HELSINKI — Norway has embarked on a plan to strengthen the industrial side of defense using a combination of bilateral agreements and international partnerships to drive growth within indigenous companies.
Norway’s defense sector firms reported $2 billion in combined sales in 2013. About 70 percent of the products were exported, mainly to NATO countries.
The initiative, spearheaded by the Ministry of Defense (MoD), comprises four main pillars:
Expanding military equipment exports to Europe, the US and Asia; re-energizing Nordic defense cooperation to include a stronger interstate industrial dimension on joint procurements; using bilateral agreements to create new industrial partnerships; and linking major domestic military materiel procurement programs to the country’s available defense-industrial capacity and expertise.
The MoD’s ambitions to help grow the domestic defense sector was flagged at the Indian-Norwegian Defense Industry Seminar held in New Delhi in December. This showcased Norway’s high-end missiles, precision munitions and so-called combat systems “protector” technologies.
Significantly, Norway intends to use its strong supplier position in the US as a tool to unlock business in Asia, said Øystein Bø, state secretary at the MoD.
“Our industry has succeeded in penetrating the heavily regulated American military market by working in close partnership with US companies. This experience makes us well placed to also work with Indian companies, under Indian government guidelines, that emphasize the desire to develop a robust national defense sector industrial base,” said Bø.
Norway also wants to increase the market for defense equipment in Asia beyond India, said Bø, adding that India not only provided a “logical bridgehead” to these markets but was also the most viable partner for Norwegian defense contractors in Asia.
Similarly, Norway will showcase the industrial side of its defense offerings by linking to important international military events, such as the Rim of the Pacific Exercise (RIMPAC) in Hawaii in June and July.
Norway will take part in the biannual RIMPAC for the first time, joining 22 other nations, including China. As part of its defense industry showcasing, a Royal Norwegian Navy Fridtjof Nansen frigate will fire Kongsberg’s Naval Strike Missile (NSM) at the Pacific Missile Range.
“We will use the opportunity in RIMPAC to demonstrate how the Norwegian defense industry is a global leader within certain critical areas. We will showcase the unique capabilities of the Naval Strike Missile and demonstrate our Sea Protector system, which is designed for close-area protection of vessels,” said Ine Eriksen Søreide, Norway’s defense minister.
The RIMPAC showcase opportunity, said Søreide, will also enable Norway and its defense sector to strengthen relations with nations such as Japan, South Korea, India and Australia, with which it has little historic defense cooperation.
Norway’s MoD is also hoping to drive industry growth through strengthening bilateral defense agreements. In April, Norway signed an F-35 bilateral framework agreement with Britain that is envisaged to lead to concrete collaboration in the areas of pilot training, aircraft maintenance and sustainment.
“If each country alone is to maintain its own aircraft, it will be too expensive. Collaboration is essential. Multinational solutions push prices down and provide opportunities for Norwegian industry to enter the field,” said Søreide.
Britain is due to fly its F-35s operationally in 2018, while Norway’s first two F-35s are set to be delivered in 2017 and operational in 2019.
“Therefore, a suitable F-35 support system must be in place in Europe by 2017,” Søreide said.
Norway will also pursue growth in its domestic defense sector by reinforcing the Nordic Defense Cooperation vehicle’s (NORDEFCO) industrial mandate and scope to exploit available industry capacities to deliver to future Nordic joint weapons systems’ projects.
Holding the Chair of NORDEFCO in 2014, Norway plans to expand the military-run organization’s industrial role to work with Nordic defense industries to ascertain their capacity to deliver at competitive rates to small, medium and big ticket military equipment procurement programs run jointly by two or more Nordic states. ■