Norwegian frigate on voyage to Svalbard waters
«The Svalbard voyage is important for many reasons, first of all for us to get acquainted with the waters and the area. Svalbard is a part of Norway and we should be able to defend all of Norway,» says Commanding Officer Preben Ottesen to the Barents Observer.
Norway has a fleet of five frigates and in recent years an annual voyage to Svalbard has been one of the tasks for the warships. During the Cold War, Svalbard was mainly visited by Coast Guard vessels. Norway didn’t wanted to make high-profile military presence in the area, not to provoke the Soviet Union.
The Svalbard Treaty does not put a ban on Norwegian military presence at Svalbard, but limits the use of the archipelago for possible war purposes.
The Norwegian Parliament, however, has now decided that the navy should send one large naval vessel to Svalbard every year to ensure Norwegian sovereignty in the area. Increased military presence in the Arctic is part of Norway’s strategy for development of the High North. Last September, the frigate «KNM Roald Amundsen» sailed all north 81 degrees. That is further north than Moffen, a small and the northernmost island on Svalbard archipelago.
«KNM Helge Ingstad» was just before the voyage to Svalbard participating in surveillance operations together with vessels and aircrafts from other NATO countries in the Norwegian Sea.
Over the last few weeks, several American P-8 Poseidon maritime aircrafts have operated in the areas between Greenland, Iceland, Norway and the United Kingdom. Simultaneously, Russia’s Northern Fleet submarines have been sailing more in northern waters, including the Norwegian Sea, than ever before in post-Soviet times.