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Nordic Logistics Collaboration Stalls

Jul. 17, 2013 - 08:47AM   |  
By GERARD O’DWYER   |   Comments
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HELSINKI — Efforts at crossborder collaboration to improve efficiencies and cut costs of Nordic military logistics are stalled as recent initiatives have failed to produce expected results.

NORDEFCO, the Nordic Defense Cooperation agency, following a military chiefs meeting here May 12-14, found that many of the cooperation proposals investigated did not meet established cost and efficiency criteria.

That meeting set down plans to review or discontinue certain forms of cooperation, including joint logistics initiatives outlined under NORDEFCO’s Nordic Joint Logistics Support Concept.

The details of what this will mean for military logistics collaboration in the long term will be further evaluated when NORDEFCO chiefs meet in the fall.

“Discontinuing cooperation groups that are found to be inadvisable was discussed at the meeting. At least for the present, joint Nordic logistics arrangements have been discontinued. If there are not enough savings, or practical gains cannot be seen, then functions will be terminated,” said Finnish Col. Arto-Pekka Nurminen, NORDEFCO’s secretary-general. Finland holds the NORDEFCO chair this year.

NORDEFCO was established in 2009 to pursue practical and money-saving forms of closer cooperation among the militaries of Sweden, Denmark, Norway and Finland.

The possibility that certain areas of cooperation could be discontinued had already been flagged when Nordic defense force commanders met here in April.

However, Nurminen signaled that collaboration in the area of logistics would remain under review, and the door is not closed to developing joint cooperation projects on a case-by-case basis.

NORDEFCO’s project evaluation on developing closer collaboration in logistics had operated under the umbrella Cooperation Area Logistics Support And Maintenance (CA-LS&M).

Eight proposals were considered, including development of a common, sustainable logistics approach for C-130J Hercules aircraft. That concept would have been based largely on a performance-based logistics working model and the establishment of a joint Nordic pool of C-130J aircraft spare parts supported by a “Repair and Replace” program.

The CA-LS&M evaluation was extended to explore the possibility of launching a project to base all regulations on European Aviation Safety Agency standards; the development of a cooperative system that would enable the use of “partner nation” aircraft facilities to carry out aircraft maintenance; and the establishment of inter-Nordic technical teams.

The evaluation sought to estimate how much value could be gained by greater availability of tactical support aircraft and lower potential operating costs.

“What is becoming clear from NORDEFCO’s activities is that ... projects must prove themselves in terms of their money-saving abilities and how they can fit into improving overall defense capabilities, domestically and regionally,” said Peter Lundgren, a Stockholm-based political analyst.

The CA-LS&M evaluation also examined if the combined leverage of four Nordic militaries could extract better prices and deals on spare parts and services from contractors. The potential for running common technical teams was also examined in a support role for joint international operations.

“There were always going to be challenges in reaching unity on positions regarding C-130J-based logistics cooperation,” Lundgren said. “All four militaries operate different systems for acquiring and maintaining C-130J aircraft, including third party restrictions.

“Denmark acquired its four-aircraft C-130J system directly from Lockheed Martin, complete with a maintenance and spare parts supply agreement,” he said. “Norway bought its four C-130J Hercules aircraft under a Foreign Military Sales agreement with the US government. All this reduces the potential for cooperation, as under purchase contracts Lockheed lays down strict third party access to documentation and spare parts.”

Nordic logistics collaboration and resource sharing regarding the C-130J would have required extensive, early-stage negotiations with the US government and Lockheed, as well as other possible stakeholders and contractors, Lundgren said.

Limited logistics cooperation, including the Logistics Coordination Project 2012 linked to the operation in Afghanistan, has been run intermittently among Nordic militaries. The Logistics Coordination Project 2012 established the template for joint tactical air support intended as the basis for a generic Nordic Logistic Concept for future operations.

This Nordic Logistic Concept was followed in November by the signing of a letter of intent among the four Nordic nations to establish a Nordic Tactical Air Transport (NTAT) system. The system would pursue cost-reducing initiatives such as the pooling of aircraft capacities, command and control, joint training and common sustainment.

The NTAT also focused on promoting exchange of information on planned procurements, allowing the four nations to exploit common development, procurement and maintenance programs.

Although the original plans for joint logistics cooperation are on hold, NORDEFCO continues to explore logistics collaboration in other niche areas.

One is the proposed Task Force 2020 project, which is examining a common approach to the development of a Nordic Battalion task force that would comprise C4IS and logistics.

Nordic militaries are correct to focus on areas of cooperation that have the highest potential to reduce costs and directly improve national and regional defense capabilities, said defense-political analyst Thorvald Stoltenberg, a former Norwegian government minister in defense and foreign affairs in the 1980s and 1990s.

“It’s wise to pursue projects that can actually strengthen the combined defense capability of all Nordic nations,” Stoltenberg said. “Finding cost savings is important, but so too is producing concrete cooperation that elevates defense capabilities at both national and regional levels. There is potential for future cooperation in logistics, but only if there is sufficient common ground and the savings found are sustainable.”

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