13:16 GMT16 January 2021
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    Although the first F-35 fighters destined to become the backbone of Norway's air force have already arrived in the Nordic country, it will take eight years until they receive proper protection from air defense systems.

    The update of the Norwegian air force with F-35 fighter jets has been riddled with problems. First, a painful lack of hangars at Ørland airbase was discovered forcing the pricey aircraft to be stored in tents. Now, a perhaps even more dramatic lack of ground protection for the country's largest ever defense investment has been uncovered.

    In early November, the first batch of three F-35 arrived in Norway with great pomp. Next year, the aircraft will become fully operational, gradually replacing the current fleet of F-16s by 2022. The planning of the acquisition of long-range, ground-based protection for the 52 F-35s worth close to $10 billion has not even started yet, Norwegian broadcaster NRK reported.

    Senior Adviser Lars Gjemble at the Ministry of Defense informed NRK in an e-mail that the new long-range air defense will be delivered to the Armed Forces around 2025. A preliminary study for the acquisition of long-range air protection will only commence following the plan next year, Gjemble informed.

    "This is absurd, really. It is a tangible expression of how little money is being put into defense. The air defense system should have been in place the day before yesterday," former commodore Jacob Børresen said, stressing the importance of having a ground-based air defense for Norway's protection.

    NRK listed the following three options for Norway's future air defense: Lockheed Martin's THAAD (Terminal High Altitude Area Defense), currently used in South Korea, Lockheed Martin's Aegis, which is already used on Norwegian frigates, and Raytheon's Patriot, which Norway's neighbor Sweden recently agreed to buy.

    Researcher Ståle Ulriksen of the Norwegian Naval Academy admitted bad planning on the part of the defense authorities, who failed to foresee the strategic implications. According to Ulriksen, a new long-range air defense for Norway's fighter jets will cost least NOK 10 billion ($1.2 billion).

    Ulriksen stressed the paramount importance of having an efficient air defense in place due the mounting tensions between Russia and NATO. Ulriksen also emphasized that Russia's rich arsenal of long-range missiles, including the Iskander, the Kalibr and the KH-101, which could potentially hit strategic targets all across Norway.

    READ MORE: Norway Bets on F-35 to Attack Targets in Russia

    Norway's recently appointed Defense Minister Frank Bakke-Jensen, however, has repeatedly stressed that Russia is not a military threat. Most recently, he reiterated this claim during his last week's visit to the Sør-Varanger garrison, which will be reinforced with a heavy company of 200 men. Frank Bakke-Jensen ascribed this development to rising international instability, NRK reported.


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    air defense, F-35, Frank Bakke-Jensen, Russia, Scandinavia, Norway
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