Due to budget constraints and other factors at play, the nation of Norway does not field a terribly large naval force when compared to global powers like the United States, Britain and France. With that said the Royal Norwegian Navy is forced to skillfully invest in a few key programs of quality to promote a viable ocean-going force that also supplies the country with its coastal protection. Its primary naval arm is made up of advanced frigates supported by a collection of modern submarines and, beyond this, there are the usual mine warfare vessels, support ships and various boat squadrons to content with most inbound naval threats.
When thought was given to updating the then-current crop of high-speed patrol vessels the Navy adopted an advanced, stealthy model through the Project SMP 6081 initiative. This begat a sleek boat of glass fiber/carbon composite makeup arranged in a catamaran-style hull configuration for low-drag/high-speed performance. The stealth nature of the design came from applying Radar Absorbant Materials (RAMs) through an "anechoic" (non-reflective) coat. Beyond this, the ship's appearance relied on utilization of many facets - a quality of stealth craft made popular by such developments as the American Lockheed F-117 "Nighthawk" stealth fighter.
From this approach came an advanced evaluation model that arrived in late-August 1996 and a period of extreme testing then followed. Trials called for a more raked bow as it was deemed that her sea-worthiness could see some improvement. Additionally, the original propulsion fit included 2 x German-made MTU-123 diesel engines for cruising actions and these were promptly deleted while the control deck was expanded some to incorporate more technology and crew workstations. The forecastle was reinforced to carry larger-caliber armament in a powered turret and survivability was improved by reworking the construction process of the hull.
The finalized product was given dimensions that included a 156 foot length, a 44 foot beam and a 3.3 foot draught - the latter quality of note for it allowed the vessel to operate in extremely shallow waters like those seen closer to the shoreline. The boat carried a four-engined arrangement comprised of 2 x Pratt & Whitney ST18M engines paired with 2 x Pratt & Whitney ST40M turbines which , when coupled to the catamaran hull, allowed for speeds reaching well over 60 knots in testing. Operational ranges reached some 920 miles. The typical operating crew numbered about fourteen personnel.
Beyond its impressive appearance, the vessel showcased some more conventional design traits seen in other patrol boats of this size: the bridge was held high about its superstructure for a commanding view of the surrounding action and was clearly identified by its row of large, radar-reflecting window panes. A ladder-type bipod mast was erected just aft of the bridge proper and held a swept-back appearance. Ahead of the superstructure was fitted the turreted cannon though, beyond these obstructions, the top deck of the vessel was left largely clean and devoid of the usual patrol boat protrusions and obstacles - indeed even the access hatches and windows were made flush so as to play along with the boat's inherent "stealthiness".
The class was ultimately adopted as the Skjold-class and would comprise six total boats. The first became Skjold (P960) launched on September 22nd, 1998 and formally commissioned on April 17th, 1999.
Skjold, and all of the boats of her small class, retain an active service status within the inventory of the Royal Norwegian Navy as of this writing (2015). The class succeeded the outgoing Hauk-class of surface ships appearing from 1977 until 2001 and fourteen of these patrol boats were ultimately commissioned. The Skjold-class boats were all constructed by builder Umoe Mandal AS of Mandal, Norway.
Beyond its stealth qualities, the Skjold is well-recognized for its impressive armament fit. Its arsenal is led by 8 x Kongsberg Naval Strike Missile Surface-to-Surface Missile (SSM) systems which are kept in an internal bay prior to launching (quad-mounting aft of bridge) and provides an effective ranged measure against enemy surface ships that goes beyond the conventionally-fitted hardware - namely the Italian-made OTO-Breda "Super Rapid" 76mm turreted deck gun. Beyond this the vessel carries a pair of Browning 12.7mm Heavy Machine Guns (HMGs) for extreme close-in work. Aerial threats can be countered through man-portable, shoulder-launched MBDA "Mistral" Surface-to-Air Missiles (SAMs) as deployed by the operating crew and additional defense comes from the installed M151 "Protector" Remote Weapon System (RWS) which is of a local design (Kongsberg Defence & Aerospace) with support by the French concern of Thales Group. The RWS fit is atop the bridge roof.
Onboard processing systems and sensor equipment is headed by the Thales MRR-3D-NG air/surface radar system, the Celsius Tech "Ceros" 2000 FC (Fire Control) unit, and the Sagem "Vigy" 20 series electro-optical sensor suite.
Skjold (P960) is joined by her sisters in service: Storm (P961), Skudd (P962), Steil (P963), Glimt (P964), and Gnist (P965).