A further three Lockheed Martin F-35A Lightning II fifth-generation multi-role stealth fighters have arrived in Norway, increasing the Luftforsvaret (Royal Norwegian Air Force, RNoAF) fleet to a total of 34 aircraft.
The three aircraft – serials 5504 (c/n AM-32), 5505 (c/n AM-33) and 5506 (c/n AM-34) – departed Lockheed Martin’s F-35 production facility in Fort Worth, Texas, and landed at Ørland Hovedflystasjon (Main Air Station) in Norway’s Trøndelag region in the morning of December 9.
With this latest delivery, the RNoAF’s F-35A fleet now stands at 34 aircraft – 24 of which are located in Norway, with a further ten examples in the US. The country is still phasing the Lightning II into operational service and air and ground crew personnel training continues as normal at Luke Air Force Base (AFB) in Arizona.
Commenting on the arrival of this latest batch of F-35As, Lt Col Tron Strand – the officer commanding 322 Skvadron (Squadron) – said: “The reception of three more F-35s increases the air wing’s ability to carry out the necessary training of both pilots and support personnel.
“It is necessary to increase the number of personnel and the number of aircraft at the same rate in order for us to be able to carry out the aircraft operations that are necessary to achieve the established requirements for the weapon system,” he added.
The RNoAF declared initial operational capability (IOC) with its F-35A force on November 6, 2019. The type completed its first deployment in support of NATO’s Icelandic Air Policing mission in early 2020. This last autumn, Norwegian F-35As deployed to the Netherlands with associated personnel to take part in the Weapons Instructor Course (WIC) for the first time.
From January 1, 2022, the Lightning II will formally take over Norway’s domestic Quick Reaction Alert (QRA) duties from Evenes, which are currently carried out by the RNoAF’s Lockheed Martin F-16AM/F-16BM (MLU) Fighting Falcon fleet from Bodø. Norway intends to retire its remaining F-16AM/BM fighters before the end of this year.
The service states that in the lead up to the F-35A’s Full Operational Capability (FOC) declaration – which is scheduled for 2025 – the type will be used for joint training and integration with both Norwegian and allied forces. In total, Norway intends to procure 52 examples of the conventional take-off and landing (CTOL)-configured F-35A. In RNoAF service, the type will be used to support a variety of air, land and maritime operations in support of both Norwegian and allied forces.
“The three new F-35 fighter jets that arrive in Norway and Ørland today mean that the delivery of six F-35 aircraft a year has been maintained. Enormous efforts have been made by many players to ensure that the aircraft were delivered according to plan in a challenging infection situation,” the RNoAF added.