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Special Operations Research & Development
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Norwegian Special Operations Forces (NORSOF) and Norwegian Defence Research Establishment (FFI) collaborate to ensure NORSOF remains a relevant and capable tool for Norwegian authorities into the future.

Background and Purpose

Innovation is a fundamental feature of special operations forces and crucial to stay ahead of adversaries on the battlefield.  To keep up with the current pace of technological development close interaction between the armed forces and research establishments is arguably more important than ever.


Recognizing this, long-standing partners NORSOF and FFI initiated the Special  Operations Research and Development  program (SORD) in 2012.

SORD was originally designed as a series of projects at FFI, funded by the Norwegian Ministry of Defence (MoD), to coordinate and strengthen NORSOF’s research and development activities. Guided by the Norwegian Special Operations Command (NORSOCOM) the program has provided basis for sound investment decisions, and promoted collaboration and innovation across organizational barriers.

Today, SORD continues to support the development of a relevant and capable  NORSOF to counter future challenges. The MoD has committed a considerable investment in NORSOF over the next decade.  SORD shall contribute to well-informed investment decisions to maximize NORSOF’s capability and capacity both in the short and long run.


SORD is NORSOCOM’s strategic and technological advisor. It has three main tasks:


First, examine the long term development of NORSOF. What are the future emerging threats to Norway and NATO, and how might NORSOF be designed to best counter these? Scenarios, capabilities and costs are key elements to be considered in this line of work.


Second, support management and planning processes in the MoD and NORSOF. This includes preparation of the Capability Development Plan, the Investment Plan, and the Research and Development plan of  NORSOF. SORD shall also provide ad hoc-analysis on a broad range of topics for NORSOF.


Third, encourage and enable innovation in NORSOF. The tripartite collaboration between special operators, researchers and industry is a key success factor. SORD shall coordinate and support research and development activities for NORSOF, and work with all involved parties to streamline the materiel acquisition process.



Project organized, with a multidisciplinary team, and separated from NORSOF, SORD is specially designed to spur innovation and ensure relevant and valuable research.

SORD is project organized and funded with a limited tenor. Consequently, the program must concentrate its efforts in order to deliver the agreed, measurable output within the set timeframe. The program is regularly evaluated and, if deemed successful, renewed.

SORD consists of a purpose-built group of experienced FFI researchers and NORSOF officers. The mix of researchers and officers encourages collaboration across organizational barriers. In general, multidisciplinary teams are known to be more creative and likely to think outside the box.

SORD is a part of FFI, located in Kjeller, Norway. Physically and organizationally separated from NORSOF, it is able to  provide an outside view to assist NORSOF developments and innovations. Research has demonstrated the value of an external actor as a corrective measure against internal optimism bias and conservatism.

Although organizationally separated, SORD collaborates closely with NORSOF, and the program is guided by an Advisory Board chaired by the NORSOF Commander. This ensures leadership support, relevance of activities, and integration of results in NORSOF’s plans.

Organization and Activities

SORD consists of four interrelated teams, each responsible for a portfolio of activities.

Click to enlarge the illustration.

The International Team is the primary instrument for international academic collaboration and support to NORSOF graduate students. The team works closely with national and international military partners and academics, and maintains a presence at the Naval Postgraduate School in the USA. Its main focus area is exploration of future challenges to special operations forces of small nations.

The Analysis Team studies future capability requirements for NORSOF and their implications for doctrine, organization and technology. Development and analysis of a threat scenario portfolio leads to a set of capability requirements. These requirements form basis for production of NORSOF’s Capability Development Plan. 

The Technology Team is a multidisciplinary group of researchers drawn from the various technological divisions of FFI as well as the establishment’s own engineering workshop. The team coordinates and supports all R&D activities for NORSOF at FFI. Representing the knowledge of more than 500 researchers the team furthermore acts as technological advisor and catalyst for new R&D activities for NORSOF.

The Development Team consists of officers employed by NORSOCOM, placed at FFI and fully integrated in SORD. Their mission is to provide and facilitate military experience and knowledge to the program’s analyses and form a direct link between special operators and technological researchers. The team is NORSOF’s point of contact for national industry, and is also pivotal in development and execution of the organization’s Innovation Strategy and R&D Plan.




Ensure NORSOF remains a cutting edge innovative force into the future


Provide outside view of NORSOF, and promote collaboration across barriers


Strategic analysis, and coordination of research & development for NORSOF


Multidisciplinary team of researchers and officers

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