Norway Reopens Andøya Air Station as Base for Long-Range Drones

On June 30th, 2023, the P-3 Orion concluded its last mission from Andøya. Now, new initiatives will be made in Andøya, promised the Norwegian MoD. (Photo: Onar Digernes Aase / the Norwegian Armed Forces)

The Norwegian Government reverses its own decision and announces a new million-dollar investment in long-range drones for sea surveillance in the High North. Andøya becomes central in sea surveillance and developing the Armed Forces' space operations.

Norwegian version.

The Norwegian government is suggesting reversing the decision to shut down Andøya Air Station to continue daily military presence on the air station. That was revealed in a press conference on Andøya on Wednesday.

Andøya is proposed to be developed as a base for long-range drones for sea surveillance in the High North and will be central in supporting and developing the Armed Forces' space operations. In addition, Andøya is an important air base for allied reception, reports the Norwegian MoD. 

"Long-range drones will be a brand new capacity in the Armed Forces and will increase our ability to maintain continuous situational awareness and surveillance in our vicinity. Going forward, Andøya will be a central base in this development of the Armed Forces," says MoD Bjørn Arild Gram (Center) in a press release.

Reversal of own decision

In other words, the government is proposing a reversal of its own decision to shut down Andøya Air Station and is relaunching the Andenes airport as a new High North drone base.

The Armed Forces' acquisition of large drones with adapted sensors and systems will contribute to continuous surveillance and control with a focus on maritime areas of interest in the north. This new capacity will also help support the total defense with surveillance and incident management in the case of natural disasters or search and rescue operations.

Norway will be at the forefront of allies regarding situational awareness in the North.
Norwegian MoD Bjørn Arild Gram (Center)

The drones will operate in multi-national cooperation with close allies involving training, operation, and development, reports the MoD.

Access to space

The proposal includes the Nordland air base becoming the main Norwegian base for training, operating, and developing long-range defense drones in close cooperation with Andøya Spaceport. The former premises of the maritime patrol aircraft can be used to establish drones in Andøya, the proposal reads. Space-based services are central to military operations and are becoming increasingly important in cooperation with allies, partners, and the NATO community.

The ministry highlights that secure access to space will be central in line with the development of satellite-based services.

"The government has a clear ambition of Norway being at the forefront of allies regarding situational awareness in the North. Satellites contribute to an overview of what is happening in our vicinity, and Andøya has a unique location regarding access to outer space," says Gram.

Important to NATO

Andøya Spaceport helps support the Armed Forces' needs and bilateral and allied space initiatives. In cooperation with allies, the government wants to develop the ability to replace satellites quickly. The first step is to contribute to strengthening the security level and Andøya Spaceport to meet military security requirements. This will make Andøya Spaceport a resource for the rapid launching of replacement satellites either in a national or allied framework.

Kystjegerkommandoen med RQ-20A Puma drone på KNM Fridtjof Nansen
The Coast Guard Command is central in developing drone operations in the Navy. Here, the command is testing a drone of the RQ-20A Puma onboard the Norwegian frigate KNM Fridtjof Nansen during the marine exercise Flotex 2022. The American-produced drone is first and foremost suited for surveillance and intelligence. (Photo: Odin Vinje Kjendalen / the Armed Forces)

Furthermore, a joint exercise and development department will be established, in addition to permanent guard duty and security for Adnøya to be the base of allied aircraft in peacetime, crises, and war. The air station area will be developed to support this activity and the Armed Forces' own innovation and development activity.

Andøya Air Station is important in NATO's planning. Andøya, Værnes, Sola, and Bodø are further developed to receive allies in peacetime and large numbers of allied airforces in crisis and war.

Will be expanded

In addition, the government announced that it would acquire new long-range surveillance drones, which would operate with the new P8 Poseidon aircraft stationed in Evenes.

Norwegian finance minister Trygve Slagsvold Vedum (Center), defense minister Bjørn Arild Gram (Center), and fisheries minister Cecilie Myrseth (Labor) presented the proposal in Andenes, Northern Norway, on Wednesday.

"The discussion about shutting down Andøya is over. We will now expand Andøya," said Trygve Slagsvold Vedum during the press conference.

"A major enhancement"

"Norway is now NATO's northern flank, and the Atlantic Ocean state that all Russian Northern Fleet nuclear submarines must pass on their way to or from the main base on the Kola Peninsula. In Norway, we have a particular responsibility to monitor the movements of these submarines, a task that Andøya solved for 50 years. With today's news, Andøya will once again contribute to this important task," says a pleased Chair of the County Government, Svein Øien Eggesvik (Center), in a press release.

Eggesvik also points to the significance of drones to civil preparedness at sea.

"We are a coastal nation, and many northerners work at sea. In the future, large drones can play a significant role in search and rescue and could contribute to surveillance and mapping of spills and other incidents at sea."

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