21:20 GMT +312 November 2019
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    Norway Claims to Achieve 'New Capabilities' as F-35 Declared Operational – Photo, Video

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    With 52 F-35s by 2025, Norway is on its way to becoming one of the foremost users of the US-made fighter jets in Europe.

    As the last step in the two-year test phase, Norway's F-35 aircraft were piloted from Ørland to the Air Defence Base at Rygge and are now ready for their first mission. With this step completed Norway has become the third European nation to have achieved initial operational capability (IOC) after Italy and the UK.

    The Norwegian Armed Forces have thus achieved their 2011 goal of reaching operational capability with the F-35 aircraft by the end of 2019.

    ​“This is the result of formidable work over many years in large parts of the defence sector. Now the F-35 can help resolve national crises and prevent threats to Norwegian sovereignty”, Defence Minister Frank Bakke-Jensen of the ruling Conservative Party said.

    According to the Ministry of Defenсe, the Air Force is now able to respond quickly with F-35 aircraft to incidents and crises in Norway, Norwegian territorial waters, and surrounding areas.

    ​One of Europe's Leading F-35 Users

    The first three F-35 fighter jets landed on Norwegian soil in November 2017, two years ago. In the meantime, the Norwegian Air Force has been testing how the aircraft cope with Norway's specific conditions. Among others, wintertime missions and collaborations with the Army, Navy and Special Forces have been carried out.

    The move to Rygge is only temporary, and the aircraft will later return to Ørland, where 15 of Norway's 22 F-35 will be based and operate from. The other seven have meanwhile been posted to Luke Air Force Base in the US for educational purposes.

    The F-35 has been described as a basic supporter for the rest of the Armed Forces. The fighter jets are intended to work closely with other branches, feeding them with time-critical information and a detailed overview from far away places. In 2022, the F-35s will take over the NATO mission Quick Reaction Alert (QRA) from the F-16.

    “With the F-35 in place, we will have a capacity far above what the F-16 has ever delivered. The F-35 is much more than an F-16 replacement. The weapons system adds a number of new capabilities to the entire Armed Forces that we have never had before”, the defence minister concluded.

    In total, Norway has ordered 52 F-35 aircraft with an average price tag of NOK 1.375 billion (roughly $149 million) apiece. Total lifetime costs associated with the aircraft remain up for debate.

    According to the Norwegian Defence Ministry, the F-35 fleet will become fully operational in 2025. In the meantime, Norway's participation in the F-35 project has run into difficulties, including a lack of pilots and hangars and runaway operational costs.

     

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    Tags:
    Initial Operational Capability, F-35, Scandinavia, Norway
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