The Norwegian Armed Forces protect and safeguard Norway's safety, interests and values through nine tasks as set by the Norwegian parliament.
The Armed Forces' annual report describes how we have solved these tasks, and how we have managed our allocated resources. In 2018, we have carried out our tasks satisfactorily. This has primarily been achieved thanks to our knowledgeable, dedicated and skilled employees – both military and civilian. The implementation of the current long-term plan is on schedule. This is done by strengthening our operational capability and restructuring our organisation so that we can meet the challenges of the future.
Several of the Armed Forces' combat units have increased their readiness, responsiveness and endurance. Efforts to improve preparedness within supply and logistics have continued throughout 2018, and these efforts have had effects. During the past twelve months, several departments and units have improved their responsiveness and endurance. We will continue this work towards 2020, in addition to increased staffing at relevant departments. This will further strengthen the readiness in the Norwegian Armed Forces.
Day-to-day operations to monitor, assert sovereignty and to exercise authority in Norwegian territory are always a priority. This was carried out well during 2018. Last year, I described our increased presence in the north as the "new normal situation", and this still applies. In the transition between phasing out older aircraft and phasing in new ones, the availability of maritime patrol aircraft is low.
We have somewhat compensated this by increasing sailing activity within the Navy. This has contributed to solving our tasks within monitoring, sovereignty enforcement and exercise of authority in 2018. Nevertheless, the number of aircraft and vessels is on the margin of what we need in order to maintain a satisfactory presence in the High North.
“Day-to-day operations to monitor, assert sovereignty and to exercise authority in Norwegian territory are always a priority.
The Armed Forces' operational capability at sea has been reduced following the accident of the frigate HNoMS Helge Ingstad in November 2018. Although we have compensated by increasing sailing hours with our other frigates, Norway's military capacity has been reduced. A better balance between national ambitions and allocated resources should be improved in the coming long-term plan for the Norwegian defence sector.
NATO's exercise Trident Juncture in Norway last autumn characterised the whole of 2018. The exercise enabled us to test our plans and ability to operate alongside our allies at home – while also receiving and handling large-scale reinforcements from NATO. Trident Juncture proved how personnel-intensive it is to conduct military battle while handling large amount of reinforcements. Key players within the Norwegian Total Defence Concept, along with civil contractors, had their contingency plans and capabilities tested during the exercise. The Norwegian Total Defence is now better at handling a military crisis today than before Trident Juncture.
Our participation in international operations in 2018 was approximately at the same level as in the previous years. At any given time, around 300 Norwegian women and men are serving in operations abroad, through the UN, NATO, or other alliances. Our troops abroad are recognised for their quality and professionalism in solving their missions. The demand for military contributions to NATO's response forces and international operations is increasing due to the current global security situation.
The Armed Forces' financial management is good, and use of resources is in line with the priorities in the current long-term plan. We have implemented several efficiency measures that resulted in a financial gain of NOK 436 million ($53 million) – 5 million ($600,000) above target. The annual result shows that we had NOK 341 million of unspent funds. This is mainly due to costs related to exercise Trident Juncture not being charged before 2019. The unspent funds in 2018 are to be transferred to the 2019 budget.
The process of receiving and implementing our new F-35 fighter jets into the organisation is on track. In 2018, we received six new F-35s and we now have a total of nine F-35s in Norway. The fleet of new stealth multirole fighters is fundamental for the defence of the country.
“At the start of 2019, the international security situation is characterised by greater seriousness and rapid changes in many places around the world.
A modern air defence is a precondition for allowing sea and land forces to operate successfully in battle, and I look forward to the Norwegian F-35 system reaching its initial operational capability towards the end of 2019.
Last year, I spoke about our NH90 helicopters with concern. Now, twelve months later, I see somewhat brighter on the situation. The manufacturer has improved the quality of the machines, and we have acknowledged that operating the NH90s will require more resources than planned.
However, there are still significant uncertainties concerning the delivery, and we are dependent on the manufacturer prioritising the delivery of spare parts.
At the start of 2019, the international security situation is characterised by greater seriousness and rapid changes in many places around the world. NATO is increasingly concerned about the situation and is placing greater demand on its member to provide more response forces with sufficient endurance for use within the alliance. The international security situation also requires a further strengthening of the Norwegian Armed Forces in the coming years. In particular, we need to strengthen our land and sea forces, but also increase staffing within several military professions.