November 20, 2008 (by Lieven Dewitte) - Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg has formally recommended to his country's Parliament that Lockheed Martin's F-35 Lightning II be selected over the Swedish Saab's Gripen NG to replace its ageing F-16s.
is the only candidate which fulfills all the operational requirements specified by the Norwegian Government and is furthermore offered at a lower price than the Gripen NG," the government said in a statement on Thursday.
It said that U.S. planes would come in 6 billion crowns cheaper than the Gripens.
The selection of the Joint Strike Fighter rests upon a clear recommendation from Project Future Combat Aircraft Capability. External auditors have concluded that the evaluation has been carried out in a professional and ethically sound manor.
Combat aircraft is a crucial capability for Norway
's defence. The procurement of new combat aircraft is therefore an essential element in the Government’s Long-term Defense Plan, states Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg.
"Both candidates' performance have been evaluated against a number of different scenarios. The scenarios used in this evaluation are the same as the ones used in the Long-term Defense Plan," says Minister of Defense Anne-Grete Strøm-Erichsen.
Strøm-Erichsen also stated that the Joint Strike Fighter is considered to be the better of the two candidates regarding intelligence and surveillance, counter air, air interdict and anti-surface warfare. According to her, an investment of this magnitude also offers substantial opportunities for Norwegian industry. "Throughout the process, the Government has communicated clearly to the candidates the significance of securing industrial opportunities, and the results of that focus is clearly evident today," she said.
The Government underlines that from a Norwegian security policy viewpoint, both candidates have been fully acceptable. Nordic defense and security cooperation will proceed independently of the procurement of new combat aircraft and will receive our continued support.
Norway has participated in the development of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter together with other NATO
allies, while also running a competitive tender where the Gripen has been the only other jet considered, after the Eurofighter dropped out of the competition.
Buying the Swedish alternative would have been a new departure that some politicians, especially on the left, had hoped would herald the start of a new era in Scandinavian defense cooperation.