A RNoAF F-16AM leaves Bodø during the exercise Cold Response 2012 (Image © Trond Hoeyvik / Luftforsvaret)

Norway: “Only 15 of 57 F-16s ready for flight”

A RNoAF F-16AM leaves Bodø during the exercise Cold Response 2012 (Image © Trond Hoeyvik / Luftforsvaret)
A RNoAF F-16AM leaves Bodø during the exercise Cold Response 2012 (Image © Trond Hoeyvik / Luftforsvaret)

The combat force of the Royal Norwegian Air Force (RNoAF / Luftforsvaret) is in a sorrow state of readiness, according to local media on 22 April 2014. Most of the time only 15 of the 57 officially active Lockheed Martin F-16AM/BM Fighting Falcons are airworthy.

Norwegian magazine Vi Menn and national public broadcasting company NRK reported about the problems, both saying their stories build on information from sources within the Norwegian armed forces. The RNoAF fighter pilots reportedly don’t even meet NATO standards of 180 flight hours per year, because of the lack of available fighter aircraft at both Bodø and Ørland Main Air Bases.

The lack of available fighter aircraft comes at a crucial time, with Russia having increased its military flights close to the Norwegian border and in the Arctics since February. A spokesperson for the Norwegian Union of Military Officers says to the NRK the current F-16 force is under economic pressure to stay airworthy. Secondary, the Luftforsvaret has a lack of aviation technicians and engineers.

That economic pressure might come from the planned purchase of up to 52 new Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II stealthy, 5th generation multi-role fighters. So far Norway has allocated (or is about to do allocate) money for 16 of them, with the first under construction in the United States. But the F-35s are far from operational, meaning the RNoAF F-16s have to soldier on for many years to come. According to an official statement by the Norwegian Ministry of Defence the current fighter force “is capable to execute all operational tasks given”.

© 2014 AIRheads’ editor Marcel Burger

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See also our Overview: Royal Norwegian Air Force