According to the Norwegian media, the Norwegian Air Force announced on January 6 that all 57 F-16 fighter jets had been retired as the last two F-16 fighter jets completed their final mission. This was only a formality as the F-16’s were retired in 2021. The F-35 stealth fighter has officially taken over the country’s rapid response alert mission. As a result, Norway has become the first country in the world to have a fully stealthy fighter air force.
As per the 132nd Air Wing commander of the Norwegian Air Force, “The F-35 stealth fighter is equipped with a new information system, which is better than the F-16 fighter.”
The Norwegian Air Force is equipped with a conventional take-off and landing type F-35A aircraft.
As per media reports, the Norwegian Air Force has purchased 52 F-35 stealth fighter jets, which are almost a one-to-one replacement of the original F-16 fighter jets, and will be mainly stationed at the Oran Air Force Base in the future.
In November 2017, the United States delivered the first three F-35 stealth fighter jets to the Norwegian Air Force. Two years later, the Norwegian Air Force announced the initial operational capability of its first squadron of F-35 stealth fighter jets.
The United States has delivered 24 F-35 stealth fighter jets to Norway, and the balance is expected to be delivered in 2025.
Norway believes that the F-35 stealth fighter has the air combat capability to seize air supremacy and launch Norwegian-made Joint Strike Missile (JSM) air-launched anti-ship missiles to attack large enemy surface ships. Along with JSOW-ER and AARGM-ER, the JSM is set to be the internal bay compliant Stand-Off weapon option for the Norwegian F-35’s.
After a large number of these fighters are deployed, the combat capability of the Norwegian Air Force in the Norwegian Sea and the Barents Sea will be comprehensively improved.
According to NATO requirements, the Norwegian Air Force must keep fighter jets on standby at all times. If an unknown aircraft approaches Norwegian and NATO airspace, the F-35 stealth fighter jet will scramble within 15 minutes to detect, monitor and record it. From 2020 to 2021, the Norwegian Air Force F-35 stealth fighter has participated in air security missions under the NATO framework many times.
According to reports, the F-35 stealth fighter equipped by the Norwegian Air Force is a customized version. Considering that Norway is located in the Arctic Circle, ice often occurs on the runway. The U.S. side specially installed a deceleration parachute (located on the upper part of the rear fuselage between the vertical tails) for the Norwegian F-35 stealth fighter to help the fighter land safely. However, the Norwegian Air Force has repeatedly questioned the reliability of the parachute during its use.
F-35’s have frequent problems and high operational costs. Hence it poses a certain risk in the Norwegian Air Force’s complete dependence on this type of fighter. The fighter currently costs about $30,000 an hour to fly, and the fighter maker, Lockheed Martin, says that number won’t drop any time soon. In addition, F-35 currently only has the initial operational capability, and it is expected to have formal operational capability after 2025.
Due to the limitation of the size of the internal bomb bay, the F-35 has shortcomings such as a small number of actual bombs and the inability to carry large weapons.
With the entry into service of this type of fighter, the Norwegian Air Force will build a US-made stealth fighter support and maintenance system. U.S. Air Force fighters of the same type can use these resources to operate close to Russian airspace at any time, which is bound to put more pressure on the latter.
The United States once had the plan to build an all-stealth fighter air force. The plan fell through with the Pentagon’s acquisition of the F-15EX fighter jet. The Norwegian Air Force began to “lead the trend of the times” and completely replaced the F-16 fighter jets with the F-35 stealth fighter jets, becoming the first country to fully rely on the U.S. stealth fighter jets for rapid response missions.
What happened to Norwegian F-16’s?
In November 2021, Norwegian Defense Materiel (FMA) had signed a contract for the sale of up to 12 F-16s to Draken International. The American company that provides so-called “Red Air services”, i.e they take on the role of the opponent in the training of American pilots.
In December 2021, the Romanian Parliament approved the purchase of 32 Norwegian F-16 fighter jets. The delivery is scheduled to take place in 2023 and 2024. Kongsberg Aviation Maintenance Services (Kams) has been chosen as a strategic partner for refurbishing the F-16’s. This preparation is quite similar to the phase inspection, which ensures additional 300 hours for each aircraft The work takes about our to five months, depending on the type of issues that is discovered during the inspection. The aircraft that have been prepared for sale are stored in a newly built hall at Kjeller.
The first Romanian planes are going to Escadrila 53 Vânătoare. This squadron, stationed at Baza 86 Aeriană in Borcea in the southeast of the country, currently operates 17 F-16s purchased second-hand from Portugal.
It is assumed that the Norwegian aircraft will be able to fly for at least another ten years until they are replaced by fifth-generation aircraft.
The Norwegian Block 15 aircraft were produced at the Fokker factory in the Netherlands in 1982-1984 and will celebrate their 50th anniversary in Romania before they are phased out for good.
Also Read: Romania to acquire 32 F-16s from Norway