The Norwegian government has kicked off the purchase of its Joint Strike Fighters after years of discussions and a recent budget move to adjust procurement plans.
The deal also puts the Kongsberg Joint Strike Missile (JSM) on a path to integration on the fighter, which Norway sees as key to achieving its industrial goals.
“The decision to move forward was reached following an extended dialogue with the U.S.aimed at securing opportunities for Norwegian industry,” the Norwegian defense ministry says. U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta assured his Norwegian counterpart, Espen Barth Eide, that JSM integration would take place. The commitment was secured in a letter this week, the Norwegian government says.
Several other F-35 partners have shown interest in the weapon, which is still in development. Norway sees potential sales of $3.3 billion to $4.2 billion for the missile.
The F-35A commitment is for the first two of 52 aircraft to be purchased over the program’s duration. The program’s cost for Norway is estimated at $10 billion.
The two aircraft now ordered are to be used for training and will be based in the U.S. Two more F-35s are to be acquired for that purpose, with all four to be in place in 2016. The 48 other F-35s are to be based at Norway’s Orland Main Air Station, with deliveries to begin in 2017, the defense ministry says. The Evenes base will be used as a forward operating location to help secure Norway’s interests in the north.
The Norwegian parliament this week signed off on a budget increase needed for the deal.