HELSINKI — The Norwegian government’s white paper on long-term defense spending underscores the need to improve the armed forces’ operational capability through a combination of measures, including increasing spending on defense; the recruitment of more military personnel; and modernizing fighter, naval and rapid-mobilization land force capabilities.
The white paper, announced on March 23, specifically covers the military’s annual defense spending needs from 2013 to 2016. A large segment of the proposed annual 7 percent increase in the defense budget over those four years will be consumed by the F-35 acquisition program. Norway has allocated $7 billion to the defense budget in 2012. The 7 percent increase in the defense budget is set to take effect in 2013.
The plan also flags the Ministry of Defense’s (MoD) wish to accelerate the F-35 Lightning II procurement schedule, which is based on a purchase of 52 aircraft, including four trainers. The MoD’s proposal to accelerate the timetable for procurement of new F-35 aircraft would bring delivery of the main body of aircraft forward by one year to 2017, while the final procurement year is likely to be extended to 2023 or 2024. Moreover, the MoD is considering moving the target date for two of the four trainer aircraft from 2016 to 2015.
The MoD, under a related plan, has proposed that the new F-35s operate from a main base at Orland in central Norway, with a smaller forward operating base at Evenes in northern Norway, deep inside the Arctic High North.
The long-term defense plan also envisages redirecting capital freed up by NATO’s gradual drawdown in Afghanistan, and the withdrawal of Norwegian troops and equipment, to the annual budgets of the Army and Homeland Defense.
The previous defense spending plan had already improved the armed forces’ operational capabilities, said Defense Minister Espen Barth Eide.
“The earlier plan gave us a solid foundation to build on with a force that finally is in balance. We can now make changes to our structure because it is the smart thing to do, and not because we are forced to do so,” Eide said.
The capabilities enhancement segment of the 2013-2016 plan will boost funding to cover key procurement programs, such as acquisition of naval strike missiles and NH90 maritime helicopters.
The military’s impending recruitment drive will be based on a new structure to improve the ability to recruit, develop, manage and retain the advanced skills and competencies required for a modern military force, Eide said.