Norway's Minister of Defence, Ine Eriksen Søreide, in front of the country's first F-35 combat aircraft. (Photo: Torgeir Haugaard/Forsvaret)
”The aircraft is a central part of the Government’s efforts to strengthen Norway’s defensive capabilities,” says Minister of Defence, Ine Eriksen Søreide. Unlike today’s fleet of F-16 fighters, the entire new fleet of combat aircrafts will be based south of the Arctic Circle.
The first of up to 52 F-35 combat aircrafts was rolled out in a flashy ceremony at Lockheed Martin’s production facility in Forth Worth, Texas on Tuesday.
”This is a historic milestone for the Norwegian Armed Forces. I am very pleased to see the results of the extended and thorough selection process that we have completed,” Norway’s Ministry of Defence says.
The brand new F-35 will replace Norway’s current flet of more than 30 years old F-16 fighters.
At a cost of 850 million Norwegian kroner each, the aircrafts are the most costly purchase in the history of the Norwegian armed forces. Total final price tag for the 52 aircrafts is, however, not yet clear as the cost per aircraft is likely to drop as production takes off in the years to come.
The aircraft delivered in 2015 and 2016 will be used to train Norwegian and partner pilots at the training center at Luke Air Force Base. The first aircraft to arrive in Norway will be delivered in 2017, and will then begin preparations for Norway’s initial operating capability with the F-35 in 2019.
By 2025, all 52 combat aircrafts will be delivered.
Norway’s current fleet of F-16s are based in Bodø and Ørland. Today’s main airbase in Bodø north of the Arctic Circle will be closed down and the new fleet of F-35s will have Ørland north of Trondheim as their main base.
As the rollout of Norway’s first F-35 took place in Texas, the news got big attention in Russian media. State own news agency RIA Novosti says Norway will buy 52 F-35s because of the ”Russian threat.”