New espionage ship for Norway

Norway is renewing a part of its military presence in the north

Photo: Norwegian Intelligence Service The new Marjata is much bigger and sleeker than her predecessor.

Photo: Norwegian Intelligence Service
The new Marjata is much bigger and sleeker than her predecessor.

Michael Sandelson and Sarah Bostock
The Foreigner

“The new Marjata will be an important piece in the continuation of the Intelligence Service’s assignments in the High North,” Lieutenant General Kjell Grandhagen, head of the Service said in a statement. “Activity, development, and focus on the High North are increasing. An overview of this development is strategically important for Norway.

Norway has used vessels for surveillance in the Barents Sea for almost 60 years. NRK reported that the new surveillance ship, which replaces her predecessor, also known as Marjata, is intended to identify how Russian weapons systems work. It will also examine which search methods the Russians use, as well which frequencies deployed.

The vessel is reportedly one of the world’s most advanced surveillance ships of its kind, the Armed Forces say.

With the hull built in Romania and the vessel completed in Norway, she is 126 meters long and 23.5 meters wide (about 413 by 77 feet). Both top deck and height above the surface of the sea are increased. She will replace the current Marjata when being put into operation from 2016.

“There is no doubt that Russia has gained a better military capacity in recent years, seen overall. It has also invested more in its defense due to its better economy in the last ten years. We have also seen increased activity along the coast, as well as elsewhere in Europe,” Prime Minister Erna Solberg told NRK, Saturday, Dec. 6.

She christened the ship in Møre og Romsdal County’s Tomrefjorden.

“Having a good overview up there [the High North] is important, because it is a major chunk of Norwegian waters. This is why we’ve fortified the Coastguard, have satellite programs contributing to information up there, and a good Orion capacity to keep up with what’s happening,” declared Prime Minister Solberg.

“I’m not worried about Norway as such, but there is reason for concern regarding Russian nationalism activity we have seen in relation to Ukraine. However, I don’t experience that there is particular cause for concern regarding Norway. It is important that we monitor things and maintain the areas in which we have a good cooperation with Russia.”

The last government allocated NOK 105m (about $4.67m / EUR 11.96m / GBP 9.43m) towards studying the policies of Russia.

Also among the past few years’ events are Norwegian military interest in Arctic drones, monitoring developments surrounding Russia’s Northern submarine Fleet build-up, and Norway initiating Arctic troops.

Russia has taken steps in recent years regarding Norway too. These include placing more troops in the Arctic and reinforcing numbers of these personnel near Norway.

Some incidents of Russian air activity involving Norway have been observed recently. Norwegian F-16 pilots made two sightings of the same Russian aircraft type flying close to Norway’s territory last month. They did not violate Norwegian airspace.

Moreover, a video clip released by Norway’s military on one of their ID missions shows a Norwegian Air Force pilot taking evasive action to avoid a near miss with a Russian MiG-31 fighter jet.

Norwegian Joint Headquarters (FOHK) press spokesperson Captain Brynjar Stordal tells The Foreigner that they released the video “as an example of the kind of situations that our pilots flying the NATO QRA-missions can encounter.”

“We do NOT know if this incident was caused by the Russian pilot miscalculating the distance to the Norwegian fighter, or if it was an intentional maneuver. There have been a few incidents like this over the years, but I would like to stress that the majority of the IDs made by Norwegian fighters take place without incident,” he says.

According to him, the Norwegian military has not witnessed the same increase in Russian air activity in its area of responsibility as that of its allies in the Baltic region.

“Norway has not seen ANY airspace violations from the Russian side as opposed to what Sweden, Finland, and the Baltic states have experienced. We had 41 scrambles and identified 58 Russian aircraft last year. The numbers for 2014 as of now are 43 and 69, respectively,” concludes Captain Stordal.

This article was originally published on The Foreigner. To subscribe to The Foreigner, visit theforeigner.no.

It also appeared in the Dec. 12, 2014, issue of the Norwegian American Weekly. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (800) 305-0271.

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