ARCTIC NATION: Joint Viking; Norway Defense Budget; Arctic Caucus; Ice Melt

March 10, 2015 at 11:59 pm Leave a comment

Big Norwegian Exercise.

Thousands of Norwegian soldiers, sailors and airmen are converging on the northernmost county in Norway as part of joint service exercise called “Joint Viking.”

Norwegin troops guide a Bell 412SP helicopter in during Exercise Joint Viking. (Norwegian Armed Forces photo)

Norwegian troops guide a Bell 412SP helicopter in during Exercise Joint Viking.
(Norwegian Armed Forces photo)

Some 4,000 soldiers and 400 vehicles will take part in the largest winter exercise near the Russian border in almost 50 years. Submarines, surface ships and aircraft will also be part of the exercise

The object of the 10-day arctic exercise that began Monday (March 9) is to perfect a concept called “Joint Operative Arenas,: which fuses several sea-air-land-specific exercises together “in order to give all players an increased outcome,” according to the Norwegian Armed Forces website.

Another, pointed but less direct object of the exercise — the largest near Norway’s border with Russia since 1967 — is to send a message to Moscow. Since the end of the Cold War, Norway (a member of NATO) and Russia have conducted several joint exercises in the Barents Sea region — the latest was in 2013. But with Moscow’s annexation of Crimea and support for pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine, Norway as ended all military cooperation with Russia, according to the Barents Observer.

Meanwhile, Russia has launched numerous military exercises near the borders of NATO nations — including an air force war game last week over the Barents Sea.

*** *** ***

Oslo’s Arctic Buildup.

Norway, Sweden  (CIA World Factbook via University of Texas Libraries)

Norway, Sweden
(CIA World Factbook via University of Texas Libraries)

As we have said in previous posts, Russia’s new aggressiveness all along its borders with former Soviet Union and Warsaw Pact countries (like Estonia and Ukraine) has provoked several Nordic countries to reevaluate their military spending – particularly on equipment and manpower in the High North.

Norway, for one, is planning on an $8 billion defense budget in 2015. Norway is beefing up manpower and equipment for Arctic combat units as part of the Norwegian Defense Forces’ Smart Defense Strategy. The strategy places a higher priority on Arctic-class specialized equipment procurement and more intensive training for Arctic-deployed units.

According to Defense News, a Joint Operational Command Headquarters “is overseeing the evolution of Norway’s High North defenses into a centralized command and coordinated fighting structure” that will be able to rely on air force F-35 Joint Strike Fighter jets, army battalions deploying CV90 tracked armored infantry fighting vehicles and Archer self-propelled artillery units, naval surface vessels like anti-aircraft and anti-submarine Arctic-class Fridtjof Nansen frigates and Skjold corvettes.

*** *** ***

Congressional Arctic Caucus.

Two U.S. senators are forming an Arctic Caucus in the Senate to focus on building U.S. leadership in the region.

Alaska Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski said March 4 that she and Maine Independent Senator Angus King are forming the caucus to initiate discussions on a range of issues including defense, energy, environment and trade. “I’m calling on colleagues in the Senate to join me, to step up, to help us not only build out policy initiatives, but really take that leadership role we should be doing as an Arctic nation,” Murkowski said from the Senate floor, adding: “Embrace your inner-Arctic self,” The Hill newspaper reported.

The new caucus comes as the United States is poised next month to begin a two-year chairmanship of the Arctic Council, an intergovernmental group that focuses on cooperation in the region.

King said his priorities include: appointing a U.S. ambassador to the Arctic; ratifying the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, examining the need for infrastructure investments — such as building more ice-breakers, evalue tthe challenges of Arctic shipping and how the United States might work cooperatively with Russia on Arctic issues, according to the Portland Press  Herald.

*** *** ***

Arctic Sea Ice Melt.

Sea ice still thinning. (Photo courtesy of NASA Earth Observatory website)

Sea ice still thinning.
(Photo courtesy of NASA Earth Observatory website)

Research shows that Arctic sea ice is not only covering less of the planet, but it’s also getting significantly thinner. That makes it more susceptible to melting, potentially altering local ecosystems, shipping routes and ocean and atmospheric patterns, The Guardian newspaper and other news outlets report.

“New data compiled from a range of sources – from Navy submarines to satellites – suggests that thinning is happening much faster than models have estimated, according to a study aiming to link those disparate data sources for the first time,” the Guardian said.

According to the report from the National Snow & Ice Data Center in Boulder, Colorado, the extent of Arctic sea ice is well below average, but it remains to be seen whether March will see a rise or set a record low maximum. “Regionally, Arctic ice extent is especially low in the Sea of Okhotsk and the Bering Sea. In the Antarctic, sea ice shrank to the fourth highest minimum in the satellite records,” the report said.

ARCTIC NATION is an occasional 4GWAR posting on the  High North. The U.S. “National Strategy for the Arctic Region” describes the United States as “an Arctic Nation with broad and fundamental interests” in the Arctic. “Those interests include national security needs, protecting the environment, responsibly managing resources, considering the needs of indigenous communities, support for scientific research, and strengthening “international cooperation on a wide range of issues.”

Polar bears explore a surfaced U.S. submarine in the Arctic. U.S. Navy photo. (Click on the image to enlarge)

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Entry filed under: Aircraft, Arctic, Disaster Relief, National Security and Defense, Naval Warfare, News Developments, Technology, Unconventional Warfare, Weaponry and Equipment. Tags: , , , , , , , , , .

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