Norway establishes Arctic base for long-range drones

Defense Minister Bjørn Arild Gram gives priority strengthen the Armed Forces presence in the north. Here at Jarfjord on Norway’s border with Russia together with Colonel Tomas Beck, Commander of Finnmark Land Command. (Thomas Nilsen/The Independent Barents Observer)

The Nordic country is buying big drones that are to enhance its ability to control maritime interests areas in the Barents Sea. They will be based at Andøya, 300 km north of the Arctic Circle.

“Long-range drones are a brand new asset in our Armed Forces that will enhance our continuous situation awareness and surveillance of the region,” says Minister of Defence Bjørn Arild Gram.

“Good situation awareness is crucial for our ability to enact national control and freedom of action,” he adds in a statement.

The new base will be located at Andøya, the far northern island that previously housed Norway’s fleet of P-3 Orion surveillance aircrafts.

According to the Norwegian government, the new long-range drones are to provide surveillance also in connection with natural catastrophes and rescue operations. They are to be operated as part of a multinational allied cooperation that includes also training, management and development.

“The government has big ambitions for Andøya,” Minister Gram underlines.

he Andøya airbase had a key position in Norwegian national air defense during the Cold War, but was closed in 2023 as Norway replaced the P-3 Orion with the P-9 Poseidon aircraft.

In addition to the long-range drones, the Andøya base will also serve a new ‘department for joint training and development.’ Key base functions will be preserved for allied aircraft operating in peace time, conflict and war, the defence ministry informs.

The airbase has a 2,440 meter long runway, as well as 1,670 meter long crosswind path and large areas for various aircraft types, including fighter jets. Also civilian air traffic is operated.

The far northern island also houses the Andøya Spaceport, a space center that supports the Norwegian military activities and also contributes in bilateral and multilateral space projects.

Drones have proved themselves a crucial part of modern warfare and are an key kind of weaponry applied in Moscow’s war of aggression against Ukraine. The Russian aggressors have long vast numbers of equipment and manpower in Ukrainian drone attacks.

The Russians appear increasingly concerned about drone attacks also in its north. In a recent exercise held by the Northern Fleet, the training scenario included a drone attack on the key military base of Severomorsk. Similarly, when two of the Northern Fleet’s new frigates last week conducted an exercise in the Barents Sea combat of enemy drones was key part of the training.

Related stories from around the North: 

Canada : Canadian military says it has tracked, stopped China surveillance in Arctic waters, The Canadian Press

FinlandRussian cyber attacks, espionage pose growing threat to Finnish national security, Yle news

IcelandIceland authorizes U.S. submarine service visits, Eye on the Arct

Norway: Russian jamming disrupting GPS signals for Norwegian aviation almost daily, The Independent Barents Observer

RussiaAs NATO forces move north for exercise, Northern Fleet sails out frigates, The Independent Barents Observer

Sweden: Swedes must mentally prepare for war, says military top brass, Radio Sweden

United States: U.S. nominates Alaskan as first Arctic ambassador, Eye on the Arctic

Atle Staalesen, The Independent Barents Observer

For more news from the Barents region visit The Independent Barents Observer.

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