As in the majority of NATO countries the F-16 was the successor of the F-104G Starfighter. This was also the case with 331 skv. Operating from Bodø AB, the unit’s main task was to protect Norway against Soviet attacks. This meant that the squadron was also responsible for the defence of the northern NATO flank against these attacks and in case of a conflict it had to prevent Soviet aircraft flying through the Norway-Iceland gap and attack a NATO maritime fleet in the Atlantic.
Therefore the squadron was the first within the RNoAF to receive the F-16 and was declared operational for NATO duty in mid 1982. Because of the specific arctic nature of Bodø AB, the Norwegian F-16s were the first to be equipped with the extended tail house fairing to accommodate a drag chute. This drag chute enables F-16s to operate from snow or ice-covered runways where wheel brakes are of little to no use. Secondly, one of the tactics of the RNoAF is to operate from small airports north of the arctic circle in times of crisis. These airports have short runways so a braking chute comes in very handy on these occasions.
Another feature the Norwegians introduced on their vipers was an identification spotlight. This light serves to illuminate aircraft during interceptions at night. These tend to happen regularly over Norway, specially north of the arctic circle with its 4 months of complete darkness in wintertime. The search light is called a Russian light by the Norwegians.
RNoAF F-16A block 15 #679
from 331 skv is parked on the tarmac at Karup AB on June 4th, 1985. The aircraft crashed on March 14th, 1988. [Photo by Skymaster]
During the highlight of the Cold War an average of 200 interceptions were carried out by the squadron on a yearly basis. These have dropped dramatically since the disintegration of the Soviet Union. But still the squadron keeps two armed F-16s at QRA at all times.
With the introduction of the F-16 in the early eighties, all participating countries of NATO were responsible for the integration of an ECM system on the aircraft. Norway opted to install the AN/ALQ-162 system. This differs from the standard AN/ALQ-131 which is an external pod. The AN/ALQ-162 system is an internal system. This has the advantage of not taking up any external hard points.
Since the end of the Cold War and certainly with the introduction of the MLU version of the F-16, all squadrons are multi-role. However the main task of 331 skv stays with interception. With the introduction of the M2 software tape, the Norwegians decided to integrate the PANTERA targeting pod onto their F-16s. This vastly enlarges the possibilities of the F-16s in the attack role. More recently, the IRIS-T missile was acquired to replace the aging AIM-9. This missile takes advantage of the use of a Helmet Mounted Cueing System which was introduced on the F-16 with the M3/M4 upgrade.
RNoAF F-16AM #675
from 331 skv is taxiing by the camera in a wintery Norwegian scene at Bodø AB on March 9th, 2004. [Photo by Thomas Andre Hjelmen]