Norway plans to buy 52 Lightning II aircraft from Lockheed Martin to replace its aging F-16 Fighting Falcon fleet.
"It's challenging to change systems, of course. We are also changing the military system, the education system at the same time to cope with the changing and the new technology and the new jobs," Defense Minister Frank Bakke-Jensen said.
The Norwegian military is also bringing in new German-made submarines and Boeing P-8 Poseidon military aircraft. "Every time when you change existing systems you will have a dip in operational readiness," the official said, "but not more than we can cope with."
Norwegian security officials have criticized the F-35 on the grounds that it can be used by the US to spy on its northern European ally. "Due to national considerations, there is a need for a filter where the user nations can exclude sensitive data from the data stream that is shared by the system with the manufacturer Lockheed Martin," Lars Gjemble, senior consultant for the Norwegian Defense Ministry, said in November.
After each flight, the plane transmits flight data back to servers in Lockheed's plant in Fort Worth, Texas. "In a way, it is similar to the challenge of what information your iPhone shares with the manufacturers," Gjemble said.
The home of the Norwegian F-35 fleet, presently only three-strong, is Ørland Air Force Base, which also hosted Russian officers to check out the base in December. According to the 2011 Vienna agreement, signatory countries have the opportunity to examine one another's arsenals. Russia requested a visit on November 27 and was approved by the next day.
The Russian officials "exhibited, as expected, a keen interest in the new combat aircraft," Lieutenant Colonel Sven Svensson told local media at the time.