Norway gained membership into the NATO Alliance in 1949 and just over the last decade, the Norwegian Armed Forces have transformed from an anti-invasion concept to a more flexible and expeditionary structure, resulting in smaller, but more effective forces. Norwegian NMR, Admiral Arild Sandbekk says, "The Norwegian Defence Concept emphasizes that the Norwegian Armed Forces are to be developed as a modern, flexible and Alliance-adapted instrument of security policy with a balance being sought between tasks, organizational structure, and funding.”
Norway's Army is comprised of the Royal Guard, border guards, Special Operations Forces, and one reinforced brigade command divided into two mechanized battalions. The Navy consists of frigates, submarines, fast patrol boats, mine hunters and coast guard, as well as Special Operations Forces. The Norwegian Air Force comprises fighter aircraft, maritime patrol aircraft, transport aircraft, in addition to rescues and tactical transport helicopters. Joint Services include intelligence, joint operational headquarters, joint logistics, and medical services.
Until spring 2008, Norway conducted Baltic Air Policing for NATO with four F-16s and contributed one submarine to support Operation Active Endeavour, but Norway's current and main contribution to NATO operations is their 550 personnel contingent to the ISAF operation in Afghanistan. Asked about supporting the ISAF troops, Admiral Sandbekk says, "As of present, Norway has deployed a substantial contribution to the ISAF mission, and we do not foresee any increase in numbers of troops, although there will be a shift in types and capabilities. An OMLT, Operational Mentor and Liaison Team, will deploy in early 2009, following up the intention of strengthening the ability to help Afghanistan build up their security structures.”
Forty-four percent of Norwegian land forces are deployable for NATO operations and 10% take part in sustained operations. Norwegian forces also train to provide civilian aide or other services in catastrophes such as search and rescue and winter transportation. The Home Guard consists of 45,000 personnel serving in 11 districts that specialize in rapid reaction, reinforcement, and follow-on forces.
Admiral Sandbekk explains what amount of gross domestic product Norway devotes to its armed forces, "The defence budget, in real terms, has been maintained in the recent years. A real increase of 2% is proposed for 2009; however, GDP has increased even more. Therefore, the level of defence spending in Norway, in percentage of GDP is decreasing, but not as a result of reduced will to fund the armed forces appropriately, but as a result of a massive increase in the GDP, mainly due to revenues from oil and gas production. Even if there is a real growth in defence spending in 2009, the percentage of GDP devoted to the armed forces is planned to be about 1.5%.”
Norway not only supports NATO operationally, it hosts a world class joint training centre in Stavanger. The Joint Warfare Centre promotes and conducts NATO's joint and combined experimentation, analysis, and doctrine development as well as assists the Allied Command Transformation's development work on new technologies, modelling, and simulation.
Public opinion in Norway has been favourable concerning NATO and armed forces for the past 40 years. Folk og Forsvar, an online publication that provides information about defence and security, released its latest poll results in October 2008, which found that 66% of Norwegians believe their involvement with NATO secures the country. The recruitment of Norwegians citizens to its armed forces reached its highest number in November 2008 with 4,918 volunteering for service.