The Royal Norwegian Air Force (RNoAF) has officially declared initial operational capability (IOC) for its F-35As, becoming the third European air arm to do so.
The IOC announcement, which came on November 6, follows the air arm's recent deployment to Rygge Air Station, near the Norwegian capital, Oslo, which demonstrated that the RNoAF can operate the F-35A away from its home base at Ørland. Over the last two years, the nation has conducted operational testing and evaluation (OT&E) with the fifth-generation fighter to authenticate its capabilities in Norway's cold environment - with the IOC marking a successful end to that test period.
In declaring its Lightning aircraft operationally capable, the country joined other European nations - the UK and Italy - in achieving the milestone. It has become the eighth air arm to do so worldwide, which outside Europe includes the US Air Force, Marines and Navy, Israeli Air Force and Japan Air Self-Defense Force.
Technicians and other important personnel were deployed to Rygge alongside the aircraft and associated equipment. In a statement, the Norwegian Ministry of Defence said: “To conclude the test period, the Norwegian Armed Forces spent several days transferring aircraft and equipment from Ørland Air Station to Rygge Air Station.”
When announcing the IOC, Frank Bakke-Jensen, Norway's Defence Minister, said: “I would like to congratulate the Norwegian Armed Forces on declaring IOC with the F-35. This is a big day for the entire armed forces.”
Norway is set to operate a total of 52 F-35As - the conventional take off and landing variant of the Lightning II family. Next year, the RNoAF will deploy to Iceland with the aircraft to cover NATO's rotational air policing mission, in a similar fashion to the Italian Air Force, which has just completed a similar commitment on the island with its F-35s. In 2022, Norwegian F-35As will arrive at Evenes Air Station to take over the nation's northern quick reaction alert (QRA) mission.
In September 2019, three more F-35As arrived in Norway. Follow the link to read the story which was covered in the December issue of Combat Aircraft.