Norwegian Air Force Craves NATO Missile Shield to Plug Defensive Gaps
Norway must either join NATO's missile shield or get one of its own. The Norwegian Air Forces arrived at this conclusion after identifying enormous gaps in today's air defense in a classified document.
The Norwegian Armed Forces were found unable to protect the Nordic country from attacks with missiles and high-precision bombs. Norwegian air defense capabilities were described as "limited," as well as having too short of a range and too small scope. This makes the Norwegian air bases, which are looking forward to becoming bases for a new fleet of F-35s, easy targets, the Norwegian newspaper Klassekampen reported.
Therefore, the Norwegian Air Force concluded that Norway basically has two choices: join NATO's much-debated missile shield or acquire a national missile defense system. Incidentally, this is the first time the Norwegian Air Force indicated its desire for a missile shield.
This places the Norwegian politicians between a rock and a hard place. A separate missile shield would be extremely expensive, even for oil-rich and well-to-do Norway. On the other hand, NATO's missile shield was previously criticized as stimulating a new nuclear arms race.
Meanwhile, both Evnes and Ørlandet, which are Norway's leading air bases, were identified as having crucial deficiencies in terms of security. Combat aircraft bases were recognized as the most likely targets, with missile attacks to be expected as the initial phase of a strategic attack against Norway. Based on data from the Norwegian Intelligence Service, tactical ballistic missiles (TMBs) have emerged as a new major threat.
"The future air force should either have its own capacity against TBMs or contribute to NATO's BMD architecture to address such threats," the Air Force wrote, as quoted by Klassekampen. BMD is the abbreviation for Ballistic Missile Defense, which is NATO's term for the missile shield.
The Norwegian government remains undecided whether or not Norway should participate in NATO's missile shield, but has appointed a panel of Norwegian and American experts to assess what a possible Norwegian contribution may consist of. Norway was previously reported to be able to contribute with a number of radars and sensors to the missile shield (such as the Globus II radar in Vardø) or the Aegis radar system currently installed on five Norwegian frigates. The panel will set forth its recommendation in 2017, and the government is expected to deliver its verdict in mid-2018.
Previously, Russia promised a sharp response in case Norway joins NATO's controversial missile shield. In March, Russia's ambassador to Norway Teimuraz Ramishvili said that such a decision would spur a lasting worsening of the relations between the neighboring countries. He also warned of "catastrophic results" for Europe and the whole world.
Over the past decade, Norway seems to have evolved from being an opponent against the missile shield to a keen supporter of NATO's plans. Ironically, the NATO Secretary General, former Norwegian Prime Minister and former Labor leader Jens Stoltenberg, was skeptical about the US missile defense system. For his speech against the missile defense system during a trip to Moscow in 2007, he was grilled in the Norwegian media for "showing a soft spot for the Russians."