Norway Comes to RIMPAC 2014 for the First Time: A Symbol of 21st Century Dynamics


2014-07-19  Norway, India and China are all first time participants in RIMPAC 2014.

According to the basic statement on the Commander of the Pacific’s website:

Held every two years by Commander, U.S. Pacific Fleet (PACFLT), RIMPAC 2014 is a multinational maritime exercise that takes place in and around the Hawaiian Islands.

This year’s RIMPAC exercise, the 24th in the series that began in 1971, is scheduled from June 26 to August 1, with an opening reception scheduled for June 26 and closing reception August 1.

Twenty-two nations, 49 surface ships, 6 submarines, more than 200 aircraft and 25,000 personnel will participate. Units from Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Colombia, France, India, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, the People’s Republic of China, Peru, the Republic of Korea, the Republic of the Philippines, Singapore, Tonga, the United Kingdom and the United States will participate.

RIMPAC is a unique training opportunity that helps participants foster and sustain the cooperative relationships that are critical to ensuring the safety of sea lanes and security on the world’s oceans.

Exercises as a key coin of the realm for preparing for Pacific defense, built around an evolving deterrence in depth strategy.

As we commented earlier in a broad overview with regard to the role of exercises in the Pacific:

There is significant convergent modernization going on among the allies, and as new systems and capabilities are introduced crafting ways to get these systems to work together is an important dimension of the re-shaping of Pacific defense.

There are significant 21st century technological and operational dynamics affecting those forces as well. 

It can be easily understood why India and China are participating but why Norway and how do they fit into any Pacific strategy or modernization effort?

 The Arctic Opening

The first reason is simply because the Arctic region is evolving into the bridge between the Atlantic and the Pacific and Norway is a major Arctic power.

Norway has shown up at RIMPAC because in the future their interests are best served by a Northern Pacific and Arctic engagement strategy.

The USCG leadership is working hard with other members of the Arctic Council to shape something akin to the North Pacific Forum and notably Admiral Papp, the former Commandant of the USCG, has been just appointed as the U.S. Special Representative for the Arctic.

RIMPAC may be focused on the legacy Pacific, but the Pacific itself is changing over time under the impact of many dynamics, and a notable one is the Arctic.

This is why we included an entire Arctic section in our book on Pacific strategy published last year.

And the Arctic opening is not just an abstraction but of strategic interest to both Japan and Norway and their evolving relationships as well.

PEARL HARBOR (July 25, 2014) Royal Norwegian Navy frigate HNoMS Fridtjof Nansen (F 310) arrives at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam in preparation for the Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) 2014 exercise.  Credit Photo: USN
PEARL HARBOR (July 25, 2014) Royal Norwegian Navy frigate HNoMS Fridtjof Nansen (F 310) arrives at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam in preparation for the Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) 2014 exercise. Credit Photo: USN

From a Bloomberg story of October 1, 2013, the link between energy supply and new transit routes was highlighted:

Japan is set to receive its second spot cargo of liquefied natural gas from Norway via the Northern Sea Route as the world’s largest buyer of the fuel reaches further afield to secure supplies.

LNG replaced nuclear energy as Japan’s primary source of power generation after the most of the country’s atomic capacity shut after the March 2011 earthquake. It imported a record 87.3 million metric tons last year and paid 6 trillion yen ($61 billion), double the bill in 2011, according to customs data.

The Arctic Aurora, with a capacity of about 155,000 cubic meters, is scheduled to arrive Oct. 16 at the Futtsu LNG terminal owned by Tokyo Electric Power Co., according to transmissions captured by IHS Fairplay on Bloomberg. The company doesn’t comment on specific spot deals, Kaoru Suzuki, a company spokeswoman, said by phone from Tokyo…..

The Arctic Aurora is delivering Japan’s second cargo from Norway this year, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The vessel loaded the supercooled gas at Statoil ASA (STL)’s Hammerfest LNG terminal in northern Norway and departed Sept. 19, ship-tracking data show.

The ship used the Northern Sea Route to sail to Norway after completing its trials in South Korea last month. The route reduces the sailing time between Europe and Asia and can be used by ships from July to November, when ice is reduced.

Contributing to Evolving Pacific Security and Defense

The second reason is simply that Norway is deploying equipment, which can plug into the Pacific forces of its allies.

Its role clearly will be need to be enhanced to deal with the Russian challenge if Canada does not move up and deal with its own and allied needs in the region.

The procurement choke point which Canada has become clearly highlights an opening security vacuum of strategic significance.

The ship involved in RIMPAC is an Aegis ship, and its sensors can provide to the sensor grid necessary for Pacific defense in the coming years.

Norway is a major buyer of F-35s, which can certainly deploy to the Pacific and become part of a broader Pacific fleet of US, Japanese, South Korean, Australian and Canadian (if Canada ever announces a decision),

Norway has money and strategic interests to invest in defense and security assets for 21xt century operations and clearly its interests in the Arctic span both the Atlantic and Pacific areas of operations.

Showcasing Its New Family of Missiles

Third, the Norwegians are clearly interested in marketing their indigenous capabilities in the Pacific market as well.

We have argued that one key aspect of change associated with the F-35 is that it allows a global market of weapons to emerge where weapons integrated on one country’s planes via indigenous capability integrated into the software of the airplane is then readily available to other members of the F-35 global enterprise.

The British agreement with Japan on defense clearly has this in mind, and MBDA is reportedly working a relationship with Mitsubishi for missile development, which could clearly include the inclusion of Meteor on the Japanese F-35s as well.

Chris Cavas of Defense News has highlighted the importance of the missile exporting mission as a motivator for coming to RIMPAC 14.

And the crew of the Aegis frigate Fridtjof Nansen — the first Norwegian ship to take part in the huge Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) exercises — did just that when they fired a single surface-to-surface missile and scored a dramatic hit on an old target ship.

“It was a very successful shot. The missile performed exactly as programmed and expected,” Cmdr. Per Rostad, the ship’s commanding officer, said in an interview Saturday.

Speaking via satellite phone while his ship was underway near Hawaii, Rostad would not provide details of specific features demonstrated in the July 10 live fire exercise, when the Fridtjof Nansen launched a Naval Strike Missile (NSM) at the decommissioned US Navy amphibious ship Ogden.

PACIFIC OCEAN (July 10, 2014)  The ex-USS Ogden (LPD 5) is hit by a Naval Strike Missile (NSM) from the Royal Norwegian Navy frigate HNoMS Fridtjof Nansen (F 310) during a Sink Exercise (SINKEX) as part of Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) Exercise 2014. Credit Photo: USN
PACIFIC OCEAN (July 10, 2014) The ex-USS Ogden (LPD 5) is hit by a Naval Strike Missile (NSM) from the Royal Norwegian Navy frigate HNoMS Fridtjof Nansen (F 310) during a Sink Exercise (SINKEX) as part of Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) Exercise 2014. Credit Photo: USN

“But the missile system has a number of features that make it unique on the market and we were able to demonstrate those features,” Rostad said. “We also demonstrated some agility.”

Developed by Kongsberg, the NSM is designed to be highly maneuverable, and features an autonomous target recognition capability that allows it to recognize ships of a particular class or design, and even to target specific areas of a ship based on its silhouette.

“The key takeaway from the NSM exercise,” Rostad said, “is the missile was demonstrated to work just as well in a tropical climate as in an arctic climate.”

The JSM is designed to be a family of systems, with an air launched variant, and this has been a key driver for Norwegian government investment.

In looking at the F-35 as a global program, not simply an aircraft but a key enabler of a 21st century air-combat enterprise, we noted earlier:

With the F-35 the situation is totally different.  The F-35A to be purchased by Norway has the same software as every other global F-35, and so integration on the Norwegian F-35 provides an instant global marketplace for Kongsberg.  And the international team marketing the aircraft – is de facto – working for Kongsberg as well.

It is very likely, for example, that Asian partners in the F-35 will find this capability to be extremely interesting and important.  And so Kongsberg’s global reach is embedded in the global reach of the F-35 itself.

The Vikings may not be raiding England this time, but they are seaward looking for new ports of call to project and protect their interests. 

PACIFIC OCEAN (July 10, 2014)

The ex-USS Ogden (LPD 5) is fired upon by a harpoon missile from the Republic of Korea (ROKS) submarine LeeSunSin (SS 068) and then by a Naval Strike Missile (NSM) from the Royal Norwegian Navy frigate HNoMS Fridtjof Nansen (F 310) during a SINKEX as part of Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) Exercise 2014.

Credit: Third Fleet, USN