The phasing-in of the fighter aircraft is on schedule. On Tuesday, August 2 the first F-35 squadron in the US Air Force was declared combat-ready. Norway has ordered 28 F-35A fighter planes and plans to acquire 52 total. They first will arrive in Norway in 2017.
“This is an important milestone for both the US military and the F-35 partnership, but also for Norway and the other countries that will use A model of the F-35. It shows that the timetable is being adhered to, and that both aircraft and personnel, and the whole apparatus around them, are now at a level where they together can carry out missions,” says Øystein Bø, State Secretary at the Defense Ministry.
To declare that the F-35 had obtained its so-called Initial Operational Capability (IOC), the US Air Force had requested that a squadron of 12 to 24 aircraft have the personnel, training, logistics and equipment to undertake a variety of missions with those aircraft.
After a lengthy evaluation process, it is now confirmed that the 34th Fighter Squadron of the 388th Fighter Wing, based at Hill Air Force Base, Utah, meets these requirements. The F-35A is thus for the first time part of the operational structure of the US Air Force. This happened a year after the US Marines received their first combat-ready squadron of the B-version in the summer of 2015, and about a year before the formal development phase is scheduled to end.
“Although there are still challenges in the program, the aircraft already performs daily missions many thought would be impossible. And we know, from experience with the F-16, that probably there will be technical issues that will accompany the aircraft for years to come. We must take into account, and it's one of the reasons why the multinational partnership is so important. It allows us to deal with the challenges that arise in cooperation with other users of the aircraft,” continues Bo.
The Norwegian F-35 procurement will continue as planned. In July, Norway's third and fourth F-35 transferred to Luke Air Force Base in Arizona. Norway has four aircraft at the multinational training center on the base. So far, the Norwegian planes have flown over 300 hours.
In 2017, the first planes will come to Norway to start the job of making our F-35 squadrons combat-ready.
To date, more than 200 F-35 test, training and operational aircraft have now been produced, for seven different countries. Together, all the F-35s have flown over 65,000 flight hours.
“The investment in combat aircraft is especially important in the effort to adapt our defense to modern threats. Therefore, it is important that the phasing-in of fighter aircraft is on schedule, and that the F-35 can now be sent out on operational missions. The F-35 represents a quantum leap in operational capability, both for us and our partner countries. The combat power they bring with them will no doubt contribute to a powerful boost for the Norwegian defense capability,” says State Secretary Bo.