Many people in Norway so far believed that they had been provided with comparisons between the noise generated by the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF), Norway's future fighter, and by the F-16 aircraft that the Norwegian Air Force uses today.
However, it now turns out that the comparison was between JSF and a modern version of the F-16, which is far noisier than our old F-16 aircraft.
A report from Lockheed Martin, which makes the JSF, specifically says that the JSF will makes up to four times as much noise as our F-16, depending on whether the aircraft takes off at full power and with afterburner.
Thus, the gap between the noise that Norwegian airport neighbors experience today, and what they will experience once JSF enters service, will be much larger than expected. The cost to the forced relocation of the airport's neighbors, and the eventual relocation of runways, will thus be much higher.
The Air Force and the Defense Department classified the Lockheed-Martin report when they received it in late September-early October. Only the Air Force's top leadership, who counts only a handful of individuals, and others in the Defence Ministry's Department FD4, which controls the security policy and long-term planning, has seen the report.
Aftenposten has not seen the actual report, but has received confirmation from several quarters that the noise data for the JSF is dramatic. They match the noise data which is available on the internet about JSF, and that Aftenposten studied.
The bomb from 2007
It struck like a bomb when the defense chief Sverre Diesen in the fall of 2007 pointed out that Bodo was the double winner as main military garrison town. Diesen would not only move the Armed Forces Operational Headquarters (FHO) from Stavanger to Bodø, but also put the future main air base there.
A number of other fighter bases would be closed, among them Orland outside Trondheim. While the move of the headquarters is done, the decision about the main air base has not yet been implemented.
On the one hand, it is "purely military considerations," on the other hand "how many individuals in Bodø, or Orland, must move from their homes because of future aircraft noise"? Bodø's problem is that the civil and military runways are located close to the city's center.
A far greater proportion of individuals will have to leave their home, or get noise insulation, than when Gardermoen was developed as a civilian international airport in the 1990s.
When Diesen presented his recommendation, the Air Force has not yet made its choice of a new combat aircraft. But it was not long before the first reports came on the table that it could be terribly expensive to pay for necessary noise abatement work, whether you selected the Eurofighter, JAS Gripen or JSF. Still, it was clear that the JSF would cost more than the competition.
On the basis of preliminary reports from SINTEF, Defense Construction and the U.S. Air Force, it was already clear before New Year in 2007 that the cost of the noise abatement work would reach between 0.54 and 6.45 billion kroner, depending on whether Evenes, Orland or Bodø was chosen.
Bodø would cost the most because of its population of over 40,000 people. It was estimated that over 2,000 homes would have to be abandoned, and nearly as many would have to have noise abatement work.
Move the problem 700 m
Bodø has responded with a proposal to relocate the military section of the airport over 700 meters away from the city, partially behind a hill, and build a new military runway in part into the sea.
"The military and civilian runways are currently too close. We have been host to air bases in more than 50 years. If we are to continue as a military base, it must be on terms that make for acceptable conditions to Bodo. Therefore, the moving solution is ingenious. Only a few residents will be affected by noise, and large areas are released that can be used for urban development,” Mayor Odd Tore Fygle told Aftenposten.
But airport experts support the Orland option, and calculate that the relocation of Bodo airport can cost between 6 and 10 billion kroner, including the removal of buried fuel facilities and other military technical installations. They also claim that 700 meters is not far to remove the noise problem, and that building the runway into the sea is problematic.
The Ministry of Defense is scheduled to submit its report about the fighter bases before Christmas. Final decision on the case will take the Parliament in the spring.
(EDITOR’S NOTE: Several European countries, including Norway, the Netherlands and Switzerland, have extremely strict laws governing the maximum levels of aircraft noise that residents near airports, airfields and air bases can be subjected to. These laws can make noise-abatement measures, including rebuilding houses or re-housing residents, obligatory at government expense.