On the 23rd March the Norwegian Government presented the new Long term plan for Defence. In the proposed plan the established defence policy goals and ambitions are corroborated.
The Government’s ambition to procure 52 F-35 fighter jets is confirmed.
As a result of the gradual decreasing expenditure in Afghanistan, a reallocation of approx. 634 mill NOK will fund activity in Norway, specifically for the Army and the Home Guard. A temporary increase in the investment budget of 22-28 billion NOK is linked to the F-35 acquisition. The plan is now awaiting parliamentary approval, expected in June 2012.
The acquisition of new fighter aircraft, with the accompanying reform of the base- and support structure, will serve as a catalyst for adjustment of the entire Air Force structure. By concentrating main activity to a fewer number of bases, and by further cultivating competency, more resources will be available for operational activity.
Government recommends that the new main base for the fighter jets is Ørland airbase. A forward operating base will be established at Evenes. Aircraft assigned to the QRA (Quick Reaction Alert) role, will be permanently based here. Ørland is the one base best meeting the criteria regarding daily training conditions. Evenes is the preferred base for forward deployment, by both our own and allied air forces.
Basing the jets at Ørland and Evenes has few and acceptable environmental impacts, especially regarding noise. The combination is also considered to be the best choice regarding possible future development, particularly since Ørland is an existing military air base, providing the necessary flexibility for the next 30-40 years. This solution is a sound choice from a security policy standpoint, has an acceptable cost and development potential.
The F-35 acquisition
The Government’s ambition for the defence sector remains steadfast. A total acquisition of 52 F-35s fulfills this ambition. A final decision on the last six jets will be made after the first 46 jets have been procured.
The government is considering spreading the acquisition over an increased number of years to even out the requirement for additional funding pertaining to the individual budget year. Options being considered are taking delivery of the first training aircraft earlier than planned, and prolonging the period of acquisition.
The recently updated Norwegian cost analysis and risk analysis confirm that our national estimates are still valid. The investment cost is expected to be about the same as estimated in 2008. The lifecycle cost is estimated to have decreased by approx. 10 %. Updated numbers will be presented to Parliament before ordering the main body of aircraft.
A temporary increase in the investment budget of 22-28 billion NOK, spread over the entire acquisition period, is linked to the F-35 acquisition. By the end of the four year period 2013-2016, the defence budget will stand at three billion NOK above the 2012 budget, as a consequence of the temporary increase related to the procurement of the F-35.