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Royal Norwegian Navy - History

The Royal Norwegian Navy has a history dating back to 955. In the middle ages, the ships of the Norwegian Vikings were known far and wide. The old national defensive organisation "ledingen" (the levy), was entirely based on naval warfare; the coast was divided into ship-provinces, which each had to provide a manned vessel with oars and sails.

From 1509 to 1814, it formed part of the Royal Dano-Norwegian Navy, also referred to as the Common Fleet. In the development of the larger types of war-ships of more modern times, Norway had no part until long after a union was effected with Denmark; and the traditions of Norwegian naval wars during the last centuries are hardly to be separated from those of Denmark, as long as this union existed.

It was in a great measure Norwegian sailors and Norwegian officers that manned the fleet, which maintained the intercourse between the kingdoms, and which was most frequently victorious in the numerous engagements with the Swedish fleet in the Baltic and the Kattegat. In 1801, a bloody battle was fought with the English under Parker and Nelson in the roads of Copenhagen; and in 1807, the large and splendid united fleet was given up to the English, who quite unexpectedly landed in Zealand. During the succeeding years of war there were no ships left in Norway but two or three brigs and a few rowing gun-boats.

Since 1814, the Royal Norwegian Navy has again existed as a separate navy. Special importance was attached to gun-boats, as these vessels had proved capable of keeping the belt of rocks and islands along the coast, the «skjaergaard», free from the enemy's ships, and open for the coast traffic which is so necessary for Norway.

Steam was introduced fairly early, and in the sixties Norway had a fleet of screw frigates and smaller steamers, that was quite on a par with those of her neighbours. When the general introduction of armour-plating followed the American civil war, a few monitors were built, but it was of course impossible for a nation numbering less than two million persons to keep up with the rapid development of large and very costly vessels that followed. The importance of defence by torpedoes in waters like those of Norway, was soon understood; and the first torpedoboat built for any foreign government was for the Norwegian navy, by Thornycroft (1873).

It was not before 1895, however, that the development of the Norwegian navy again made any advance worthy of remark. Attention was then turned to other branches of the fleet equally necessary for a country like Norway, that is obliged to procure the necessaries of life across the sea, namely armoured and more sea-going war-vessels. As these ships, however, must also be adapted for employment within the skjiergaard, nature itself sets a limit to their size, a limit also more nearly corresponding to the financial capacity of the country. The type chosen was the 3rd or 4th class iron-clad of the large navies, or coast-defence vessels of from 3600 to 4000 tons, with a speed of 17 knots.

Up to 1895, Norway had 4 of these ships built at the Elswick Works, Newcastle-on-Tyne (2 of them will be finished in 1900). They are comparatively strongly protected and armed, the armament being two 21 cm. guns in turrets, and a secondary battery of iI guns, 12 cm. on the two ships first built and 15 cm. in armor-plated casemates on the two last, all quick-firing, and moreover from 12 to 14 7ii—37 mm. quick-firing guns besides two broadside submarine launching tubes for Whitehead torpedoes. The complement of men was about 240.

The torpedo-boats, which, in Noway's complicated waters with their numerous channels and sounds between the islands, must have unusually favorable conditions for their operations, and can make it very unsafe for any hostile ships, number 28. One of them is a 380-tons division boat, 10 of them are 84 tons with a speed of 23 knots, and 17 are from 40 to 65 tons with a speed of 18 or 19 knots.

Great War

Norway was neutral during teh Great War, but the armed forces were mobilised to protect Norway's neutrality. The neutrality was sorely tested - the nation's merchant fleet suffered heavy casualties to German U-Boats and commerce raiders. With the need for protection of trade traffic on submarines during World War I had been introduced destroyers as escort vessels (Destroyer Escort). But they were all relatively large vessels, and they were not differentiated by frigate designation. In 1918 contracted one limitation of the largest vessels, and one priority strangely enough neither the smaller escort vessels, because they underestimated the threat from increasingly improved submarines.

World War II

Defence Commission of 1920 was created consisting only of politicians. It received a broad mandate and should include assessing the extent of disarmament, Armed installation and use of conscripts. In this threat evaluation, the Royal Navy would take care of our safety in the North Sea. No longer seeing Sweden as a threat, and it is believed that Eastern Norway was most war-prone. Therefore let one the greatest importance to land troops and aircraft. Navy should primarily operate neutrality and possibly counteract a blockade. Invasion defense was not any design task.

Of vessels in a 20-year perspective as one primarily for many young (42) and a few larger (9) torpedo boats, a number of rather small submarines (10) and some artillery ships (6). The Commission also began to look at the command scheme, but this work was not completed until 1930. The socialist side had grown tired that officers often came from "good bourgeoisie" and felt more appreciated than under officers, who often had a more popular background.

World War II began for the Royal Norwegian Navy on April 8, 1940, when the German torpedo boat Albatross attacked the guard ship Pol III. In the opening hours of the Battle of Narvik, the old coastal defence ships ("panserskip") HNoMS Eidsvold and HNoMS Norge, both built before 1905 and hopelessly obsolete, attempted to put up a fight against the invading German warships; both were torpedoed and sunk.

In autumn 1941, when they were about to lose the battle against the German submarines, the Navy wsa seriously focused on the construction of anti-submarines escort vessels for merchant ships. In addition to the usual destroyers (at about 300 feet and at least 30 knots) built the United States, and eventually, the UK, a large number of smaller destroyers. These were at that time designated escort destroyers (Destroyer Escort; DE). They were between 100-200 feet, made just over 20 knots and had fewer guns and torpedoes than an ordinary fighter. But they had the same capacity against submarines as ordinary destroyers. In addition to depth, they had the "Hedgehog", ie they could shoot out underwater projectiles to avoid the distracting noise of their own depth charges.

On June 7, 1940 13 ships, five aircraft and 500 men from the Royal Norwegian Navy followed the King to the United Kingdom and continued the fight from bases there until the war ended. The number of men was steadily increased as Norwegians living abroad, civilian sailors and men escaping from Norway joined the RNoN. Funds from Nortraship were used to buy new ships, aircraft and equipment. Ten ships and 1,000 men from the Royal Norwegian Navy participated in the Normandy Invasion in 1944.

Cold War

The building of a new fleet in the 1960s was made possible with substantial economic support from the United States. During the cold war, the Royal Norwegian Navy was optimized for sea denial in coastal waters, in order to make an invasion from the sea as difficult and costly as possible. With that mission in mind, the RNoN consisted of a large number of small vessels and up to 15 small diesel-electric submarines.

The huge number of escort vessels the Allies were left with in 1945, became part transferred to other friendly countries or placed in "mothballed", but a large number was also scrapped. From 1950, the Soviet Union a significant production of submarines, and to meet this trend, launched USA a newbuilding program of escort destroyers that would be something more powerful and faster than those that were in use during the war. Dealey class, which came in 1954, was the first of this new type of vessels. Dealey class was what the concept that later formed the basis for our own frigates of Oslo class. USA designated at this time no class frigates, but as an escort vessel (Ocean Escort = OE), as distinct from the term escort destroyers (DDE) which is now used as a term for the converted, larger destroyers from the war.

As a rule, frigates were first used after World War II, and then to designate the vessels that were larger than corvettes and smaller than destroyers, the UK reintroduced the frigate concept already during the Second World War as a term of less escort vessels with special anti-submarine capacity, which eg their River class (which they built all 138 pieces of between 1941 to 1944). As a rule, however frigate concept first adopted after the war, as a designation for vessels that were larger than corvettes and less than destroyers. A number of vessels during the war were classified as destroyers or corvettes, was thus reclassified as frigates after the war.

The focus in the first postwar years were not primarily northern areas, but the fear that the great Soviet forces in Europe would roll through Germany and true southern Norway. Therefore Navy's main still lying in Horten, and Naval task, together with the Coastal Artillery, was primarily to secure reinforcements to southern Norway. Because Soviet at this stage they had by far the largest conventional forces, developed the US strategy of an attack from the Soviet would be met with a "massive retaliation" with nuclear weapons, which eventually became NATO strategy.

Under such a strategy would primarily the Air Force be important, while the army would carry out the essential operations on land. It was thus difficult to argue for the role of marine vessels should play. This was probably one reason why 1950 has been considered a bad decade for our Norwegian navies.

From the late 1950s, several things occured that helped to turn the meaning of naval forces in general, and perhaps in particular for our Norwegian navies.

On the one hand, it was realized more and more that the strategy of massive retaliation was too dangerous. Also Soviet has developed nuclear weapons, and many feared the danger of a conflict develops into a total war with catastrophic consequences. Gradually growing, therefore the strategy of "flexible response" forward. And in a situation where one envisions NATO alliance in a conventional war, remains navies important, not least for the convoy, and conflict in the coastal zone. It is partly a contributory factor to the Fleet Plan 1960.

At this time also rearmament of West Germany, which in 1955 became a member of NATO, came so far that it was believed it will deter an attack from the Warsaw Pact. Accordingly, neither the threat to southern Norway longer considered the largest, and from Norwegian side moved focus to a Soviet threat to North Norway. There is a strong contributing factor to the establishment of a new headquarters for the Navy in Bergen.

With Coastal Artillery back in place from 1961, with the many new vessels from Fleet Plan, develops Norway a strong and balanced navy, which is not affected much by the political relaxation tendencies between the superpowers from the mid-1960s. Coastal Artillery, who right enough yet to receive the desired material renewal, protects with guns, torpedoes and mines the inner part of our defense against invasion. The most important forts in northern Norway are virtually fully intended in peace with 30 minutes readiness. As provided in the fleet plan, Norway got a standing navy where most vessels were manned at all times. Although military service was reduced from 18 to 15 months, this qs sufficient for the conscripts to reache a high competence and training level.

Destroyers are light vessels, with great speed, the small and medium guns and often with torpedoes. Originally came vessel class to protect the larger ships against attack from small torpedo boats. They performed to some extent the same tasks as cruisers, and was likely to defeat submarines. The first torpedo fighter was launched in 1908 and named Draug. There were built three vessels of this class (Draug class). In 1936 became the first of six vessels in the Sleipner class built. During the war Norway received several destroyers of different construction. Five Town-class three Hunt-class two Savage-class. After the war it was decided to buy four bye destroyers of the British Crescent class and in 1954 two new Hunt-class destroyers. This was the last two Destroyers the Navy acquired.

Under fleet plan of 1960 it was decided that it would be built five new corvettes of Sleipner class. It was only built two, Sleipner and Æger. Corvettes should have tasks that resembled the frigates' and it was essential that they also should have Terne rockets. Area wise they should however primarily patrol along our own coast. Therefore they could be a great deal smaller than frigates, and therefore they were in the planning process dubbed "patrol vessels". For this type of vessel, around 600 tonnes, there was no great painter to build for, and Marine Department in Horten was therefore central to the construction of these.

Partly because the frigates was somewhat more expensive than anticipated, and because they also could solve Corvette tasks, it was quite early in the process decided to reduce the number from five to two corvettes. At the Navy Main Shipyard was one fully engaged with the frigate construction and therefore, the two corvettes Sleipner and Æger built at Nylands workshop in Oslo.

Norway allowed her destroyer force to disappear in the 1960s but renewed her frigate force by building five Dealey-class ships. By 1980 some though a decision would have to be made on their replacement, but they just sailed on. Norway augmented both her submarine and fast attack forces since the 1950s. Eight new small submarines had just been ordered in Germany to replace some of the existing 15 boats, and the Hauk class was the latest of several classes that kept the fast attack force at a strength of around 46 units since around 1967. The minelaying force was led by two modern ships. Norway retained her minesweeping force (10 MSC in 1980) intact, but has not updated it, and its future was not clear. The Norwegian air force operated about seven P-3B maritime patrol aircraft.

In 1981 the United States tested for the first time its new concept in exercise Magic Sword, where several NATO exercises concluded. Of importance for Norway was partly exercises control in GIUK gap and partly exercise of supply support across the Atlantic to Norway. One of the three US aircraft carrier groups led by the USS Dwight D Eisenhower, operated just outside Lofoten. It turned out that one of the aircraft carriers group had the least control over, was Norway's small, quiet submarines.

In accordance with the Norway Navy development program, by 1983 it was planned that in the late 1980's the "Kobben" class submarines now in inventory would be replaced with new submarines of West German construction (1,100 tons displacement). A contract to build six such submarines in the FRG had already been signed. In order to lengthen the service life of "Oslo" class guided missile frigates, they would undergo modernization in the mid-1980's. Obsolete "Sauda" class coastal minesweepers (built in 1953-1955) are to be replaced at the end of this decade.

In Defense Study 1985 it was pointed out how great the need was for a strengthening of the Armed Forces. But without a new military aid program was unrealistic to get the annual increase of the defense budget (7.5%) to cover the described need. For the Navy was the prioritization of Coastal Artillery in favor of new frigates maintained.

By 1988 construction of six new type 210 submarines in the FRG and modernization of submarines presently in the inventory were the priority directions in the fleet's development. The prototype submarine, the S300 "Ula", was laid down in January 1987 in Emden (the work was to be completed in the first half of 1989). The last submarine would be transferred to the navy prior to 1993. The basic combat characteristics of submarines of this class are: submerged displacement 1,300 tons, length 59 m, width 5.4 m, draft 4.6 m, submerged speed 23 knots, surface speed 11 knots; armament—eight forward 533-mm torpedo tubes (a unit of fire consists of 14 torpedoes). A decision was made to modernize "Kobben" class submarines with the purpose of lengthening their life; three of them had been sold to Denmark.

A program for modernizing five "Oslo" class guided missile frigates was being implemented. They were being equipped with new keel-mounted and towed sonar stations, a fire control system and other electronic equipment. The program would be completed by 1990. Modernization of the fire control system of "Storm" class missile boats (18 units) was to be completed by the late 1980s; the fire control systems of six "Snogg" class missile boats were to be modernized subsequently. Later on they were to be replaced by 24 boats of a new type.

A decision was made to build 10 new minesweepers at the beginning of 1989, to include six minesweepers and four minehunters. They were specially designed for action in Norway's coastal rocky areas. According to the plan, the displacement of the new ships would be around 360 tons, their length would be 54.5 m, their width would be 13 m, their draft would be 2.3 m, and their speed would be up to 20 knots. Construction of the series was to be finished in 1996. These vessels would replace eight "Sauda" class coastal minesweepers (former American "Adjutant" minesweepers built in 1954-1955).

P-3B Orion shore-based patrol airplanes would be replaced by new P-3C aircraft, an agreement for the delivery of which was reached with the USA.

Coastal artillery units were beginning to receive 120-mm guns produced by Sweden's Bofors (series ERSTA, rate of fire 25 rounds per minute). The guns were aimed by radar, laser and television systems.

Post Cold War

After the end of the Cold War, the Norwegian Armed Forces began a transformation making it suitable for operations abroad. Norway was exposed to the challenge of deployment of forces in operations abroad. Army and RNoAF units were deployed to the former Yugoslavia in 1993 as part of the UN-lead mission. In 1998 fighter aircraft were deployed to Italy as part of the NATO-lead operation "Allied Force" in Kosovo.

The demise of the Cold War also gave Norway an increased ability to adapt his defense to such participation. For the standing part of the Navy has probably the biggest reorganization in this respect been within the small mobile devices Coastal Rangers, Mine Divers and Marine Hunters. Marine vessels was not unacquainted with the participation of international forces, but over the past 25 years this has been a much greater focus also for the Navy.

Conflicts in the Middle East, Asia and Africa are nothing new. Seen from the West side has such conflicts a humanitarian side and a security policy file. The danger that the West also directly affected by remote conflicts is far greater now than 25 years ago. The end of the Cold War brought with it a resurgence of suppressed, regional conflicts in Europe. The outside world was concerned both for the humanitarian consequences and that the unrest would spread. It was therefore early recognized by most Western countries (and many others) that we both have a collective responsibility and a vested interest in contributing to international peacemaking or peacekeeping operations.

When Iraq under Saddam Hussein attack its small neighbor State Kuwait on August 2, 1990, it was seen with very great concern, both from the West and from the Arab world. As a first response, the UN adopted economic sanctions. To ensure compliance with these, it was decided to create and send a multinational flåtestryke to the Persian Gulf and the area south of the Gulf. The operation was named Desert Shield.

Operation Sharp Guard was a joint NATO / EU operation in the Adriatic. Marine Vessel and maritime patrol aircraft from 14 nations should control shipping to the former Yugoslavia, to comply with UN / EU economic sanctions and ban on weapons imports. Sharp Guard began on 15 June 1993.

Deminers have ever since NATO established a standing demining force (Standing Naval Force Channel, later minemottiltaksstyrken MCMFORNORTH) has been an active participant in this force. Minemottiltak has been a niche where Norway has been among the leading navies in the world. As one of several measures after the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001 required the United States an increased naval presence in the eastern Mediterranean, partly to prevent any terrorist cells in this area would get the ship into military aid, and partly to ensure the shipping industry and oil pipelines in the Mediterranean against new terrorist attacks. So serious that the United States to the threat that they requested NATO alliance for support under Article 5, ie the mutual obligation to support a member country that is attacked by an enemy. This was for the first time in history accepted by NATO.

Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) is a generic term for US military operations, primarily against Afghanistan, in response to the September 11 attacks of 2001. They started operation already on October 7 2001 airstrikes against Taliban.

The summer of 2006 broke out again waging war between Israel and Lebanon. After Hizbollah had fired rockets and taken some prisoners, said Israel with a ground invasion. Ceasefire was signed already on 14 August. UN would follow this up with the increase of existing land forces as well as a maritime element, which should control and secure maritime traffic outside.

Operation Atalanta is a generic term for what has essentially been two operations, one led by the EU and NATO. From August 2009 to January 2010, Norway participated with our new frigate KNM Fridtjof Nansen in the European workforce. It did use the French base in Djiboti, but essentially it was on patrol in the sailing corridor which was established a little north in the Gulf of Aden.

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Page last modified: 29-11-2015 19:01:13 ZULU