Norway does not have air defenses that can stop missiles that Russia uses in Ukraine. The combat air bases with the billion-dollar F-35 aircraft can be put out of action if there is a war.
The Nasams system defending Evenes is the same one used in Ukraine after being donated to the country. It has been developed by the Kongsberg group together with American Raytheon
Experts warn against it. The armed forces want more long-range air defenses and believe it is important to get them in place quickly.
The war in Ukraine has made clear a shortcoming in the Norwegian defense in a worst-case scenario where there is a war with Russia.
Norway has previously had air defenses against short-, medium- and long-range missiles. Now Nasams, a medium-range system, is what defends, among other things, the Evenes fighter base.
The Norwegian preparedness against Russian aircraft is located there.
– Feel it on the body
– One thing I have been confirmed by the war in Ukraine is the amount of threats, says Lieutenant Colonel Stian Negaard Nilsen, battalion commander of the air defense battalion at Evenes.
He shows off the Nasams system which defends, among other things, the Norwegian F-35 aircraft.
– Now we only have Nasams, which are middle distance. We have holes. Especially against ballistic missiles, but also against smaller threats, he says.
Nilsen says the crew on the mountaintop above Evenes can feel it up there. They cannot handle the entire threat.
– You realize that you could have defended the air station here better?
– Clearly. Yes. We are good at what we do, we are good at Nasams. But we need this mix in place, says the lieutenant colonel.
Professor Tormod Heier at the Norwegian Staff School says that it is a military concern that has been promoted throughout the 2000s. First and foremost from the Army, but that the Air Force is also concerned now about precision rockets placed in the northern areas.
They can cause great damage to Norwegian fighter aircraft bases without warning, says Heier to NTB.
– As a result, Norway’s biggest mainland investment in modern times, the modern F-35 fighter jets, may have problems getting into the air, he says.
– When we know that these fighters are the very hub of the future Norwegian defence, with sensor packages and missiles that give the Norwegian and allied defense capabilities valuable power, this is serious, says the defense professor.
Puts a question mark
Heier emphasizes that he does not think Russia can pose any threat for many, many years. But he believes the Norwegian airports could be important targets for Russia in an imagined future crisis.
That is because the air bases are a piece in a threat picture Russia can envision in the defense of the nuclear force on the Kola Peninsula.
Nevertheless, the researcher questions whether it is absolutely certain that it is more air defense that Norway needs most. He says there may be other threats that are bigger than Putin’s rockets.
– Then we are talking about digital attacks against socially critical infrastructure, various influence operations against the population, or unannounced nuclear bomb explosions and military exercises outside Norwegian territorial waters.
The aim will then not be to take out air bases, but to get Norway to change its policy by making the population anxious and weakening cohesion.
– In this perspective, the discussion about air defense at Norwegian airports becomes very different. Maybe we are preparing for the wrong war?
– Should clearly be a priority
Associate professor Lars Peder Haga at the Norwegian Air Force School says that Norway should clearly prioritize long-range air defense.
– The commanders at Evenes are absolutely right that they lack an active defense against ballistic missiles, he says to NTB.
He says all the crew at the air stations can help with early in a conflict if ballistic missiles are used are melters on the base.
Several have said that Russia cannot pose a threat to Norway now. They are too deeply involved in Ukraine. Haga says that they will probably be able to spend five to six years rebuilding after a possible end to the war in Ukraine.
– Can affect the defense of the Baltic Sea
– If we look at the geography and compare with Ukraine, in most conceivable scenarios for an open conflict with Russia, most of Norway will be more exposed to attack with cruise missiles and long-range ballistic missiles than to an invasion by land forces, says Haga.
In addition to being able to put pressure on and lead to great suffering among the civilian population, it can also create other problems, he says.
– It will also make it more difficult to accept allied aid that we will depend on in a scenario with combat actions on Norwegian soil, or allied forces that will go through Norway and Sweden to be able to contribute to a possible future conflict in the Baltic Sea area, says Haga.