Norway steps up high north defense with fully equipped brigade in Finnmark

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Finnmark Brigade will be based at Porsangermoen near Lakselv and Høybuktmoen near Kirkenes on the border with Russia’s heavily militarized Kola Peninsula. 

“We have to deal with a more dangerous neighbour in many years to come,” said Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Støre as the new Long-Term Defence Plan was presented in Oslo on Friday. 

Russia’s aggression has changed the security landscape for Norway’s northern regions dramatically. 

“This plan represents a historic boost in defense spending, and involves a significant strengthening of all branches of the Armed Forces,” Støre said.

 

A Norwegian soldier keeps an eye on possible movements on the Russian side of the frozen Pasvik river that forms the border between NATO and Russia. Photo: Thomas Nilsen

 

What today is Finnmark Land Defense will be strengthened with anti-aircraft weapons, an artillery battalion, a light infantry battalion, an engineer company, an intelligence company and stronger command structures. This rearmament of Finnmark starts now. By 2032 it will stand as a fully equipped brigade, the plan outlines. 

On Monday, Defense Minister Bjørn Arild Gram travels north to discuss the practical aspects about the build-up of the brigade at Porsangermoen.

Today, Finnmark Land Defense consists of some 400 soldiers with the Porsanger battalion, some 800 with the Jaeger battalion GSV on the border with Russia, plus some Home Guard soldiers, trained at Porsangermoen.

Priority in the first years will be to add a new anti-air defense unit and create the artillery battalion, followed later with an intelligence company. The existing structure at Porsangermoen will be strengthened with more Combat Vehicle 90.

 

 Porsangermoen military camp in Finnmark will get more CV90 tracked armoured combat vehicles. Photo: Thomas Nilsen

 

 

A “Rapid Reaction Force” consisting of specially selected, educated and equipped personnel that can be combat ready on short notice, will be dedicated to operations in Finnmark region, the Government’s plan says.

This force will consist of soldiers from Home Guard District 02 (Oslo), that can fly north when urgently needed. 

The aim is to target Russian forces immediately if they cross the border with Norway, bringing as big losses for the invaders as possible. 

20,000 conscripted soldiers 

With the new plans, Finnmark will get thousands of new soldiers, of which many are conscripted and under education. 

‘We must have a military focused on active conflict prevention every day and yet prepared to handle conflict. Increased activity requires more personnel. Our Armed Forces will be strengthened with over 20,000 conscripted soldiers, employees, and reservists in total,” Minister of Defense Bjørn Arild Gram said at the press conference in Oslo. That is some 4,600 more conscripts than today.

The number includes all divisions of the Armed Forces in Norway.

 

Bjørn Arild Gram is Norway’s Minister of Defense. Photo: Thomas Nilsen

 

“By developing a separate brigade in Finnmark, combat power, endurance and ability to cooperate with allies in our northernmost part of the country will be strengthened considerably,” the Government says. 

Exercise Nordic Response 2024 that ended in March was designed to train reinforcement of Finnmark region with landings of NATO troops by the coast, and bringing in about 5,000 soldiers via land from Norway’s Nordic neighbours, and NATO’s newest members, Finland and Sweden. 

The exercise was the largest among allies so far north inside the Arctic Circle since the Cold War. 

The Government underlines that a main purpose of the new Finnmark Brigade will be to assure arrivial and joint military operations together with NATO allies. 

 

Soldiers with the Porsanger battalion have the last two years been training together with Finnish forces at Rovanjarga training ground near Kemijärvi, northern Finland. Photo: Thomas Nilsen