Norway’s Long-Term Defense Plan features sharp increase in spending

Norway’s center-left government is set to present the Storting (national parliament) with what Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Støre described

Norway’s Long-Term Defense Plan features sharp increase in spending

Norway’s center-left government is set to present the Storting (national parliament) with what Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Støre described as the most “ambitious and far reaching” Long-Term Defense Plan (LTDP) in the country’s history.

The Labor-led government’s broad-ranging LTDP, announced at a news conference in Oslo on April 5, proposes a record-breaking increase in capital investments for national defense that project $60 billion in spending in the 12 year period up to 2036.

A critical feature in the LTDP raises spending and financial benefits across all branches of the Norwegian Defense Forces. The plan will strengthen the NDF’s manpower while significantly enhancing its air-defenses and capabilities to better defend its High North borders with Russia in collaboration with NATO forces, including Nordic neighbors, and new Alliance members, Sweden and Finland.

Higher levels of funding in the LTDP are directed at improving the NDF’s situational awareness capabilities by building its surveillance, presence, and control assets across the High North and in strategic neighborhood areas in the Nordic region. The NDF aims to achieve superior situational awareness through an integrated plan comprising the use of new specialist surveillance vessels and the expansion of satellite and drone capabilities.

“The most fundamental task this government has is to provide security for the people of Norway. We need a defense that is fit for purpose in the emerging security environment. This plan represents a historic boost in defense spending and it will entail a major strengthening of all branches of the Armed Forces,” said Støre.

If achieved, and the LTDP meets all set targets, the expectation is that Norway’s annual defense budget, measured in real terms, will double from its 2024 level of $8.75 billion to over $17 billion by 2036.

The key funding proposals in the LTDP also cover the replenishment of military stocks shipped to help Ukraine’s war efforts against Russia. Since Russia’s invasion in February 2022, Norway has provided Ukraine with over $2 billion in military hardware and humanitarian aid. In 2023 alone, Norway provided $1 billion in military support under the Nansen Support Program, including NASAMS air defence systems.

The procurement elements in the LTDP are pivotal to Norway’s national defense strengthening goals. As a result, the acquisition of new frigates, submarines and surface vessels for the Navy is being prioritized.

Air defense

The procurement plan comprises an advanced air-defense solution to include the country’s first long-range air defense system. The NDF’s Army branch will be expanded from one to three brigades. The Home Guard, the NDF’s rapid mobilization force, will be increased from around 40,000 personnel at present to 45,000 combat-ready soldiers.

Norway aims to reconstruct its military to give it a sharper focus on dealing with active conflict prevention, said Bjørn Arild Gram, Norway’s defense minister.

“Our better resourced military must be able to deal with active conflict prevention every day and stand ready to handle conflict. Increased activity requires more personnel. In total our Armed Forces will be strengthened with over 20,000 conscripted soldiers, civilian employees and reservists,” Gram said.

For the LTDP to succeed, said Gram, the key proposals in the plan will need to be implemented simultaneously to address critical deficiencies in present day national defense structures and capabilities.

“Norway must invest in infrastructure, not just for today’s defense but also for a defense that is set for growth. We need to bolster educational capacity to meet the need for more personnel. We must also allocate sufficient funds to replenish our emergency stockpiles. This is essential to avoid ending up with an imbalanced force structure, where vessels are docked, and aircraft are parked,” Gram said.

The LTDP requires a rapid elevation in force strength across all branches of the NDF. To the end, the plan aims to increase the number of conscripts and reservists by 4,600 and 13,700 respectively. The number of support civilian personnel is projected to grow by 4,600 with a special focus on hiring talent with specialized technology skills.

The prioritized Naval strengthening program aims to deliver five to six new frigates, with onboard anti-submarine helicopters, in addition to a minimum of five new submarines. Norway is acquiring the Type 212CD submarine, which is being built under a German-Norwegian strategic partnership that will deliver the T212CDs to both navies.

Along with the procurement of surface ships, the frigate and submarine elements of the LTDP represents the largest capital investment by any Norwegian government in to the strengthening of the Royal Norwegian Navy’s ability to protect the country’s extensive territorial Arctic and sub-arctic waters against prevailing threats.

The scope in ambition of the LTDP is evidenced in Norway’s decision to procure a long-range air defense system to upgrade the NDF’s ability to defend against short-range ballistic missile threats. Moreover, Norway plans to double the quantity of the existing NASAMS air defense which is set to be updated to deliver a higher level of protection against drones and missiles.

The LTDP recognizes the importance of Nato and neighboring Nordic Alliance states Denmark, Sweden and Finland to the long-term security of Norway. Nato’s continuing presence, said Gram, is fundamental to supporting “stability and guaranteeing peace” in the Nordic and Baltic regions.

“Finland’s and Sweden’s recent membership of Nato strengthens security in our region. It also presents Norway with new obligations. We must rapidly transform from not just a receiving country of Allied reinforcements but also a transit and contributing ally to the defense and security of the entire Nordic and Baltic regions,” Gram said.

Gerard O’Dwyer is the Scandinavian affairs correspondent for Defense News.

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