I would like to take this opportunity to thank you for inviting me here to share this very special day with you, here at the very heart of Norway’s defence industrial environment.
It is a special day for me as well – the very day after the Government selected the candidate for Norway’s new combat aircraft.
But first and foremost – we are here today to celebrate an important event, both for the Region of Kongsberg, for the Norwegian industry, and for the Armed Forces: the opening of the new composite factory.
The Armed Forces – dependent upon a competitive defence industry
The Armed Forces’ purchases are important to the Norwegian defence industry – but the defence industry is also very important to the Armed Forces. We are mutually dependent, and we must use the opportunities to maintain both strong Armed Forces as well as a sustainable industry. Having a competent, modern national defence industry is not only necessary to acquire the platforms and weapon systems that we need. It is equally important because the industry is an important technological partner for the Armed Forces in the further development of systems, concepts and technological solutions.
Therefore, it remains crucial that the acquisitions of the Armed Forces also result in contracts to the industry. But we live in the 21st century, not in the 1950s. Today, our defence industry can only remain in the technological lead if it is internationally engaged. And given the nature of the international defence industry, this requires a strong partnership between government and industry.
This Government has taken this fact very seriously:
-- We have achieved what we set forth in the Soria Moria-decleration - giving the business community stable, predictable and competitive conditions, in which the Government is engaged in partnerships with businesses and employers.
-- We have succeeded in supporting the business community by granting KDA a state guarantee for building a composite factory here at Kongsberg. And we did so well before we made the final choice of which combat aircraft we would end up buying, which is why we had alternative plans both for the JSF option and for the Gripen NG option. I commend the leadership here at the KDA for their constructive participation in keeping both paths open until the final decision was made.
-- And we have spelled it out in White paper nr 38 - titled The Armed Forces and the Industry – Strategic Partners. This title gives an indication of our ambitions and the emphasis we place upon this co-operation.
The White paper emphasises we rather than you and us. Co-operation is the very key to success within our area. It has always been that way. The fact that we are here today, shows that we are well underway.
Kongsberg – a proud defence town
A long time has passed since director of ordinance services Colonel Ole Herman Krag and rifle maker Erik Jørgensen constructed the famous Krag-Jørgensen rifle here at Kongsberg. At the end of the 19th century this rifle was the main weapon in the Danish, Norwegian and the U.S. Army. In Norway it was actually in service until the Second World War.
Still today, Kongsberg is a defence town with proud traditions, high level of competence as well as a strong will to defend.
I witnessed this myself when I was here during the flood in 2007, and saw how the local Home Guard managed the situation.
I also witnessed this, on the UN-day this year, when I unveiled the monument commemorating the personnel serving in international peace operations.
And we have seen it in the enthusiasm and competence presented to us in establishing this factory.
By far one of the largest national defence industrial communities is found here in Kongsberg. Therefore, I am happy that the Government was able to issue a state guarantee to ensure that this factory will be located right here.
The Government reached this conclusion because we believe in Kongsberg as a professional environment. You have already proven that you are skilful, competitive and have a strong professional environment.
In close cooperation between government and industry, Norway has decided that composite materials should be a strategic industrial priority in Norway. The use of composite materials – with its unique combination of low weight and superior strength – is an increasingly interesting element in many future-oriented concepts, in the military as well as in the civilian field.
And I have absolutely no doubt that the right environment for this factory is found here. Over several years KDA has built competence and production of composite here at Kongsberg.
This materiel offers Norwegian businesses great opportunities and a future area of priority for Norwegian industry, not the least in relation to the acquisition of new fighter aircraft.
New Fighter aircraft
And this brings me back the very important decision the government took yesterday on new fighter aircraft.
The JSF is the only candidate which fulfils all the operational requirements specified by the Norwegian Government, and is furthermore offered at a lower price than the JAS Gripen.
The Government decided early that operational capabilities and price should be the determining factors in selecting a new combat aircraft. But also industrial aspects have carried weight in choosing the right candidate. Throughout the process, the Government has communicated clearly to the candidates the significance of securing industrial opportunities.
An investment of this magnitude thus offers substantial opportunities for Norwegian industry.
This will be to the benefit of a number of small and large enterprises, and not the least for the Kongsberg community.
The business community at Kongsberg has had its ups and downs throughout history. This occasion certainly marks one of the upsides!
Congratulations – good luck, and thank you for your attention.