Norway today received its very first Lockheed Martin F-35A Lightning II. The aircraft was presented at Lockheed Martin’s production facility in Fort Worth around 17:30 hrs Oslo time; in front of many Norwegian and US government and defence officials, who earlier toured the facility. Defense minister Ine Eriksen Søreide took the opportunity to ‘sign’ the third production aircraft for Norway on its forward bulkhead.
The aircraft delivered today is the first of 22 ordered Royal Norwegian Air Force F-35s, of which four are now in various stages of production in Fort Worth. Two of those are to be delivered this year. The third aircraft with the signature of the Norwegian defense minister is planned to be transferred in 2016. They will be flown to Luke Air Force Base in Arizona to join the US Air Force’s 62nd Fighter Squadron for pilot training. The first RNoAF pilot starts flying the first Norwegian F-35 in January 2016. Oslo aims for a total of 52 F-35s, planning to place several follow-on orders.
Norway, a so-called Level 3 partner in the F-35 program, is the fifth nation to get its hands on Lockheed Martin’s much publicized but also troubled 5th generation fighter aircraft. The Scandinavian country follows in the footsteps of the US, the UK, the Netherlands and Australia. In Italy, the first airplane for the Italian Air Force flew for the first time on 7 September, but the aircraft has officially not been transferred yet to the Aeronautica Militare.
Meanwhile at Bodø airbase in Norway, 332 Squadron ceased flying the F-16 on 3 September in preparation for the F-35. The unit will be the first Norwegian squadron to fly the F-35 after it relocates to Ørland airbase. Starting 2017, the F-35 will be the 332’s aircraft of choice. After another two years, the new 5th generation fighter jet will take over duties from the current Norwegian F-16s for the first time.
Joint Strike Missile
Just last week Norway and Australia signed a deal for the financial development to include a Joint Strike Missile (JSM) developed in Norway on both the Royal Norwegian Air Force as well as the Royal Australian Air Force F-35s.
The Norwegian jets will have a feature that sets them apart from other nations’ aircraft. The fighters are to be fitted with drag chutes that assist in braking on icy runways in northern Norway and they mark the biggest investment in and by Norway to date.
© 2015 Airheadsfly.com editors Elmer van Hest and Marcel Burger
Featured image (top): The first F-35 for the Royal Norwegian Air Force, with a proud defense minister of Norway Ine Eriksen Søreide
(Image © Marita L. Wangberg / FD / Norwegian Government)