Editor's Note: This article was changed to describe what the additional funds are intended for.

HELSINKI — Norway has decided to invest $500 million in two new programs intended to strengthen its military capability in the High North.

The capital investment, which is being financed within the framework of the 2015 defense budget, happens against a backdrop where Russia continues to reinforce its air, naval and land capabilities in the neighboring High North.

The Norwegian government earlier set spending on the core defense budget at $5.6 billion for 2015, a 3.4 percent increase compared with the core military budget for 2014.

The two new programs are intended to reinforce defense readiness and overall capability, and will be used to add firepower to Norway's defensive systems.

The two programs, costing a total of $478 million, center on the Norwegian Defense Forces' project to build Norway's first anti-aircraft battery. The cost of this project is around $120 million.

The anti-aircraft battery will be stationed with, and operated by, the Brigade North Battle Battalion. The fully integrated air-defense system will also include the Norwegian advanced surface-to-air missile system (NASAMS) and the IRIS-T air-to-air missile.

The military is currently developing a self-propelled anti-aircraft system, combining IRIS-T missiles fired from existing NASAMS II-launchers mounted on a lengthened M113 armored personnel carrier chassis. Delivery is set for 2015.

The second program will involve modernization of the Army's German-made Leopard 2 tanks.

The Leopard 2 upgrade will involve 38 of the Army's 52 tanks. The modernized tanks will operate in a modular construct as part of the military's evolving network-based defense structure. This estimated cost is $356 million.

"The increase in spending will further improve the military's operational capability," said Defense Minister Ine Eriksen Søreide.

All the ministers in conservative Prime Minister Erna Solberg's Cabinet supported the defense spending increase, an initiative supported by the perceived need for Norway to strengthen its defenses along its borders with Russia.

"The unfortunate developments in Ukraine and Russia make it necessary for Norway to increase our military capability," Solberg said.

Increased funding will be required to improve facilities at the Norwegian Air Force's air station at Ørland to serve as the main base for new F-35 aircraft. The cost of the air base modernization will run to $190 million. The first F-35s are scheduled to arrive in Ørland in 2017.

The military is also procuring and modernizing new CV90-type combat vehicles, a program that is budgeted at $1.32 billion, and working with the MoD to devise a plan to replace the Navy's aging Ula-class submarines.

Email: godwyer@defensenews.com

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