Friday, November 11, 2011

Norway Should Maintain Submarine Fleet: Study

HELSINKI - Norway's national defense capability would be best served by either extending the life of its submarine fleet or acquiring a next-generation sub, according to a study commissioned by the Ministry of Defense (MoD).
The study, which examined Norway's submarine needs after 2020 when the Navy's Ula-class fleet is due to be renewed, determined that no other military capabilities are suited to replace its submarines. The direct inference is that Norway should replace its submarine fleet with a new-generation of Arctic-class stealth subs.
The study is a collaboration among MoD, the Defense Forces Command and the National Institute of Defense Research. The Ula-class submarines have had midlife upgrades and are due to be phased out after 2020 unless a new investment program is established.
MoD now plans to analyze how the Navy's submarine fleet can be replaced. This investigation will form a central part of a new study to be completed in 2014.
This new study will examine available options, including extending the life of the current Ula-class fleet or acquiring a next-generation submarine after 2020. It is expected that a final recommendation will be submitted to the MoD and parliament in 2017.
The study given to MoD on Nov. 3 considered three primary options before it concluded that maintaining a submarine fleet is in the best interests of national defense and key to the government's High North and Arctic security strategies.
The study contemplated the consequences of halting investment in submarine capability and phasing out the present fleet. The second option considered the impact of a continuation of the submarine fleet. This included the possibility of prolonging the life of the Ula-class subs, a new acquisition program or a combination of the two. A third option explored alternatives to the submarine, such as the expanded use of surveillance technologies, including sensors.
Sweden has had informal discussions on the possibility of selling its next-generation A26 submarine, which is under development, to Norway. Other possible European acquisition options include France's Barracuda-class submarine or the German-designed Type 212 or Type 214 subs.
Norway's submarine capacity was reduced in the late 1990s when the Kobben-class subs were phased out. This left the Navy with six diesel-electric propulsion Ula-class vessels.
The Ula-class boats are primarily active in coastal policing and defense operations, being limited in their diving depth to around 820 feet. All six subs came into active service in 1989-92 and comprise a mix of German, Norwegian and French engineering technologies and weapon control systems, including Kongsberg's MSI-90U torpedo fire-control platforms.

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