June 17, 2011 (by Bjørnar Bolsøy) - The Norwegian parliament has approved the purchase of an initial four F-35 jets in 2016 preparing for main deliveries in 2018.
USAF test pilot Lt. Col. George Griffiths flies AF-1 over Edwards AFB. [Lockheed Martin photo by David Henry]
The package which could reach NOK 4.8 billion ($744 million) was unanimously approved by Parliament despite concerns voiced by the opposition parties over ongoing uncertainties surrounding the main acquisition and life-cycle costs.
- I'm glad the Parliament decided to support the acquisition of four F-35 training jets, said Defence Minister Grete Faremo.
- We are now planning how a combined military will accept the new acquisition. The military branches need each other; combat jets are an essential part of Defence.
The resolution clears the final hurdle before a formal order can be placed with the U.S. government, planned for August. A period of negotiations between the U.S. government and the contractors will follow leading to contract signing in early 2014.
Plans for the main acquisition, with deliveries 2018-2021, will be presented in spring 2012 along with basing location and funding proposals. It is expected to be a fixed price contract, according to Faremo. The fleet size will also be determined next year, however the current planning number is 56 jets.
The Parliament also firmly rejected a proposal to postpone the decision to next year citing the need for an optimal transition from the F-16 - avoiding a lengthy and costly process, a loss in capability or readiness - as well as continued, reliable industry participation, such as development of the Joint Strike Missile
The Norwegians have high hopes for the stealthy maritime strike missile, which also boasts a land-attack capability. The estimated market potential is valued up to NOK 35 billion ($6.5 billion) over the F-35's life span. The missile has key features making it an attractive option for F-35 operators. It is the only long range maritime strike missile currently planned to fit inside the F-35s internal weapon bays taking full advantage of the jet's stealth capabilities. Moreover, the JSM is regarded as the most mature missile in its class, being based on the ship-launched Naval Strike Missile about to undergo Operational Test & Evaluation (OT&E) with the Norwegian navy.
In development since 2008, the JSM has entered Phase 2 development and is expected to be completed in 2014. Integration on the F-35 could be done for the Block 4 upgrade around 2019.