about 300 Marines in Norway through 2018.

The Marines also store military equipment in caves near Trondheim, Norway, to make sure that a Marine Air-Ground Task Force has what it needs for cold weather training, crisis response or a humanitarian assistance mission, said 2nd Lt. Brett Lazaroff, a spokesman for U.S. Marine Corps Forces Europe & Africa.

The Norwegian policy differs greatly from neighboring Sweden, which at least officially insists on neutrality, and Denmark that still seems ambivalent to the new security dynamics in the region.