OSLO — The Norwegian government likely will decide the future of its submarine force by 2015 or 2016, when it will either buy new vessels or conduct a second upgrade of its existing Ula-class fleet.
The Ministry of Defense (MoD) has allocated funding to extend the life of Norway’s six Ula boats. The recent midlife upgrades to the Ula-class subs, which began in 2008 and will be completed in 2014, will ensure they can operate up to 2020. The focus now is on strengthening Norway’s submarine capability in the Arctic Ocean and territorial waters around the country’s High North region.
Tactical and capability reports produced for the MoD have underlined the importance of retaining a submarine fleet and not following the route traveled by neighboring Denmark, which mothballed its Narhvalen, Tumleren-Kobben and Kronborg-class subs in 2004.
“I don’t believe that Norway will ever be without its own submarine capability,” said Defense Minister Espen Barth Eide. “This is because we have vast sea areas and Russia as a neighbor. We have 2 million square kilometers of sea to monitor outside the North Sea.”
Whether the MoD decides to again renew the Ulas or acquire a new class of next-generation stealth submarines, the bill is likely to run between $2.5 billion and $3.5 billion.
A third option is to renew part of the Ula-class fleet while acquiring two or more next-generation subs. The time frame being considered requires funding for either course of action by parliament no later than 2017. Effectively, this means the MoD will need to complete the selection process in 2015 or 2016.
The military view, which is fully supported by the government, is that a submarine fleet is the most effective deterrent and intelligence-gathering resource to protect Norway’s coasts and sovereignty in its Arctic territories.
Norway has had informal contacts with Sweden relating to the Kockums-designed, next-generation A26 stealth submarine, which is under development. Other possible European acquisition options include France’s Barracuda-class submarine or the German-designed Type 212 or Type 214 subs.