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    Female soldiers talk next to a CV90 combat vehicle at the armored battalion in Setermoen, northern Norway on August 11, 2016. Norway has become the first NATO member to have compulsory conscription for women as well as men in the army. Recently, the first batch of army recruits joined the ranks in The Armored Battalion in the Norwegian Army located in Setermoen in northern Norway.

    New Norwegian Defense Leaves Country Defenseless, Embarrassing Report Finds

    © AFP 2019 / Kyrre Lien
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    The Norwegian army can only defend an area of about 600 square kilometers, which corresponds to a single medium-size Norwegian municipality (out of 426), a new army report has found to the embarrassment of the Norwegian Defense Ministry.

    Last year, Norway adopted a new long-term defense plan for the army and the home guard. A new report by Brigadier Aril Brandvik has identified crucial drawbacks in the defense plan, which in effect leaves the Nordic country virtually defenseless. According to the Brandvik report, which was made public by the Norwegian daily Aftenposten, the Norwegian Armed Forces were found to be suffering from low combat readiness and lacking "real battle force" against a technically sophisticated opponent.

    With the exception of the Telemark battalion (with around 470 soldiers), intelligence battalion and special forces, the Norwegian Army was found to lack units that are ready for battle within a few hours. With only one brigade, and with weak range of anti-aircraft and artillery, the Norwegian Armed Forces was found to be able to defend an area corresponding to a middle-size Norwegian municipality with an area of 600 square kilometers, such as Rissa, Vardø and Førde — compared to the country's total area of 385,000 square kilometers. The highly limited impact force made it thus difficult to defend Norway from potential aggression until the arrival of allies. However, the report also found vulnerabilities in encrypted communication, also with allies, especially over long distances.

    Additionally, the Brandvik report highlighted the lack of helicopters, which results in low mobility and high vulnerability of the land forces. Another problem identified was the absence of reserve forces, which would mean that the units would end up quickly worn down in battle due to breakage and technical errors. Yet another problem was that today's air defense allegedly had no effect on high-flying bomber and fighter aircraft. Finally, coordination between branches was found to be at a low level, as neither the National Guard nor the Border Guard was trained or equipped to cooperate with other combat arms or allies.

    Nina Græger, senior researcher at the Norwegian Institute of International Affairs (NUPI), argued that the situation gave every reason for concern.

    "One may ask whether it is possible to set up a defense that is good enough to parry the threats without having to go far beyond the economic framework," Nina Græger said, reminding that the Norwegian forces will also be sued in international missions to contribute to a fairer burden-sharing with its NATO allies.

    By his own admission, Aril Brandvik saw a potential in "making smart moves," such as a "smarter" distribution of troops in order to boost maneuverability. So far, the Brandvik committee abandoned the ideas of meeting the enemy at the border or launching a high-tech guerilla war in the event of an enemy attack. The former option was determined as "too risky," while the latter admittedly gave no protection to own bases.

    At present, Norway is facing two defensive strategies. The first one is dubbed "the maneuver concept" and was utilized by the Germans at the beginning of WW2, with forces in a flux to put the enemy off balance. A similar strategy was adopted by Norway until 2000, but with three times as many soldiers as today.

    The second options is the so-called "exchange concept," with such historical examples as the "trench war" during WW1, the Maginot Line or the Mannerheim Line during WW2, neither of which proved truly successful. Today, this concept is embodied in forces with a capacity for attack from long distance, with long-range precision weapons, such as missiles, fired from ground level, aircraft or naval vessels. According to Brandvik, the latter option is beneficial in that it is likely to limit losses, while it also may be difficult to stop the opponent in this manner.

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