Yesterday Norway’s prime minister Jonas Gahr Støre stood outside in the middle of a serious snowfall at the military base in Rena and declared that Norway will get 54 new tanks with an option for 18 more, and that these will be Leopard 2A7NO ordered from KMW.
This put an at least temporarily to rest the debate about the role of tanks and the future of the mechanised Brigade Nord which was a strange story of late last year, and which I discussed in the post which caused by far the most significant reaction in mainstream media any of my posts have seen.
As noted earlier, when the procurement kicked off it was generally seen as an obvious win for the Leopard 2A7. Norway has operated both the Leopard 1 and 2, and in general has a healthy cooperation with Germany when it comes to a number of key systems, the Type 212CD submarine program being perhaps the most important program. Then came the reports of the K2 Black Panther actually outperforming the Leopard in the winter trials, the Black Panther entering the European market in style through the Polish deals, and finally the German political squabbling over the question of tank deliveries to Ukraine, all of which seemed to point towards the possibility of an upset.
That was however not to be, and in the end the favourite held. The message at the press conference emphasised the strong political and industrial benefits of the Leopard 2 – the prime minister speaking fondly of “cooperating” with their “close ally” Germany on the project, and the fact that Finland and Sweden also operate the Leopard 2, as does Germany, Denmark, and the Netherlands. This certainly was a significant hurdle for the K2. No matter how good a deal Hyundai Rotem might have offered, for the foreseeable time all of Norway’s geographically closest partners operate the competitor. Poland might be an exception, but Poland is also a country and a sea away from a Norwegian point of view.
There are unconfirmed reports that the Norwegian Defence Materiel Agency (FMA) would have recommended the K2 as the superior tank for the Norwegian requirements. What is confirmed, however, is that both tanks did meet the requirements laid out by the FMA for the tests. With that in mind, the decision from both the prime minister, minister of defence, and minister of finance to spend the better part of their speeches on the fact that from a holistic point of view the Leopard 2 was the better package for Norway certainly could be an indication that other aspects than pure performance of the individual vehicles played a significant role. This is no criticism, if the race was close the added value of what in essence is a standardised tank in Northern Europe (again, Poland being the exception) is certainly something that should be factored in. For my favourite topic of the common defence of the High North, while the future might be somewhat unclear for the Finnish Leopard 2A4s, the 2A6s will serve on for the foreseeable future, and if the Swedish Strv 122REMO-program really is about such a significant upgrade as the Strv 123 Tankograd reported on, they are bound to stay in service for years.
According to most open sources, the differences in combat capability between the Leopard 2A7 and K2NO in the current configurations are rather limited. The K2NO might sport a an autoloader, but that has a relatively small impact on the combat performance (it would mean that the Norwegian armoured units can make do with 54 crew less, but that is a minor consideration for the brigade as a whole). The question of weight and suspension is more interesting, with the K2NO reportedly tipping the scale at 61.5 t with the 2A7NO coming in at between 61.5 to 64.3 t according to KMW. Notable is that KMW’s homepage list a number of different features as uncertain, including APS, added top-side armour, and cooling for turret and hull. Those most likely are not three tons, but considering the K2NO to my understanding has e.g. the APS integrated it is likely safe to say it is somewhat lighter, which coupled with the more modern suspension probably isn’t a bad thing in Norwegian terrain.
This however brings us to the big difference between the contenders – while both tanks have the same stuff, on the K2NO they are integrated from the start of the design while the Leopard 2A7NO have them bolted on (this is the kind of extremely crude oversimplification I can get away with because I write my own blog and don’t have an editor, but you get the point). The new tank will not only serve in the current configuration, but will spend decades in service with all the upgrades that come with it. In that regard, an argument can certainly be made that the K2 likely offer more room for growth, something which might be interesting once the 2030’s starts to wrap up.
At the same time, the argument can be flipped. Leopard 2 is a mature design with a proven track record in Europe and beyond, including in the harsh conditions of Afghanistan. It might be suffering from a bit of excess weight, but the basic design is sound and with new-built hulls it is still as competent as ever in meeting everything the enemy can throw at it. The large user base also means that even if you won’t buy into the latest German standard, you are still likely to find a few friends with whom to share R&D costs.
The Leopard 2A7NO might have been the safe choice and from the point of view of potential buyers the strong position of the Leopard on the European market might not be completely unproblematic, but from a logistics point of view it certainly makes sense. For Finland (and Sweden) as well as for Norway the most important thing is that the Army did get their tanks, and while I had held out hope for the complete 72 tanks to be ordered at once this is certainly significantly better than the news we got last year. We might have to continue to wonder about how Norway struggle to find enough money for a serious defence budget, but at least we will continue to have three Leopard users in the High North, and that is certainly something to cherish!
…and I will say I much appreciated the prime minister noting the importance of the new capability for Finland and Sweden as well (and that Norway expects a quick ratification of our NATO-membership), when we now start to plan the common defence of the North.
25 thoughts on “Tanks, much appreciated!”
The huge question is how reliable is Germany as a source of supply (support aka parts). I don’t know anyone can trust them with their pacifist leadership.
Armor in Norway is such an absurd concept. It much like the Alaska Panhandle (South Easter). Granted the Bridge can be deployed full time to Finland where it can be a threat to St. Petersberg.
Give it a rest.
They are even more easier to use in Finnmark than in Finnish Lapland.
Also a deterrence, “force in being”, against air assaults and naval landings.
How much equipment does South-Korea allow to be transferred to Ukraine? They don’t even allow ammunition atm. Is that pacifist too?
Nope, like Israel its playing both ends against the middle.
FMV has ordered road wheels, gaskets and o-rings to Swedish str122 locally which can be delivered faster, cheaper and to a better quality than the originals.
Article in Swedish https://ebooks.exakta.se/tiff/tiff_2203/12/
“We might have to continue to wonder about how Norway struggle to find enough money for a serious defence budget”
It is ridicilious how they cannot “find” money. Norway is gushing in cash, bc last year oil & gas price hikes. They are the european number one beneficiary of Russian invasion.
Yea that crossed my mind as well, keep in mind they sunk their own best warship and need to replace that.
I wonder how far the next generation of tanks have to evolve considering how bad the Russian tanks have performed…
What I trying to say is: what more do you need from a tank like the leo2A7 considering it’s going to take the Russians 30 plus years just to catch up.
We cant assume that, we must assume they will learn and apply that learning in to new designs much faster.
Actually we must assume they will do it jointly with China.
Just as we already need to calculate their combined military potential in everything we do.
We can make educated guesses. And the China Russia mix is like oil and water. China is talking big and helping as little as they can.
Its worth watching Perun and his videos on a systems like Russia has that is based on corruption can’t adapt because that requires a different system. Catch 22.
What we have seen is they can handle low level numbers and have some pretty good capability, they can’t manage it on an Ukraine conflict level scale. A thin bench in European football terms.
Equally you need the internal pars sources and industry that Russia failed to develop. Chip and computer factories.
What is clear is you can see those things coming a long ways away just like the US saw and warned Ukraine well before the 2nd conflict started. Ukraine had its own issues with that warning, but they were aware and the military was taking actions even if the civilian side felt constrained.
Russian knows all China wants is the tech they have (engines and composites). China has to be watched regardless as their imperialist ambitions know no bounds (and who would have thought the Commies could be impressionistic?)
While the Russian tanks have issues, the worst part of the performance is that they were used totally wrong. Combined Arms does not work on a one road front.
There is a good lesson in that for the Scandinavian Countries. When the terrain is constricted (or you are just following roads) then the front is one tank wide.
Follow the successful German Army retreat in Northern Norway in WWII.
They cant use them in any modern way as they lack the tactical and operational level comms to even have a modern sensor to shooter loop as we understand it!
That wont last forever!
China is fixing the same issues and both will get it done much earlier than we would like them to.
West has got an window of opportunity it must use to build up a deterrence before WWIII is inevitable.
I fully agree on deterrence but the best bang for the buck is to reinforce Ukraine. As for China, it would not be a land war so the armored side is not the focus, the Naval side is.
On next generation tanks, I don’t think it is about making Tank X better then Tank B. I think the next gen is more about how to make the tank work (better) in a battlefield with an increase of distributed sensors, shooters and dimensions. Although Russia or some other adversary *might * not field as high-tech of such capabilities, they will certainly continue to field and develop in these areas.
I will give it 1-2 years max that we will enjoy the lack of secure tactical comms from the Russians.
It has to be their priority, they have the meat, metal and fires, they just cant maneuvre and fire in a concerted manner.
On a small scale the Russians could do that and sometimes effectively with the EW end. That has proven a bust is on a larger scale which then meant the stuff got left or blown up.
If you don’t have solid state industry including chips, then if your sources are impinged you can’t rebuild even if you could
But keep in mind, the Russian system could be called Corruptism and it can’t operate any other way. On a small scale they can get stuff out the door but not on a scale needed.
Again I don’t dismiss the threat, its just going away for some time. 5 years is not a bad metric but that depends on how long they continue to trash their Army in Ukraine and what Putin etc does and or survives in the meantime. A coup and it would be years more before they started looking outward again. Any large country does that, how they do it is another reality but also the capability to do so.
Have a look at this if you wish to understand Norwegian politicians and defense spending :-@
I agree, Norway has some more expenditure on its navy than Sweden and Finland though. An increased aid this year to Ukraine was announced a few days ago because of the high income last year, let’s hope they follow through. But politicians will always be politicians.
In the scheme of things, the only reason Norway had armor was the NATO link and the Northern land end which is not much and easy to defend.
Norway is best focused on the Sea Control as like the UK, that is its exposure and therefore interest. The Baltic is sewn up so its the Atlantic coast and the North Sea and Barents Sea (should Norway claim the Norwegian Sea? China thinks its the way to go!)
Sweden and Finland really are the land components and they should combine and deploy their forces accordingly. Norway would be better off supporting more infancy/armor for both. It would not take much to deter a Soviet Northern push. US marines are training in Alaska now and that is a capable reinforcement.
Combine the Norway Armor and Infantry with Sweden and Finland and a common Northern defense. Easy enough done with semi permanent Norwegian deployments. Norway provides aviation depth and support.
Asking Norway to field one brigade for its own defense is not a tall order..
Giving up Finnmark without a fight would be crazy, just in relation to defending Svalbard, GIUK gap and Atlantic as a whole.
Actually I think Norway should have their own marines also.
“I fully agree on deterrence but the best bang for the buck is to reinforce Ukraine.”
Finlan has supplied a lot to Ukraine and should continue, but not most of our tanks and other armor if there are no permanent replacements.
There are no guarantees that Russia will fall even if defeated in Ukraine.
Ukraine needs tanks, closer to 1000 per year, but they need to come mainly from nations not bordering Russia and eventually from factories running hot.
Russia and China need to be viewed as a joint threat.
China can provide Russia with everything it needs.
“As for China, it would not be a land war so the armored side is not the focus, the Naval side is.”
If the Asia–Pacific War starts China will deploy infantry and armor, opposed or by agreement, in Russian Far East, Korea, Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia, Burma, Cambodia, Laos etc before they will even try to invade the Taiwan Main Island.
If they succeed in that deployment it is a land war also.
That is a lot of areas to pack into a discussion.
Ukraine probably needs 500 tanks now. Tough call as to how fast they can get up to speed. If they just send the power packs to a friendly country for repair, then a lot of the repair need in Ukraine is negated.
How many they need down the road depends on Russia and what junk they pull out of outside storage.
Norway should have a division at least but realistically, Finmark is not a hard defense and any attack there now has to account for Sweden and Finland. That is where fast moving forces come into play. A company of tanks would be all that is needed.
Strategy wise you don’t let a specific territorial area drive your strategy . Yes it could be painful but that area should be evacuated if you see a military buildup and you can’t hide buildups. Keep in mind, Russian depend on rail and that limits any attack vector (and with F-35s, easily cut)
Armor is not horribly useful in Island campaigns and the US is not going to invade at any locale there is resistance. We found out what that cost in WWII. There are Naval means to cut off and isolate any attempts at sea borne invastions. Vietnam has a fleet of 6 subs, its a huge deterrent.
China has no sea-lift and or sea to land attack fleet. Taiwan’s worry is being deluged with Rockets that have no end. They should invest in Subs and SAMS and an atomic bomb.
“That is a lot of areas to pack into a discussion.”
I forgot Bangladesh and Sri lanka..
The question is not why would they, but why wouldn’t they.
Most westerners are so nice/naive that they have trouble understanding who they are dealing with Russia and China.
Sociopaths leading agressive and expansionist empires, mafia states.
There are no deals to be made or détente trough appeasement.
“Ukraine probably needs 500 tanks now. Tough call as to how fast they can get up to speed. If they just send the power packs to a friendly country for repair, then a lot of the repair need in Ukraine is negated.
How many they need down the road depends on Russia and what junk they pull out of outside storage.”
We cant keep tricling in aid to Ukraine based on hopes that Russia is almost defeated.
Yes, Russia is fielding T-62 from storage, with thermal sensors and added armour, it works as infantry support and tank destroyer.
Their main problem is lack of comms and not following their own tactical manuals, they are partly related.
Russia is also producing T-90s and possibly the T-14, ramping up their wartime production.
Something we should be doing in the west, send in the Leo 1s and M60s fast, start producing Leo 2 and Abrams by he thousands for all the allied nations.
“Norway should have a division at least but realistically, Finmark is not a hard defense and any attack there now has to account for Sweden and Finland. That is where fast moving forces come into play. A company of tanks would be all that is needed.”
A company can only be in one place at one time and the area is large, also logistically not much sense sustaining just a company.
“Strategy wise you don’t let a specific territorial area drive your strategy . Yes it could be painful but that area should be evacuated if you see a military buildup and you can’t hide buildups. Keep in mind, Russian depend on rail and that limits any attack vector (and with F-35s, easily cut)”
You lost me here.
But in relation to Finnmark the potential “attack vectors” are land, air and sea, they can supply trough the same “vectors” in this region.
“Armor is not horribly useful in Island campaigns and the US is not going to invade at any locale there is resistance. We found out what that cost in WWII. There are Naval means to cut off and isolate any attempts at sea borne invastions. Vietnam has a fleet of 6 subs, its a huge deterrent.”
Where US decided to land the armor was very useful.
6 subs of any type is not a “huge deterrent” against PLAN in South China Sea and Vietnam would be likely be forced to take a neutral stance.
China has clealy built up South China Sea as a launch pad for these invasions and to isolate the battlespace from allied intervenion.
“China has no sea-lift and or sea to land attack fleet.”
Are you serious?
Their Amphibious Force is only behind the US in size.
Add to that the civilian sealift potential.
“According to the‘China Maritime Report No. 4: Civil Transport in PLA Power’ published in December 2019 by the US Naval War College’s China Maritime Studies Institute (CMSI).
Bohai Ferry Group, PLA’s 8th Transport Group, Hainan Strait Shipping Company, 9th Transport Group, CSC RoRo Logistics Company, 5th Transport Group.”
I agree Taiwan needs an nuclear deterrence, so does South Korea, Ukraine, Poland and Finland and everyone else facing these mafia states.
The big one to address is RO RO requires a secured port, you can’t use them for invasions. They are just big targets. China clearly can attack anyone they want to, but we for sure are not going to nor can defend it all. China’s issue becomes cutting themselves off trade wise.
M1 Tanks: We have something like 5-8000 in storage, most are updated to the M1A1 or A2 type. We will not export with the DU armor and the ability to convert to an export standard is limited but could be fairly rapidly implemented. Poland has a trainer set of M1s and is getting the updated ones pretty fast. Egypt makes new M1 and that is a possible source as well.
The Finmark area to invade requires massive forces and you can see that coming a long ways off.
To defend it you give up some territory and bleed the Russians (though why they would invade there is ????? a huge cost that gets you no where.
US, Brit and the various allied subs would have a field day sinking any invasion group (Russia has bits and pieces, it has no cohesive fleet nor ability in regards to invasion). The US Marines that used to do contested invasions have not done so since Korean War. Its far too costly. That is why the Russians did not invade Ukraine by sea despite sending ships to do that. It makes massive support and they don’t have it.
There are a lot of people in the US that understand the Russian/China threat. A lot more with the Balloon going overhead (just North of us).
Like all people everywhere, most citizens live their day in day out lives without being experts on foreign threats. Exceptions clearly are those who share a border or a near border with Russia. Alaska is somewhat unique in that regard due to our WWII history, the Cold War and proximity to Russia and our military installations (air bases, land bases and the new DEW Line). Its not nearly close to Finland, the Baltic States and Poland but it is baked into a lot of why US Military forces are here.
China is actually building many of the ports and airports it would use for its operations in the Asia-Pacific region..
Naturally those are the targets of any opposed naval or airborne landing for the second echelon to arrive by Ro-Ro and airliners.
With complete surprise possibly on the first echelon..
I think it is a mistake not releasing those Abrams in mass.
Finnmark is a good buffer for the Kola bases but it even more important for the Svalbard operation.
Finnmark naval landings would be mostly coastal operations.
Svalbard is an SOF/airborne operation initially if there is no dedicated NATO Svalbard Force, hence the recommendation to form Norwegian Marines.
They can even land on the sea ice and roll out vehicles if it is at maximum.
We must also plan for the case that China is part of the operations.
The scenario becomes totally different with PLAN subs, surface units and air forces operating in the Arctic Sea region.
Alaska is a target for Russia and China both, at minimum they need to neutralize it, invasions are likely at strategic points.
I hope all the closed bases are reopened in Alaska, like the ones in Aleutians.
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