Norway is set to double it’s F-35 fleet over the next few weeks with the delivery of the third and fourth aircraft to the Royal Norwegian Air Force. In fact, the delivery means that Norway suddenly becomes the third largest operator of the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II.
The two aircraft are now being tested by Lockheed Martin prior to delivery. Both jets will then fly to Luke Air Force Base in Arizona, joining the two Norwegian aircraft already there for pilot training. With the delivery, Norway becomes the third largest user of the F-35, following the US and the UK. The Nordic country is eventually looking for 55 F-35As, with 23 aircraft already formally ordered.
However, Italy should soon receive its fourth aircraft as well. The aircraft is currently being readied for delivery at the F-35 Final Assembly & Check Out (FACO) facility in Cameri, Italy. Earlier Italian aircraft have also began to arrive at Luke for training purposes.
Meanwhile, one of two Royal Netherlands Air Force (RNLAF) jets that deployed to Europe in May, is now also at Luke. The aircraft arrived their for modifications and maintenance.
In social circles, I find that my profession is an unusual one about which I get asked some pretty standard questions: “how fast have you been? How high have you been? Do you ever get scared?” Luckily, pilots love to talk about themselves and flying in general. The chats I like are those which ask questions I haven’t even thought about. Some of these were “what’s the coolest thing you’ve seen?” and “what are your most memorable flights?”
So, the coolest thing I’ve seen? I can’t choose one thing, but I can probably make a shortlist.
1. Watching the Northern Lights on NVGs while I was flying from Scotland.
2. Watching my wingman trail a shockwave behind him with the sun setting behind him at low level over the North Sea
3. Watching mount Etna erupt with massive thunderstorms all around me while I flew on NVGs on my way to Libya
4. Landing on a compacted snow runway at Bodo in Norway
5. Looking in my mirrors as I left contrails behind me flying a barrel roll at 38,000’ in a Typhoon for the first time
6. Looking at the curvature of the earth from 50,000 over the Falkland Islands flying at Mach 2
7. The view on top of the clouds on a rainy day
My most memorable flights?
1. First solo in every aeroplane I’ve flown
2. First flight in every aeroplane I’ve flown
3. My “wings trip” when I passed my advanced flight course on the hawk
4. Passenger flights when I took ground crew flying as passengers
5. The first time I went air to air refuelling
6. My first war time flight
7. The first time I dropped a bomb in anger
8. My third trip on the Typhoon OCU where students are introduced the high performance capability of the jet
As for the standard questions?
Twice the speed of sound, 55,000’ and yes. We can chat in more detail about some of these flights another time, unless you can think of a different question you would ask?
The first of 16 AgustaWestland AW101 helicopters for the Norwegian Ministry of Justice and Public Security (MoJ) successfully performed its maiden flight at the AgustaWestland Helicopter Division’s Yeovil factory in the UK on 21 March 2016. This was announced by Finmeccanica on 23 March 2016.
The successful on-schedule maiden flight marks a major milestone and the start of the flight test programme that will lead to initial aircraft deliveries to the MoJ, for operation by the Royal Norwegian Air Force, in 2017. Aircraft deliveries will continue through to 2020.
“I am very pleased that Finmeccanica has reached this important milestone in the SAR helicopter project and thereby making good progress for the replacement of the aging Sea King helicopter with the new state-of-the-art AW101 by 2020,” says the Minister of Justice and Public Security, Mr. Anders Anundsen.
As we reported earlier, the Norwegian Ministry of Justice and Public Security signed a contract for 16 AW101 helicopters plus support and training, back in december 2013, to meet the Norwegian All Weather SAR Helicopter (NAWSARH) requirement based on a new generation aircraft. Each aircraft is provided with an advanced SAR equipment package including a multi-panel AESA (Active Electronically Scanned Array) surveillance radar system, that provides 360° coverage. The large cabin doors and rear ramp provide easy access for personnel, survivors and equipment into the 27 m3 cabin which has stand-up head room throughout.
Finmeccanica’s Helicopter Division will provide initial support and training services, including spares at each of the aircraft operating bases and aircrew training. It will then provide performance based logistic support to deliver approximately 90,000 flying hours across the fleet of 16 helicopters over the initial 15 year period of operation. In support of pilot training, a full flight simulator will be available in Norway in advance of the delivery of the first aircraft.
We already served you a nice dish of images of the big NATO & partners exercise Cold Response earlier, but the military photographers and the Norwegian military audiovisual unit have given us some more nice stuff! Press play and see more of the aircraft and helicopters that supported the 15,000 troops strong exercise in Northern and Central Norway, with even the Norwegian crown prince Haakon deployed, earning his tactical special operations parajump certification with the Norwegian Special Operations Command.
The Royal Norwegian Air Force (RNoAF) Lockheed Martin F-16AM/BM Fighting Falcons are in such bad shape that Oslo is not willing to send them to war.
According to Norwegian media a request by the US government for fighter aircraft to combat ISIS in Syria will be turned down. What Norway will offer is still unknown, but it will likely not involve any aircraft.
Earlier this year Norwegian defence minister Ine Eriksen Søreide already gave a heads-up of the situation to quality newspaper Aftenposten. “There are problems with the F-16s. Cracks in the wings is one of them.”
According to sources within the Norwegian military there is no money to keep enough F-16s airworthy for an operation abroad. Almost all available funds go to the purchase of the new Lockheed Martin F-35A Lighting II stealthy multi-role fighter.
RNoAF F-35s at Luke
The first RNoAF F-35s have arrived at Luke AFB in Arizona to start training of Norwegian pilots and ground crew. Two more aircraft will follow in 2016. Eventually seven of the 52 projected new jets will be based there. The Norwegian parliament has already cleared the purchase of 22 of them, which covers the orders until FY2019.
F-35 operating bases in Norway
In 2017 the first F-35 will arrive at main operating base Ørland in Central Norway, while Evenes Air Station in the far north will be upgraded to host a small forward operating detachment of F-35s – mainly to serve as Quick Reaction Alert for the Russian air threat with about 4 to 6 F-35s based there.
Ørland is already an F-16 base. The second, Bodø, will be decommissioned as active fighter base.