Norway's first F-35 rolled out

- Our new combat aircraft will strengthen all of the Armed Forces, says Norwegian Minister of Defence Ms. Ine Eriksen Søreide, who on 22 September participated in the formal roll-out of the first Norwegian F-35 at Lockheed Martin's production facilities in Fort Worth, Texas.

Forsvarsminister Ine Eriksen Søreide foran Norges første F-35 kampfly.
Forsvarsminister Ine Eriksen Søreide foran Norges første F-35 kampfly. Credit: Marita I. Wangberg, FD

Norway is planning to acquire up to 52 F-35As in the years leading up to 2025, and today's ceremony celebrated the completion of the first of these, which is destined for Luke Air Force Base where it will take part in the training of Norwegian and partner pilots.

- 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. I feel very privileged to be the Minister of Defence on a day like this. Politicians from across the political spectrum have contributed over an extended period of time to ensure that we are able to carry out this extremely important acquisition, says Ms. Eriksen Søreide.

The F-35 will replace Norway's current fleet of F-16 fighters which date back to the early 1980s, but the Minister stresses that the new aircraft are far more than simply a F-16-replacement.

- Our new combat aircraft will provide the Armed Forces with a number of new capabilities that we have never had before. In particular, the F-35 when equipped with the Norwegian Joint Strike Missile will ensure that we will be able to target and defeat even well defended targets at extended distances with very high precision. This will strengthen our ability to deter any potential opponent. The F-35 is also more able to support other parts of the Armed Forces than our current aircraft, and it will also be able to operate in areas which would be too dangerous for the F-16, says the Minister.

Cost estimates have held firm
The Norwegian cost for the first aircraft have held firm, and the aircraft are being delivered at the right time and with the right capability.

- The Norwegian acquisition of the F-35 is progressing on schedule. In total we now have ten aircraft in various stages of production, and the price for the two aircraft delivered in 2015 has proven to be in line with our earlier estimates, says the Minister of Defence.

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.

- We continue to see significant political support for the F-35 in the Norwegian Parliament, and the aircraft is a central part of the Government's efforts to strengthen Norway's defensive capabilities, says the Minister of Defence.

Providing industrial opportunities
After only a few hundred of the more than 3000 aircraft that are planned for users worldwide Norwegian industry has already secured contracts worth almost NOK three billion, something that is expected to grow as the annual production numbers increase. These deliveries particularly include composites from Kongsberg Defence and Aerospace, as well as other key components in the aircraft and the engine from companies such as GKN Aerospace and Kitron. Beyond this there is also a significant potential for subsequent deliveries of weapons and ammunition as the aircraft enter widespread operational service. The Defence Minister particularly points to the recent agreement with Australia for development and integration of the JSM as important proof of the kind of opportunities this creates.

- We are now well underway with the final phase of development for the JSM, and the missiles is to be integrated on the F-35 and delivered to the Norwegian Armed Forces by 2025. With Australia already now investing to help improve the missile, already before deciding to buy the missile, says a lot about the interest we see also among other countries for the kind of capabilities that Norwegian industry can deliver and what opportunities this can create in the future.

Norsk industri viste frem hvilke komponenter de leverer til F-35.
Norsk industri viste frem hvilke komponenter de leverer til F-35. Credit: Marita I. Wangberg, FD