While the Norwegian government aims to save billions of kroner by dropping the Andøya air base, the Norwegian Armed Forces, by contrast, are working on a plan to make it "the most important" NATO air base in the northern part of the country.
A clash between the Norwegian Armed Forces and the Scandinavian country's government is approaching, as both have contradictory views about the Andøya air base, which is currently home to Orion surveillance aircraft, the Norwegian daily newspaper Klassekampen reported.
The government is keen to close down the base and save NOK 4 billion ($500 million) by moving activities to Evenes Air Station, where Norway's prized F-35 fighter jet fleet, the future backbone of the armed forces, will also be stationed. This decision, however, has stirred a lot of anger in northern Norway, as it is projected to displace 300 jobs. Incidentally, the armed forces themselves are working to retain the base contrary to the government's plans.
According to Klassekampen, the Norwegian Armed Forces are working on a contingency plan to retain operations at Andøya, in order to be able to receive allied aircraft and reinforcements in times of war or crises. Andøya, which is slated for closure, is thus seen as a pivotal link in NATO infrastructure.
According to a classified military document cited by Klassekampen, military airports at Evenes and Bardufoss won't be able to accommodate many aircraft from NATO allies in the event of a crisis. This is where Andøya is expected to step in.
"After the removal of the military infrastructure at Bodø Airport, and due to capacity constraints at Evenes and Bardufoss, Andøya will in the future be the most important base for supporting allied reinforcements on NATO's northern flank," an internal document by the Norwegian Joint Headquarters (FOH) stated.
The document also stressed the need for the base in Andøya, which would require an infrastructural upgrade in order to reduce waiting times and tackle all eventual missions.
The head of the Norwegian Joint Headquarters (FOH), Rune Jakobsen, stressed that Andøya could play an important role in an emergency situation. He also stressed that work is underway to bolster preparedness to take in allied reinforcements without giving out any details.
According to the Defense Ministry, however, the continuation of Andøya as a standby base over a period of 20 years would cost about NOK 2.7 billion more than its closure combined with the concentration of the available resources at Evenes. Should the armed forces have its way in maintaining Andøya as a standby base, this step would eat up a major portion of the intended savings.
According to an agreement brokered by the ruling parties the Conservatives and the Progress Party, Andøya air base will be closed when the Orion surveillance aircraft currently stored there are replaced by their technologically superior successors.
Andøya Air Station is situated in the north of Norway, in the island municipality of Andøy, Nordland County. It is currently home to 333 Squadron of the Norwegian air force, with has three P-3C Orions surveillance aircraft stationed at Andøya. The squadron is Norway's only surveillance squadron and stands as the airborne defense of northern Norway. The island also hosts a civilian airport and a rocket launching facility.