“After more than 11 years of extensive testing, the F-35 program's system development and demonstration phase is over. Now, the Kampfly (combat aircraft) program is in a phase of continuous development and delivery (C2D2),” says Program Director at Defense Ministry General Morten Klever.
The Air Force is undergoing operational testing and evaluation of F-35 under Norwegian conditions with an initial operational capability in 2019. Training of pilots, maintenance staff and other support staff is a very important part of what will happen until 2019.
When the F-35 was chosen as a new combat aircraft in 2008, this was justified by several factors, including the lowest investment and lifetime costs. An important factor for achieving this was that the acquisition is made through a multinational partnership that develops, acquires, further develops and establishes a common global solution for operation and maintenance of the aircraft.
The development phase, called the SDD (System Development and Demonstration) phase, has been designed to develop the aircraft into basic operational configuration. This configuration is called Block 3F. The flights delivered to Ørland in November have this configuration.
April 11 this year, the development phase of the F-35 was formally completed. Since the first test flight took place on December 15, 2006, 9,200 test flights and over 17,000 hours of testing have been completed.
“The end of the development phase marks an important milestone in the F-35 partnership. Partner countries agreed on a set of requirements for the development of F-35. The capacities are now developed and tested against these requirements. Now, efforts are being made to further develop the F-35 weapon system to keep the systems up to date in line with technological and operational developments. We call the strategy for this further development for C2D2: "Continous Capability Development and Delivery".
“The purpose of C2D2 is to provide regular updates of software and hardware. The first step in this work is to develop the planes into a so-called Block 4 configuration, which provides the operational capability the Norwegian aircraft will hold when the acquisition is complete, and we reach full operational capability in 2025. One of the Block-4 updates is the integration of JSM missile,” says Program Director Klever.
Why are we continuing to further develop the F-35 aircraft?
It is crucial to ensure operational relevance throughout the lifetime. Further development of the F-35 weapon system is necessary to maintain operational power and relevance to meeting future threats. On the same line with F-16, the F-35 is scheduled for regular updates. Technological development involves both aircraft software development and upgrading of aircraft components (such as computers and sensors). The aircraft that landed on Ørlandet in November have the latest configuration, ie 3F. It is the end point of the development phase and marks the starting point for the further development of the weapon system over the lifetime.
In order for a small nation like Norway to be able to follow such a development, we are completely dependent on doing this in a big community. This is a lesson we have from F-16. A unified fleet forms the basis for cost-effective solutions. Norway's role as a partner gives us the opportunity to influence the further development of F-35 in line with Norwegian interests.
The technical integration of Joint Strike Missile (JSM) in the aircraft is Norway's most important in future upgrades, as JSM will be fully operational in 2025. JSM will ensure that Norwegian F-35 has a real ability to deliver fire to all types of good defended targets including well-defended sea targets (military surface vessels).