TechNorway ramps up defence with new NASAMS amidst support for Ukraine

Norway ramps up defence with new NASAMS amidst support for Ukraine

Launching an AIM-120 AMRAAM missile from the NASAMS launcher.
Launching an AIM-120 AMRAAM missile from the NASAMS launcher.
Images source: © Kongsberg
1:11 PM EDT, March 25, 2024

For the past few years, Norway has been steadily modernizing its armed forces by acquiring new types of weapons. The most significant arms program recently has been the purchase of F-35 multirole aircraft. However, this Nordic country has also been enhancing its arsenal with acquisitions such as Leopard 2 main battle tanks, K9 self-propelled howitzers, and Polish Piorun air defence systems. These investments are driven not only by the ambition for technical modernization but also by the need to replenish stocks after donating certain weapons to Ukraine in its defence against the Russian assault. Notably, the latest order includes NASAMS air defence systems.

The intention to donate NASAMS systems to Ukraine was first made public in March 2023, involving Norway's contribution of two such systems. These supplemented two identical systems previously given by the USA. Subsequently, in July, the donation of additional system components delivered alongside the NASAMS system from Lithuania was disclosed. By December, plans were revealed to transfer another eight launchers and four fire distribution and control centers. All these contributions were sourced from the stocks of the Norwegian armed forces.
The Norwegian Ministry of Defense meticulously analyzed the impact of these donations on its air defense capabilities each time. It's clear that these substantial transfers have diminished its defensive capabilities, a conclusion well-supported by the analyses. Recognizing this, Norway announced a few months ago its plans to replenish its inventory with new NASAMS launchers ordered from the domestic industry.
The contract for the new launchers was finalized on January 31, 2024. Kongsberg Defence & Aerospace, a Norwegian company that developed NASAMS with the American company Raytheon (now RTX) years prior, was chosen as the main contractor. Valued at 1.4 billion Norwegian kroner, the deliveries are scheduled for 2026-2027.
Details of the order are kept confidential, making it unclear how many systems are being purchased. What is known, however, is that Norway will procure the latest version of the launcher, featuring modernized launch containers and improved command posts to replace those transferred to Ukraine. This version can fire AIM-120 AMRAAM, extended-range AMRAAM-ER, and AIM-9X Sidewinder Block 2 short-range missiles from the same launcher thanks to a universal launch rail.
Details about the Fire Distribution Center (FDC) remain undisclosed. The FDC is pivotal for command, control, communication, and reconnaissance functions, including transmitting tactical data through data links, locating jamming emitters, evaluating threats from various targets, and assigning targets to missiles. The system is compatible with several tactical data transfer standards: Link 16, JRE, Link 11, Link 11B, LLAPI, and ATDL-1. It can be integrated with different radars, with the AN/MPQ-64 Sentinel as the primary option, though others can also be used.
  • Launch of the AIM-120 AMRAAM missile from the NASAMS launcher.
  • The NASAMS system can fire Sidewinder, AMRAAM, and AMRAAM-ER missiles.
  • The NASAMS system consists mainly of a radar, a command vehicle, and two launchers.
  • The NASAMS system launcher consists of six launch containers.
[1/4] Launch of the AIM-120 AMRAAM missile from the NASAMS launcher.Images source: © Kongsberg
Designed in the 1990s and operational since 1997, NASAMS is capable of engaging aircraft, drones, helicopters, and maneuvering missiles over a 360-degree range, in any weather, and at any time. A battery consists of a radar, command post, and launcher, with each launcher housing six anti-aircraft missiles. The missile's range determines engagement distance: approximately 9 miles for the AIM-9X, about 19 miles for the AMRAAM, and roughly 31 miles for the AMRAAM-ER. The system is mobile, installable on platforms or trucks, and requires only two operators.
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