Tag Archives: Ørland

Norway: “No ISIS fight. F-16s are in bad shape”

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.


RELATED: Overview Royal Norwegian Air Force
Working up to Cold Response 2014 this RNoAF F-16AM with serial 687 breaks in preparation for landing at Ørland Airbase after a counter-air training mission over the Norwegian Sea on 4 March 2014 (Image © Morten Hanche / Luftforsvaret / Forsvarets mediesenter)
Check out the Airheadsfly.com overview
of the Royal Norwegian Air Force


F-16 wing cracks

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.”

A Royal Norwegian Air Force F-16AM with tiger tail (Image © Elmer van Hest)
A Royal Norwegian Air Force F-16AM with tiger tail (Image © Elmer van Hest)

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.

The first Royal Norwegian Air Force F-35 lands at Luke AFB. (Image © US Air Force / Staff Sgt. Marcy Copeland)
The first Royal Norwegian Air Force F-35 lands at Luke AFB. (Image © US Air Force / Staff Sgt. Marcy Copeland)

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.

Swedish Gripens in formation with Norwegian F-16s earlier during exercise Cold Response (Image © 338 Skvadron / Forsvaret Norge)
Swedish Gripens in formation with Norwegian F-16s earlier during exercise Cold Response. Both countries are unwilling to send their fighter jets abroad at this moment. (Image © 338 Skvadron / Forsvaret Norge)

Scandinavian “no” to combat ISIS

The Norwegian “no” to fighter aircraft to combat ISIS comes after the Danes already turned down such request for their F-16s as “our pilots are not combat ready” for the task. Sweden – which was asked by France for combat air assets – is bluntly unwilling to field its SAAB JAS 39C/D Gripen jets.

© 2015 Airheadsfly.com editor Marcel Burger
Featured image (top): In a few years these pilot views on Ørland Main Air Station will be history, when these F-16s have been replace by the new F-35A Lightning II (Image © David Vo / Luftforsvaret)

Norway aiming for X-Mas Lightning

Norway is aiming to have its pilots flying the first two Lockheed Martin F-35A Lightning IIs just before Christmas 2015, the Norwegian Ministry of Defence confirmed. The aircraft, called AM-1 and AM-2, are planned to make their delivery flight from the production plant in Forth Worth in Texas to Luke Air Force Base in November 2015.

Front view of the first RNoAF F-35A (Image © Forsvaret)
RELATED POST: First Norwegian F-35 handed over

Together with a third and fourth aircraft to arrive in 2016, the two Royal Norwegian Air Force next-generation multi-role fighters will be part of the so-called “international pool” to train aviators and aircraft technicians.

Current RNoAF combat pilots flying the F-16 will go through conversion training on the new type in 2015 and 2016. From 2018 on forward Norway will have at least 6 trainees – aspirant-pilots that have never flown the F-16 or similar aircraft before – at Luke. At the same time the RNoAF will start decommissioning its facilities at Tuscon in Arizona, where Norwegian fighter jocks-to-be now go after basic training on Sheppard AFB.

Meanwhile Ørland Airbase near Trondheim in Norway is getting ready to accept the first F-35 in 2017, with a new simulator division and maintenance division. The first RNoAF Lightning II is planned to be operational in 2019, with all planned 52 F-35s reaching full operational capability by 2025.

How the flight line of RNoAF F-35s will look. For now these USAF Lightning IIs make a nice bunch (Image © Torgeir Haugaard / Forsvarets mediesenter)
How the flight line of RNoAF F-35s will look. For now these USAF Lightning IIs make a nice bunch (Image © Torgeir Haugaard / Forsvarets mediesenter)
F-35 rolling (Image © Torgeir Haugaard / Forsvarets mediesenter)
F-35 rolling (Image © Torgeir Haugaard / Forsvarets mediesenter)
The future "habitat" of first quartet of RNoAF F-35s: Luke AFB as photographed on 23 September 2014 (Image © Torgeir Haugaard / Forsvarets mediesenter)
The future “habitat” of first quartet of RNoAF F-35s: Luke AFB as photographed on 23 September 2014 (Image © Torgeir Haugaard / Forsvarets mediesenter)

While Ørland will be the F-35s only Main Base, Norway will fly its Quick Reaction Alert on NATO northern flank with F-35s based at Evenes on a rotating basis. Until 2021 F-16s will fly the mission from Bodø – initially on a rotating basis with the F-35s until the QRA task will be fully transfered to the new stealthy jet ahead of full decommissioning of the Fighting Falcon.

Source: Forsvaret
Featured image: The F-35 is the future RNoAF fighter jet (Image © USAF / Forsvaret)

First Norwegian to hit 4,000 F-16 flight hours

His name is Bjørge “Gaff” Kleppe and he is the boss of Royal Norwegian Air Force’s 338 Squadron based at Ørland. As the first only Norwegian ever, Kleppe has flown 4,000 hours in the Lockheed Martin F-16 Fighting Falcon, the Ministry of Defence in Oslo announced on 13 August 2015.

Kleppe has been flying the F-16 for 22 years. “Even after so many flight hours in the sky, the job is still exciting,” the combat pilot says. He flew missions during several international operations, including over Kosovo in 1999-2000 (the first Norwegian combat deployment in a war zone since the Second World War), in Afghanistan in 2003 (the first time in modern history the RNoAF flew with air-to-ground weapons into combat) and over Libya in 2011.

Kleppe has even flown the Northrop F-5 from Rygge Air Base for then 336 Squadron, the year before he reached full fighter pilot status in 1993.

Source: Forsvaret
Featured image: RNoAF’s 338 Squadron chief Bjørge “Gaff” Kleppe nailed the 4,000 flight hours milestone on the F-16, as the first Norwegian ever (Image © Forsvarets Mediesenter)

Norway: “Russian air activity not more than before”

The number of Russian military aircraft saying “privet” to NATO off the coast of Norway is not higher than in the past eight years, Lt. Gen. Morten Haga Lunde – chief of operations at the Norwegian military headquarters (Forsvarets operative hovedkvarter) – says in a recent news release of the Norwegian Armed Forces.

While the nations at the Baltic Sea do report more Russian air activity, out in the Barents Sea and Northern Atlantic it is business as usual, according to the general Haga Lunde. “The situation in the northern area today is normal, similar to recent years despite the fact that there are more tensions between Russia and NATO.”

A RNoAF F-16BM from 338 Squadron levaing Ørland Main Air Station for a training sortie (Image © Torbjørn Kjosvold / Forsvarets mediesenter)
A RNoAF F-16BM from 338 Squadron leving Ørland Main Air Station for a training sortie (Image © Torbjørn Kjosvold / Forsvarets mediesenter)

Looking at the numbers. This year the Royal Norwegian Air Force executed 43 scrambles (defensive reaction to intrusions or almost intrusions of NATO airspace) plus 69 identification of Russian airplanes off the Norwegian coast. In 2013 it were 41 scrambles and 58 identifications, in 2012 41 scrambles and 71 identifications. Compared to the statistics of the 1980s today’s situation is quite relaxed, as the RNoAF has 500 to 600 ID-flights on record yearly for that hot period of the so-called Cold War that ended in 1991.

© 2014 Airheadsfly.com editor Marcel Burger, based on source information provided by the Norwegian Ministry of Defence

A NATO Boeing E-3 Sentry AWACS leaving Ørland Main Air Station. As Norway doesn't have a flying radar, command and control plane available, NATO often provides one to defend its northern flank (Image © Nils Skipnes / Luftforsvaret / Forsvarets mediesenter)
A NATO Boeing E-3 Sentry AWACS leaving Ørland Main Air Station. As Norway doesn’t have a flying radar, command and control plane available, NATO often provides one to defend its northern flank (Image © Nils Skipnes / Luftforsvaret / Forsvarets mediesenter)

The lowest recorded identification flights of the RNoAF was in 1998, when only 3 Russian planes were spotted in international airspace near Norwegian territories. Eyes were fully on Norway last week, when the Norwegian Ministry of Defence released a second video of a gutsy Russian pilot creeping up very close to a Norwegian F-16. The move might have been something awkward, but as the Norwegian high commanding officer concludes, the general Russian air activity in the Norwegian area of responsibility is fairly stable ever since 2007.

Coming in to land, a RNoAF F-16BM with a typical simulated Combat Air Patrol load (Image © Nils Skipnes / Luftforsvaret / Forsvarets mediesenter)
Coming in to land, a RNoAF F-16BM with a typical simulated Combat Air Patrol load (Image © Nils Skipnes / Luftforsvaret / Forsvarets mediesenter)
A hyper-modern Russian Su-34 photographed by a RNoAF F-16 crew on an much published intercept in October 2014 (Image © Forsvaret)
A hyper-modern Russian Su-34 photographed by a RNoAF F-16 crew on an much published intercept in October 2014 (Image © Forsvaret)

See also our Overview: Royal Norwegian Air Force

Up with NATO: 3 Baltic air bases with 18 aircraft

A Polish Air Force MiG-29 Fulcrum-A taking off from Berlin-Schönefeld during an airshow in 2008. (Image © Elmer van Hest)
Polish Air Force MiG-29s will get permanent, both rotating NATO guests at Malbork (Image © Elmer van Hest)

NATO decided on Thursday 4 September 2014 to permanently increase the number of fighters to protect the Baltics to 18 jets and to give the three current bases a more or less permanent status, although the aircraft and units assigned to these bases will still rotate amongst the NATO member states.

Thereby what more or less started as a French initiative to train with Polish forces and back-up NATOs flank on the shores of the Baltic Sea will officially become more a steady base of operations: Malbork, or 22. Baza Lotnictwa Taktycznego (22.BLT; 22nd Tactical Air Base) of the Polish Armed Forces. The Polish Air Force’s 41. Eskadra Lotnictwa Taktycznego (41.elt or 41 Tactical Air Squadron) operating MiG-29A/G/GTs will have permanent guests rotating every three or four months. Currently the Royal Netherlands Air Force has a quartet of its F-16 fighter jets operating from this delta area at the Baltic sea, with the airbase only 42 miles (68 km) southwest of Russian enclave of Kaliningrad.

Whobbling a bit in windy conditions this RNLAF F-16AM comes in to land at Schleswig Airbase, Germany, during the NATO Tiger Meet 2014 (Image © Marcel Burger)
A RNLAF F-16AM comes in to land (Image © Marcel Burger)

North of Kaliningrad in Lithuania Šiauliai Airbase – where NATOs Baltic Air Policing Mission started in 2004 – will remain as a main operating base for the mission with at least six aircraft assigned – currently Royal Canadian Air Force CF-188s. Ämari Airbase’s status in Estonia, which gave NATO a nice jump base since April over the standard Russian flying routes over the Gulf of Finland, will be officially increased from secondary to the third main airbase. Currently the German Air Force (Luftwaffe) flies four Eurofighter EF2000s from Ämari and holds another pair on 96 hour alert notice back home.

Sweden
With a new status deal signed with Sweden and Finland, it will become more easier for NATO to operate from these previously officially neutral countries as well. The Finnish Air Force itself provides irregular air cover and combat air patrol with its F-18Cs and the Swedish Air Force flying JAS 39 Gripen planes from the Ronneby Airbase near Karlskrona. Like earlier this week the Swedes put additional air cover on the strategically located island of Gotland, but with current budget restrains the standard alert response force of 6 to 8 aircraft has been downsized to a pair of Gripens only and their deployment to Visby airfield at Gotland has so far only be temporarily at times. But both the Finnish and Swedish air forces are no part of the military structure of NATO but can be if those countries decide to put some of their units at NATOs disposal, the Fins even have a fully NATO-certified fighter unit.

A 4-pack formation of RNoAF F-16 fighters in a narrow fjord during Cold Response 2014 (Image © Torbjørn Kjosvold / Forsvarets mediesenter)
A 4-pack formation of RNoAF F-16 fighters in a narrow fjord during Cold Response 2014 (Image © Torbjørn Kjosvold / Forsvarets mediesenter)

Norway
NATO’s slightly tougher stand – many experts believe still not a big match if Russia decides to take control of Estonia and/or Latvia and/or Lithuania and/or Gotland – might even influence Norway’s future air force organisation. Oslo has been keen to reduce the number of main operating bases for its future F-35 Lightning II fleet from two to one: Ørland. But with such a vast country and Russia recently starting to improve its official civilian settlement on the Norwegian territory of Svalbard, upgrading its bases near the Scandinavian borders and re-establishing its military bases in the Arctics, keeping Bodø as the second main air base for the future fighter fleet of Norway doesn’t seem such a bad idea after all. Especially with increasing Norwegian economical interest in offshore oil and gas fields in the North Pole area.

© 2014 Airheadsfly.com editor Marcel Burger

Related posts

A German Eurofighter EF2000. (Image © Elmer van Hest)
A German Eurofighter EF2000. (Image © Elmer van Hest)