The F-35 US fighter jets, which are Norway's most expensive defense acquisition and are touted as the backbone of the country's Armed Forces, are facing another problem, the daily newspaper Klassekampen reported.
At Evenes, the main airbase in northern Norway, the runway must be cleared during the winter, but the Armed Forces are not allowed to use the most suitable chemical for environmental reasons. Instead, the Armed Forces have to be content with Aviform L50, a substance that is known to cause rust damage to the aircraft.
According to an independent report by Oslo Economics, rust damage associated with the chemical's use at Evenes will lead to additional cost totaling NOK 1.4 billion ($170 million).
The Air Force initially wanted to use urea to prevent ice from forming, but the airbase did not receive a permit due to the major damage due to acidification it would cause to protected wetland areas around Evenes.
The problem related to the rust damage caused by Aviform L50, a liquid de-icing agent based on 50 % potassium formate, has been known for a long time, which is why alternative options have been considered. According to Oslo Economics consultants, heating the runway would be the cheapest available solution. It would save the Norwegian Defense Ministry about NOK 550 million ($69 million) over 30 years.
Nevertheless, the defense ministry is reluctant to create a heated runway, due to the time pressure it is currently facing. The same argument is used to dismiss alternative deicing chemicals, which require pre-approval and can thus take a long time.
Heating the runway was discarded as an option that "hasn't been practiced under such climatic conditions or to such a large extent."
The Evenes airbase, which lies on the border between Nordland County and Troms County, is slated for completion in 2022. It will become the main operating base for both the F-35s and the P-8 Poseidons.
The acquisition of F-35s has been associated with several delays. Although the choice to make F-35 a mainstay of the Norwegian Air Force was initially taken in 2008, the airbase at Evenes is still under construction with an estimated price tag of NOK 40 billion ($5 billion). Meanwhile, the first F-35s that arrived on Norwegian soil last year will have to be stored in tents, awaiting hangars.