That Norway would go ahead with buying the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter has long been more or less a given as long as the U.S. showed its willingness to make the aircraft a home for Kongsberg's stealthy Joint Strike Missile.
(Photo: Norwegian MOD)
That has now apparently happened. In announcing it would buy its first two F-35As, the Norwegian government says “the decision to move forward was reached following an extended dialogue with the U.S. Department of Defence aimed at securing opportunities for Norwegian industry.” It adds that U.S. Secretary of Defense, Leon Panetta, in a letter sent this week assured his Norwegian counterpart, Espen Barth Eide, that JSM integration on the JSF would take place.
Several other F-35 partners have shown interest in the weapon that is still in development. Norway sees a potential of $3.3 billion to $4.2 billion for the missile.
The F-35A commitment is for the first two aircraft out of a total of 52 to be bought over the duration of the program. The program cost is put at around $10 billion for Norway.
The two aircraft now ordered are to be used for training and be based in the U.S. at the JSF joint training facility being set up Two more F-35As are to be acquired by Oslo for that purpose, with all four aircraft to be in place in 2016.
The 48 other aircraft are to be based at Orland main air station with deliveries to start in 2017, the defense ministry says.
The Evenes base in the north will be used as a forward operating location to help secure Norway’s interests in that region. The government projects 10% of operations to be from the northern facility
The Norwegian parliament has already signed off on the increased budget needed for the deal.