November 6th 2019 Norwegian air chief Brig. Gen. Tonje Skinnarland declared Norway’s F-35As operational after completing a deployment in November meant to validate that they are able to operate the jets away from Norway’s home base of Ørland Main Air Station. This means that the Royal Norwegian Air Force is able to respond quickly to national events and crises in mainland Norway, Norwegian territorial waters and adjacent areas with F-35A.
Norway becomes the third European country to declare IOC, after Italy and the United Kingdom. “I would like to congratulate the Norwegian Armed Forces on declaring IOC with the F-35. This is a big day for the entire Armed Forces” says Norway’s Defence Minister Frank Bakke-Jensen. The F-35 represents a technological “generational shift”. The combat weapon will be the single capacity with the greatest impact on defense and operational concepts for Norway. After several years of intense testing, the Norwegian F-35 is soon ready for its first mission. With that begins a new era for the defense of Norway.
With more than 455 aircraft operating from 20 bases around the globe, the F-35 is playing a critical role in today’s global security environment. More than 955 pilots and 8,485 maintainers have been trained, and the F-35 fleet has surpassed more than 230,000 cumulative flight hours. Nine nations have F-35s operating from a base on their home soil and eight Services have declared Initial Operating Capability.
Over the last two years, the Norwegian Air Force has conducted intensive operational testing and evaluation (OT&E) of special Norwegian conditions such as winter operations, operations in the northern areas and cooperation with Norwegian Army, Navy and Special Forces.
To conclude the test period, the Norwegian Armed Forces spent several days transferring aircraft and equipment from Ørland Air Station to Rygge Air Station (close to the capital Oslo). Deployment of Rygge’s fighter aircraft system includes technicians and other important personnel as well as necessary equipment in order to train and practice operations from there. This was the first time the fighter aircraft were operated from a base other than Ørland Air Station.
Next year Norway’s F-35s will deploy to Iceland to conduct air-policing efforts on behalf of NATO. Finally, by 2022, the Norwegian Air Force will have built up enough F-35s, pilots and maintainers in the country to let the F-35 take over the “quick reaction alert” mission, which calls for operators to stand on a 24/7 alert and scramble, if needed, to intercept aircraft flying near Norwegian airspace. These F-35s will be ready for air-policing in Evenes, Northern Norway.
In November 2017, the first three F-35 fighters landed on Norwegian soil. In total, Norway has now received 22 F-35. Of these 15 are operating from Ørland while 7 are stationed at Luke Air Force Base in the United States for training purposes.
— Forsvarsdepartement (@Forsvarsdep) November 6, 2019
The F-35 becomes a basic supporter for the rest of the Armed Forces. The fighter planes will work closely with other departments, feeding them with time-critical information and detailed overview from places far away. The F-35 comes into place quickly and unseen, and can help give decision-makers an overview and information about the situation.
In 2022, the F-35 will take over the NATO mission “Quick Reaction Alert” (QRA) from the F-16, where fighter aircraft will be on continuous standby from Evenes. By 2025, the F-35 will be fully operational. The fighter aircraft are delivered on time, with better performance than expected and with a lower unit price.
When the F-35 will be in place, the Royal Norwegian Air Force will have a capacity far above what the F-16 has ever delivered. The F-35 is much more than an F-16 replacement. The weapons system adds a number of new capabilities to the entire Armed Forces that they have never had before. “The fighter jets are delivered on time, with better performance than expected and with a lower unit price than planned“, the defense minister concludes.
- Norway has declared F-35 initial operating capability (IOC) Nov. 6th 2019.
- Norway plans to buy 52 F-35As. They are based in Ørland Air Station (main location) and from 2022 also in Evenes Air Station (for NATO air-policing).
- Norway becomes the third European country to declare F-35 IOC, after the United Kingdom and Italy.
- From 2022 Norwegian F-35As will take over the NATO QRA in Evenes. This calls for operators to stand on a 24/7 alert and scramble, if needed, to intercept aircraft flying near Norwegian airspace.
Photo Credit: Torbjørn Kjosvold, Armed Forces Norway