Tag: Norway

Arctic Fighter Meet 2017

The Swedish air force is hosting the 2017 Arctic Fighter Meet at the Flygvapnet air-base at Luleå, in the North of Sweden.

The meet is scheduled to take place from 21 to 25 August.

Swedish air Force Gripen fighters and F-16 fighters of the Norwegian air force will be joined by six F/A-18 Hornets and three Hawk-Jet training aircraft of the Ilmavoimat (Finnish Air Force). Cross Border Training (CBT) between Finland and Norway will take place during the exercise, to hone the skills of the pilots and test the air defence systems of the participating nations.

The aim of the exercise is to fly in accordance with the training programmes of the Norwegian, Swedish and Finnish Air Forces, increase reaction times through airspace incursion drills, as well as to educate newly qualified pilots in Joint-training missions and mission interoperability.

Similar exercises have been held since 2003. The aim is to strengthen defence cooperation in the Nordic countries (NORDEFCO) and to develop the international interoperability. The exercise promotes cooperation between the Nordic nations of NORDEFCO and NATO and is designed to integrate the training programmes of the participating countries and increase operational effectiveness.

For more information, contact the Chief of staff of the Lapland flight detachment Juri Kurttila, p. 0299 800 (vaihde).



Cultural Diversity is Enduring in Canada’s NATO Mission

Canadian Armed Forces members from NATO’s enhanced Forward Presence Battlegroup in Latvia arrive at Riga International Airport as part of Operation Reassurance on June 10.   Photograph By MCpl True-dee McCarthy

When artillery Sgt. Jayden Cormier gets his morning coffee, the Victoria man, now on a mission in Latvia, stands in a United Nations mix of grinds and brews.

Spanish soldiers show up with a fine-ground coffee, the Italians with something dark and the Canadians with a coarse grind of Tim Hortons’ brand. And every country seems to have a different coffee-making device.

“Everyone comes out in the morning and seems to have their own little method of brewing their coffee,” said Cormier in a telephone interview from Latvia. “But everyone still seems to bond over that morning cup.”

The 28-year-old reservist from the Victoria-based 5th (British Columbia) Field Artillery Regiment is one of 450 Canadians leading a multinational battle group in Latvia. It’s a posting expected to last into 2018.

Most of the Canadians are mechanized infantry drawn from the Edmonton-based 1st Battalion, Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry and are part of a mission the Department of National Defence has called Operation Reassurance.

It’s part of a NATO effort to demonstrate a resolve to stand against any Russian incursions into neighbouring Baltic nations Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia, and Poland. It was a demonstration agreed at a NATO summit in 2016 in response to Russian interference in Ukraine and a 2008 incursion into Georgia.

Canada leads one of four battle groups in the Baltic states and Poland. The U.K. leads in Estonia, Germany in Lithuania and the U.S. in Poland.

But Canada’s 1,200-strong battle group is the most culturally diverse, with troops from Spain, Italy, Poland, Slovenia and Albania. Only the German-led group comes close, and its members are all from or closely allied with the European Union: Belgium, Luxembourg, Netherlands and Norway.

For soldiers such as Cormier, officers and analysts, it’s Canada’s ability to accommodate various ethnic groups and languages that makes it one of the most valued and trusted in the world today.

“We are a multicultural nation, and I think that’s one of our strengths,” said Cormier. “We can bring that multiculturalism we have learned as Canadians to the table and strengthen NATO with that experience.

Christopher Kilford, a military analyst with the Queen’s University Centre for International and Defence Policy now living in Victoria, said despite any controversy about military spending, Canada remains a bulwark welcomed all over the world.

Kilford noted Saudi Arabia and South Korea spend more on their armed forces. But neither country is ever asked to lead overseas missions.

Also, besides a reputation for honour and trustworthiness, Canada’s armed forces in particular have always been an expeditionary force.

Other nations will concentrate on missions closer to home; South Korea looks to match North Korea, for example. But Canada’s forces have long expected and been prepared to undertake or support missions overseas.

So Kilford said the Canadian Armed Forces are good at what he calls “exporting security,” a feat that usually comes with more than just arms. It can require analysts, diplomats and aid workers, often non-governmental.

“There are only a handful of countries that can go around the world and make a difference,” he said. “We are able to get people out and in the door just about anywhere, and we do it with a minimum of fuss.

“So when the world needs someone to take charge of a battle group, they will come to Ottawa.”

Kilford also said Operation Reassurance is something of a return to NATO’s traditional role of watchdog on the Russians.

It’s mostly about deterrence.

That Canada leads a force made up of so many different nations adds to the deterrent value: any country that engages with the group risks offending six countries, as well as the NATO alliance.

Kilford speculated any move by Russia would be covert instead of a direct military invasion — economic embargoes, closed borders or clandestine gifts of weapons or explosives to sympathetic forces inside Latvia.

He noted even to be stationed in Latvia will require a level of cultural sensitivity from Canadians. Many Latvians speak Russian, some as their first language. And many might find the presence of NATO to be objectionable.

Gen. Jonathan Vance, chief of the Canadian defence staff, warned in February that troops should be on guard against any misinformation or propaganda. At the time of Vance’s warning, a false report had already been circulated in Lithuania contending four German soldiers had raped a teenage girl.

“There are a million ways the Russians could cause problems in Latvia without ever sending a single soldier across the border,” said Kilford.

Canadian Air Force Capt. Dan Mazurek, information officer for the battle group in Latvia, said in a phone call he is aware of the local ties to Russia.

“The other day, I got to see a movie and there was Latvian and Russian subtitles,” said Mazurek. “But I haven’t seen any animosity.”

“So far I’ve enjoyed what I can only describe as a warm welcome,” he said.

He said the battle group is training regularly and maintaining a high level of readiness.

But at the same time, in a spirit of multiculturalism, regular language classes are put on by volunteers from various national units within the battle group, even if English is NATO’s default language.

“It’s been a great feeling out here, right across the battle group,” said Mazurek.

And enlisted people such as Victoria’s Master Cpl. Kathryn Holmberg, a reservist with 39 Signal Regiment, who volunteered for Latvia, is doing what soldiers overseas always do: missing family, hers in Nanaimo.

“I’m having a good time over here,” said Holmberg, 27, in a telephone interview. “But I always miss my mom when I go away.”



UK, Norway Observers to Fly Over Russia Under Open Skies Treaty

Antonov An-30 Romanian Air Force

Experts from the United Kingdom and Norway will conduct an observation flight over Russia under the Open Skies Treaty on August 24-28, Russia’s National Nuclear Risk Reduction Center head said Monday.

The plane and the equipment onboard have passed international certification, eliminating the use of technology not covered by the treaty. Russian experts will control the adherence to the treaty during the flight.

“During the August 24-28 period, a mission from Norway and the United Kingdom will conduct an observation flight over the Russian territory on a Romanian AN-30 [NATO reporting name Clank] observation plane within the framework of the Open Skies Treaty,” Sergei Ryzhkov told reporters.

The 34-nation Treaty on Open Skies was signed in 1992 in Finland and currently applies most NATO member states, Russia, Belarus, Ukraine, Georgia, and Sweden. The treaty establishes a regime of unarmed aerial observation flights over the territory of its participants with the aim of boosting transparency of military activities.


War Games Off Scottish Coast Help British Forces Prepare For HMS Queen Elizabeth

More than 60 Royal Navy and Royal Marine personnel have been onboard USS George HW Bush coordinating a giant NATO maritime exercise off the coast of Scotland.

The UK team have been working with their US counterparts to hone their skills ahead of taking command of the Royal Navy’s new aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth, which could be arriving in Portsmouth in ten days time.

The war games, called Exercise Saxon Warrior, have seen the Commander of the UK Carrier Strike Group Commodore Andrew Betton and his team direct jets, firepower and personnel across the task group for the last ten days to ensure full readiness for the UK’s own carrier strike capability.

Strike Warfare Commander Colonel Phil Kelly Royal Marine said:

“We have been working with the US for a few weeks now and they are doing a really good job of helping us train in bringing our skill set up so that when we do bring in our aircraft carrier and join that up with our aircraft then we can do it in a much more effective manner because we have seen how the experts do it.”

As well as the USS George HW Bush, the group includes two Portsmouth based Type 23 frigates, HMS Westminster and HMS Iron Duke, destroyer USS Donald Cook, missile cruiser USS Philippine Sea and the Norwegian frigate HNoMS Helge Ingstad.

Fridtjof Nansen-class frigate HNoMS Helge Ingstad, Image: Norwegian Navy

Captain Ken Houlberg, Chief of Staff to COMUKCSG said:

“The US Navy, out of huge generosity, given us the whole of their carrier strike group so that we can practise the command and control of a carrier doing these operations in British waters so that when HMS Queen Elizabeth comes into service later this year we will be well on the way to forming our own carrier strike capability.”

The exercise, which has been at play for nearly a week, has seen the COMUKTG staff work with their American counterparts to fight off a series of simulated threats from enemy forces, using all the air, surface and sub-surface assets of the entire task group.

The threats have been specifically designed to test the UK personnel’s reactions for coordinating a response.

There are 15 ships from across NATO taking part throughout the exercise with more than 100 aircraft and nearly 10,000 personnel.


Portuguese Navy frigate joining NATO’s SNMG1

Portuguese Navy photo of NRP Francisco de Almeida

Portuguese Navy frigate NRP Francisco de Almeida (F334) departed its homeport of Lisbon Naval Base on August 6 to join NATO’s standing maritime group 1 (SNMG1).

The former Karel Doorman-class frigate will join units from Canada, Netherlands, Denmark, Spain and Norway for operations in the North and Baltic Sea.

During the frigate’s time with SNMG1, the maritime group will be commanded by Norwegian Navy Commodore Petter Kammerhuber from aboard the flagship of the group, HNoMS Otto Sverdrup.

NRP Francisco de Almeida will be commanded Frigate captain João Pedro Monteiro da Silva who will have a crew of 188 at his disposal, including two boarding teams, a team of divers. The frigate also has an embarked Lynx helicopter on board.

The crew are set to return home on December 6.

NRP Francisco de Almeida is a former Karel Doorman frigate Portugal purchased from the Netherlands. The two countries signed a contract for two frigates in 2006 with former HNLMS Van Nes being renamed to NRP Bartolomeu Dias (F333) and transferred to Portugal in 2009 and former HNLMS Van Galen renamed to NRP Francisco de Almeida (F334) and transferred in 2010.

The 122 meter frigate is armed with the OTO Melara 76 mm gun, MK48 VLS-launched Sea Sparrow missiles, Harpoon anti-ship missiles, MK46 torpedoes and the Dutch Goalkeeper close-in weapon system (CIWS).


U.S., U.K. Co-Host Carrier Strike Group Exercise

A U.S. Navy F/A-18E Super Hornet launches from the Super-Carrier USS George HW Bush.

Naval forces from the U.S., U.K. and other Allied and partner countries are supporting Exercise Saxon Warrior 2017 in the North Atlantic Ocean Aug. 1-10 to demonstrate Allied interoperability and collective defense through power projection from the sea, U.S. European Command officials here announced yesterday.

Sailors will participate in robust training scenarios that span the full spectrum of carrier strike group operations including strategic strike, air defense operations, combat air support and enforcement of no-fly zones.

Protecting Freedom

“The U.S. and U.K. share a great military history, built on a shared culture of protecting freedom and defense globally,” said Army Gen. Curtis M. Scaparrotti, Eucom’s commander and NATO Supreme Allied Commander Europe.

“We stand shoulder to shoulder here today to help them refine and enhance their carrier strike group capabilities,” Scaparrotti added.

U.S. forces assigned to the U.S. 6th Fleet, including the George H.W. Bush Carrier Strike Group, will train side by side with forces from the United Kingdom’s Carrier Strike Group to build combined maritime and aviation capability and capacity.

As the U.K. prepares to achieve initial operating capability for its new Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carrier, this training will enhance the interoperability necessary to conduct combined CSG operations.

Honing Interoperability Skills

“Saxon Warrior allows both U.S. and U.K. naval forces a chance to hone our interoperability skills. Particularly important is the alignment of U.S. carrier strike groups and the U.K. carrier strike group,” said Navy Rear Adm. Kenneth Whitesell, Carrier Strike Group 2 commander. “This unique opportunity affords hands-on planning and execution across the spectrum of warfighting for both strike group staffs, strengthening our military understanding and capability.”

U.S. sailors routinely participate in multilateral and joint exercises with Allies and partners, both underway and in port. Participation in exercises like Saxon Warrior enables the United States to maintain its combined warfighting readiness and be prepared to respond to crises around the world.

Aircraft carriers are the centerpiece of America’s Navy. The 10 Nimitz-class aircraft carriers are the largest warships in the world, each designed for an approximately 50-year service life with just a single midlife refueling. This is a global Navy.

GHWB CSG consists of the flagship USS George H.W. Bush with embarked staffs of CSG-2, Carrier Air Wing 8 and Destroyer Squadron 22, and the squadrons of CVW-8; guided-missile cruisers USS Philippine Sea and USS Hue City; and DESRON 22 guided missile destroyers USS Laboon and USS Truxtun.

Approximately 6,000 U.S. sailors will participate in Saxon Warrior 17. Nations scheduled to participate in Saxon Warrior 17 include: Germany, Norway, Sweden, the United Kingdom and the United States. Saxon Warrior was last held in 2011.





Sweden plans large joint military exercise with NATO

Swedish Sridsvagn 103 Amphibious Main Battle Tank.

The Swedish military has released a statement announcing plans to hold its largest joint military exercise in years with NATO members this September.

The exercise will be labeled Aurora 17 and will involve land, air, and sea elements of the Swedish military and participating NATO members.

It will count over 19,000 Swedish personnel and 40 government agencies, 1,435 troops from the U.S. and smaller contingents from France, Finland, Denmark, Norway, Lithuania and Estonia.

A Finnish army Leopard 2A4 Tank Platoon.

“Through frequent and extensive training and exercise, especially with other defense forces, Sweden is strengthening its deterrence effect and makes it more credible,” the statement said.

There has been internal debate in Sweden and Finland concerning the possibility of joining NATO, and both have played higher profile roles in NATO summits. Russia’s increasing military assertiveness since its annexation of Crimea and backing of separatist rebels in Ukraine has raised concerns in neighboring countries and NATO.

Swedish army Stridsvagn 122, based on the German Leopard 2 Main Battle Tank.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said that Russia would see Sweden joining NATO as a serious encroachment and would demand a military response.

Aurora 17 will mark another in a string of increasingly large and elaborate military exercises taking place in the Baltics and eastern Europe.

Source: UPI.


USAFE and European partners seek common ground in integrating F-35

Hill Air Force Base F-35A Lightning IIs fly in formation over the Utah Test and Training Range, March 30, 2017. (U.S. Air Force photo/R. Nial Bradshaw)

RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany — The U.S. Air Force has yet to stand up a squadron of F-35s in Europe, but it’s already working on how to integrate the fifth-generation combat jet with some of its closest allies in the region.

U.S. Air Forces in Europe this week brought together about 50 senior military fliers and planners from eight nations, all with a stake in the newest and most expensive fighter aircraft on the block.

The two-day forum on the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter served to promote cooperation among the U.S. and its European counterparts that are already flying the plane or plan to do so. The goal was to share lessons learned and build common approaches that will support integrated flying operations in Europe in the future.

“We have to find a way to nest it all together,” said Gen. Tod Wolters, USAFE and Air Forces Africa commander.

Air Force officers from eight different countries, who attended an F-35 European leadership forum at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, had the chance to use an F-35 simulator set up at the Officer’s Club on Thursday, July 20, 2017. JENNIFER H. SVAN/STARS AND STRIPES.

“At the end of the day, if we can say this is something that we’re fusing into the system … we’re in a great place,” he told the group, which included fighter pilots, base commanders and chiefs of staff. The Army, NATO and the Marine Corps also sent representatives, as did Lockheed Martin, the F-35 Lightning II manufacturer.

The forum, which concluded late Thursday, was the first of its kind in Europe, officials said. It followed a similar conference held in March in the Pacific, where Japan, South Korea and Australia have all purchased the F-35.

Joining the U.S. at the European forum were Israel, Italy, Denmark, Norway, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and Turkey. Those nations have all purchased the aircraft. Israel and Italy are the first to be flying the plane in the region.

Royal Norwegian Air Force F-35A

“We like to remind (people that) Italy was the first nation to fly the airplane overseas, across the Atlantic, so we are very proud of that,” said Maj. Gen. Aurelio Colagrande, chief of staff of Italy’s air command, noting that his country’s air force currently has three F-35s in its inventory.

The aircraft has had problems, he said, but that’s to be expected from a “brand-new machine.”

Despite those challenges, “we are very confident that the F-35 is a very capable airplane and all the issues that we are having right now will be solved in the future,” he said.

In the States, too, the F-35 program has been beset by technical and other problems. Most recently, F-35A flight operations at Luke Air Force Base, Ariz., were temporarily paused last month when some pilots experienced symptoms similar to hypoxia, or oxygen deprivation.

The U.S. is expected to spend nearly $400 billion to buy about 2,443 aircraft, making it the Pentagon’s most expensive procurement program in history. President Donald Trump, Sen. John McCain and other prominent critics of the program have assailed its budget overruns.

But Lockheed Martin officials said Thursday the company is continuing to drive down costs because of manufacturing efficiencies gained through increased production rates. They expect to drop the cost for one aircraft to $85 million in 2019, about the same price tag as a fourth-generation fighter, said Bob Dulaney, a Lockhead Martin aeronautics representative.

The cost for the Air Force version of the plane fell below $100 million for the first time earlier this year, according to a February report in The New York Times.

The U.S. Air Force in Europe is still on track to stand up its first squadron overseas at Royal Air Force Lakenheath in 2020, said Col. Todd Canterbury, director of Headquarters Air Force F-35 Integration Office.

“Facilities are under construction as we speak,” he said, “as well as other infrastructure that comes with adding two more squadrons.”

It’s been a long time since the U.S. and some of its European allies and partners gained a new aircraft system around the same time, said Maj. Gen Timothy Fay, USAFE-AFAFRICA vice commander.

“Bringing the F-35 into this theater will really change the way we do business here in a way that we probably haven’t seen for decades,” Fay said.

Source: Stars and Stripes.

After Russia Military Threat, Sweden and U.S. Hold Massive Missile Drills

The Kustrobotbatteri 90 launcher is capable of firing Saab Robotsystem 15 (RBS-15) anti-ship missiles from the shore.

Sweden, one of Europe’s last remaining neutral militaries, will host U.S. missile systems and a handful of troops from NATO allies in a marquee exercise this autumn.

Aurora 2017 will be Sweden’s attempt to test its own defenses against what it describes as a “larger, sophisticated opponent.” Over 19,000 Swedish troops will take part across the country, joined by forces from Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Lithuania, Norway and the U.S. All but Finland, also nonaligned, are members of NATO.

“They haven’t done something like this in 25, 30 years,” U.S. Army in Europe’s Ben Hodges told Pentagon newspaper Stars and Stripes on Thursday. He confirmed the U.S. will deploy a Patriot missile battery, helicopters and a National Guard tank company to the Scandinavian country for Aurora 2017.

U.S. Patriot Missile Battery.

Concerned by Russia’s annexation of Crimea and military reinforcement, Poland has already agreed to purchase the Patriot system, while Lithuania has called on the U.S. to deploy a battery on its turf.

“Deterrence lies at the core of a strong defense, one that rises to all threats and overcomes all challenges,” the Swedish armed forces’ description of the September drill reads. “It is designed to deter potential attackers, and force them to carefully consider the risks of attacking our country.”

Running in parallel is a major Russian drill on the other side of the Baltic Sea, which nearby Lithuania has already condemned as a “simulating an attack” on NATO. Concern of a clash with Russia has run high in Europe’s northeast, where neutral states or U.S. allies share the most considerable borders with Russia.

Aurora will take place across Sweden, including the solitary island of Gotland, which was demilitarized after the Soviet Union’s collapse and which Sweden has more recently rearmed in a symbolic indicator of Stockholm’s concerns over current Russian foreign policy.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has already warned Stockholm that Russia will have to respond in some way should Sweden opt to join NATO.

Source: Newsweek.

Luxembourg’s troops joining NATO battalion in Lithuania

Soldiers of the Luxembourg army.

VILNIUS, Jul 17, BNS – Luxembourg’s troops are arriving in Lithuania on Monday to join the combat group of the NATO Enhanced Forward Presence battalion stationed in Lithuania.

The team arriving in Lithuania includes about two dozen troops who will provide logistics support to the international military unit, the Lithuanian Defense Ministry said.

Luxembourg’s troops are bringing their logistics equipment to the Klaipeda seaport, including various modifications of transport trucks, a total of 10 units.

Troops of Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium and Norway are currently serving in the NATO Enhanced Forward Presence team in Lithuania. The battalion’s team in Lithuania is headed by German troops who also make the basis of the group.

In 2017–2018, the group will include troops from Germany, Norway, the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, Croatia and France.

Source: Latvian Information Agency.

NATO’s SNMG1 gets new flagship, commander

HNoMS Otto Sverdrup is the new flagship of SNMG1. Photo: Royal Norwegian Navy.

Two Norwegian Navy Commodores traded places at the helm of NATO’s Standing Maritime Group 1 (SNMG1) during a change of command ceremony at the Norwegian Naval Base, Haakonsvern, on Friday.

Commodore Ole Morten Sandquis was relieved as Commander of SNMG1, by fellow countryman, Commodore Petter Kammerhuber.

At the same time, the flagship duty passed over from HNoMS Roald Amundsen to HNoMS Otto Sverdup – both are Fridtjof Nansen-class frigates in service with the Royal Norwegian Navy.

Since taking command on January 14, Sandquist, his staff and flagship HNoMS Roald Amundsen, operated in the Alliance`s area of responsibility in the North Atlantic with several other allied ships.

From the North Sea to the English Channel and the Baltic Sea to Iceland, the group participated in several multinational exercises and conducted continuous patrolling, providing the Alliance with immediate maritime capabilities and maritime situational awareness.

“It has been a great period of training and operations, and I trust that we have provided real Maritime Capability to NATO,” said Sandquist. “Units that have been a part of SNMG1 during this time have left the group with a higher state of readiness, and improved interoperability with Allies and partners.”

Norway is the command group lead of SNMG1 for the year of 2017, changing command mid-way.

Sandquist and Roald Amundsen leave the group after a busy program with a fair share of the time spent at sea, visiting 10 allies and partners in 17 ports.