Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Norge!

Your humble scribe, trying to act all Euro-GQ-like.


If you couldn't tell by the by the opening picture I did a little traveling recently, up to the North Far North.  60 degrees latitude to be specific, and Sarge guilted me into finding the time for a post.  One of my duties as a Mine Warfare Analyst is bringing about the Navy's Littoral Combat Ship, or more specifically, its Mine Warfare Mission Package. The Norwegians were interested in our plans to transition from a "Man-in-the-Minefield" concept to a "Systems-in-the-Minefield" concept- sending off little critters to do the job for us.  So I went over to brief them on our plan. It was part of a NATO exchange program where our military engages with their military, to learn about each other's capabilities, celebrate alliances, and possibly sell some of our defensive "stuff."  There's also some alcohol involved somewhere along the way.

I was there with some Aegis Anti-Air Warfare folks and an Aviation Anti-Submarine Warfare expert; Each of us briefing our area of expertise.

Fridtjof Nansen-Class Frigate                                                              Source

The Norwegian officers briefed us on their Anti-Surface Missile Capabilities and we got tours of a couple of their ships, a Skjold-Class Corvette, and an Alta-Class Minesweeper.


Skjold-Class Corvette with Anti-Surface Missile Launchers ready



Pretty bad-ass ship if you ask me.  Fast, mean and lean, the air-cushion it rides on allows speeds up to 60 kts.  Designed for fighting in the Fjords, the ships have a very shallow draft and are completely maneuverable- sideways, backwards, pivoting, etc., even when going full-speed ahead.  With a crew of only 21, it's meant for quick engagements vice long deployments.  It's also made of fiberglass-reinforced plastic so while it's no dreadnought, it's easy to repair and if hit, it'll float.  However, it'll also burn/melt quite easily.  There's another video here which shows the actual ship I toured and the CO (in the left seat on the bridge) who was our host, still in command 4 years later.

Their Minesweepers/Minehunters are built on the same basic hull with the same construction.  The low draft (.9m) and the air cushion (reducing it to zero) helps with acoustic and magnetic susceptibility to mines, although the plastic hull is the biggest safety factor against influence mines.

Apparently this was the first time in the exchange that my command, or any previous command had gone over to Norway; the Norwegians doing all the travel to Virginia in the past.  However, since my command, the Naval Surface and Mine Warfighting Development Center (SMWDC- pronounced smidik) has taken over the oversight of the aforementioned Naval missions after a major reorganization of warfare centers of excellence, we got the happy privilege of continuing the exchange here in San Diego.

San Diego is a slightly better destination than Dahlgren or Norfolk Virginia, and the Norwegians were suitably impressed. During the last exchange in 2016, someone thought it would be a wonderful idea for the Norwegians to reciprocate.  Hence the boondoggle business trip to Bergen Norway, the main Fleet concentration area for their Navy.  The base at Haakonsvern is small, but it has everything- housing, a school, grocery, a small hospital, and even its own garbage company.  The Norwegian Military has conscripts- mandatory service for its citizens, both men and women, but only 9200 have been called to serve, and many of these do the jobs like administrivia, cleaning, driving military vans, and garbage trucks, etc.  Things we'd contract some company to over-charge us for, but they get young Sailors to do instead.

I thought it was interesting how differently they view women in Naval service than we do.  It took us years to modify certain ships to allow females.  The Norwegian Navy could care less- they put males and females in the same berthing.  They also have women in their Marinejegerkommandoen - the Norwegian maritime special forces unit.


The gingerbread-looking house is a Starbucks and Norway's version of TGIFridays.

Bergen is a beautiful city, a quaint Scandinavian town mixed with both historical Nordic architecture interspersed with modern buildings.




It's a fairly expensive city, which follows what I've heard about Oslo- the most expensive in the world.  Our rooms ran us a little over $200 a night and the average meal was $40, so I thank all you taxpayers for the trip.  Everyone I encountered seemed to be well dressed and driving mostly late model cars so I assume the salaries are decent enough, despite the taxes.  Norway is a Socialist country and the government takes their share- 25% VAT (Value Added Tax) and 50% Income Tax, although I didn't hear any of the Naval Officers complaining.  They also get 46 weeks of leave after having a baby (14 for men), 3 weeks paid vacation, free college, and the right to take a year of sick leave if needed.  Sounds all fine and dandy, except we know it isn't free at all, you're just paying up front there.  There is "free medical" however, although you'll have to wait up to 2 years to use it, even for a crushed foot that needed repair for one of the Norwegian Officers we worked with.

Old Army Fort

Waterfront Square Market, with all the fish you can afford


It was a great, but short trip- barely 4 full days.  And the jet lag was fairly brutal- 9 hours time difference from out here on the left coast and I didn't sleep a wink on the flight.  I did eat well and watched a bunch of movies though so I've got that going for me.  Hacksaw Ridge was excellent if you haven't had the opportunity.    I'll have to go again since the one thing everyone said I had to do was visit the Fjords.  I also didn't see any Vikings.  Hmm.

Norwegian Minesweeper in a Fjord
Ha det! Til neste gang! (Good bye, until next time)

12 comments:

  1. Sounds like you had a good time, Tuna. Welcome back.

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  2. Interesting to see a post like this, especially the pics of the various Norwegian maritime units.Over 16% of my states population claim that heritage.

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  3. Norway was one of the best kept secrets of my naval experience. Several Northern Wedding exercises meant a lot of challenging operations, and I was in the right place at the right time with the right training to spend some unscheduled time ashore. Our family lore has it that we sprang from Norway, so I enjoyed it from that perspective as well. I did find out later that we're actually from Estonia. Still like Norway though. That was a lucky seabird btw...

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    1. Yeah, that bird probably needs new pants, if they were wearing them. Good reflexes, though.

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  4. Heh, that noisy-ass seagull actually saw the missile coming and began taking evasive action.

    "Ha! Missed m--BOOM!"

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  5. Excellent post Tuna, too bad The Chant has no travel budget, we could do a Scandinavian "fact finding mission."

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  6. I did like that corvette- too bad our Navy/CG would not consider it for the U.S. Thanks for your continued sacrifice in service to our country Tuna! :)

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    1. I think the USN/USCG leased one to play with for a while. I'd be interested to read their final report on the matter.

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  7. I first thought it said Norgel in the title.
    It brought to mind a tale from long ago about winter sports and a young lady who called a mogul a norgel ...ormaybe it was norggle?

    Anyway, I'm surprised the DEA doesn't have some of those boats.

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  8. Thank you for the great post and photos. I've long wanted to visit Norway; this just reinforces that desire.

    Paul L. Quandt

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  9. Being Norwegian is very chic, you know.

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  10. I forget to mention that the photos were exceptionally nice.

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