Norwegian Air Chief Brig. Gen. Tonje Skinnarland declared Norway’s F-35As operational after completing a deployment in November meant to validate that they are able to operate the jets away from Norway’s home base of Ørland Main Air Station on Nov. 6.
Norway becomes the third European country to declare IOC, after the United Kingdom and Italy. – 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, says Norway’s Defence Minister Frank Bakke-Jensen.
With more than 455 aircraft operating from 20 bases around the globe, the F-35 is playing a critical role in today’s global security environment. More than 955 pilots and 8,485 maintainers have been trained, and the F-35 fleet has surpassed more than 230,000 cumulative flight hours. Nine nations have F-35s operating from a base on their home soil and eight Services have declared Initial Operating Capability.
Over the last two years, the Norwegian Air Force has conducted intensive operational testing and evaluation (OT&E) of special Norwegian conditions such as winter operations, operations in the northern areas and cooperation with Norwegian Army, Navy and Special Forces.
To conclude the test period, the Norwegian Armed Forces spent several days transferring aircraft and equipment from Ørland Air Station to Rygge Air Station (close to the capital Oslo). Deployment of Rygge’s fighter aircraft system includes technicians and other important personnel as well as necessary equipment in order to train and practice operations from there. This was the first time the fighter aircraft were operated from a base other than Ørland Air Station.
Next year Norway’s F-35s will deploy to Iceland to conduct air-policing efforts on behalf of NATO. Finally, by 2022, the Norwegian Air Force will have built up enough F-35s, pilots and maintainers in the country to let the F-35 take over the “quick reaction alert” (QRA) mission, which calls for operators to stand on a 24/7 alert and scramble, if needed, to intercept aircraft flying near Norwegian airspace. These F-35s will be ready for air-policing in Evenes, Northern Norway.
Norway plans to buy 52 F-35As. They are to be based in Ørland Air Station (main location) and from 2022 also in Evenes Air Station (for NATO air-policing).