He can fly any fighter jet from any nation he wants, as long as it is a F-35A. Royal Norwegian Air Force pilot Lt. Col. Martin Tesli just does that, taking brand-new American, Australian or Italian Lightning II stealthy fighter jets to the sky at Luke AFB in Arizona.
“As long as l have my cartridge, I can get into any aircraft. I cannot fly the B and C versions of course, but for the A version it doesn’t matter from which nation the jet is. Between nations flying the F-35A is completely interchangable.”
Tesli – callsign TinTin – is on the spearhead of NATO’s northernmost first line of defence: being in charge of the Norwegian detachment that is getting acquainted with its future fast jet. At the Lockheed Martin press briefing on 7 July at the RIAT at RAF Fairford he showed full confidence in the F-35 being THE right choice for the Scandinavian nation. Despite the fact that a lot of promised functions still give a system error in the pilot’s office.
“The Norwegian air force needs to be able to operate freely, like the army and navy need to as well. The F-35 will give us that freedom. We no longer need other eyes on the target, we can find them ourselves in really all weather conditions at substantial longer ranges then we currently can with our F-16s.”
The current RNoAF jets go up in the air
in various configurations, not always with the right sensors or weapons load-out for a full multirole tasking. No more in the future, when the RNoAF F-35s always have all sensors on board. Which will come of handy when covering 320,000 km2 of land mass and 2 million square kilometres of sea territory that the Norwegian armed forces need to defend.
“We go up far north, in the Arctic. The
weather can be even worse up there than in England. And especially for landing – which we do in sometimes very bad conditions with fine snow blowing over the strip and an icy runway to touchdown on – we will have the dragchute.”
Having the extra breaking power, saves aircraft and probably pilots lifes, Lt. Col. Tesli says refering to the decades of experience with the dragchute equipped F-16s.
Sharing targeting information
For many operations the F-35
will do exactly what Norway needs, Lt. Col. Tesli feels. “With the new jet I can choose to be seen or not (for enemy aircraft). Targeting information can be much easier shared with for example Royal Norwegian Navy frigates, with the F-35 serving as a much better range expander than shipborne helicopters.”
Currently at Luke AFB, the RNoAF just received its third F-35, with number four arriving later in July. The Norwegians clocked under 300 hours on the F-35. “But we can build on the 16,000 hours of inflight experience from the other nations. That’s why Norway can reach initial operating capability much sooner than we would otherwise can ourselves.”
As soon as the RNoAF operates 24 jets – the size of a wing – they will declare IOC on the type. All F-35s will in principle operate from Ørland near Trondheim in the south of the long-stretched country, with a permanent forward detachment at Everness near Narvik in the far north. The latter – in practise a relocation of the current F-16 base in Bødo, further south, will help Norway to react more swiftly to Russian incursions in the Polar Circle and Norwegian territory there.
Lt. Col. Martin Tesli puts the Norwegian choice for 57 F-35As this way: “We are a long-stretched country of only 5 million people. We don’t have the mass to create military advantage, we need technology. That is what the F-35 will provide. Equipped with the Norwegian-Australian Joint Strike Missile, the new stealthy multirole fighter will provide Norway with its deterence.”
© 2016 Airheadsfly.com senior contributor Marcel Burger, at RIAT 2016
Featured image: The first Royal Norwegian Air Force F-35 (Image © Lockheed Martin)