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