338 skv. was the last of four Norwegian squadrons to be converted to the F-16. This finally happened in 1986. The squadron was based at Ørland AB close to a large training ground. From the start onwards this squadron was equipped to be used as an attack squadron. As one of the youngest squadrons in the Royal Norwegian Air Force, it has the Tiger as its mascot. This adding another F-16 squadron to the famous NATO Tiger Association.
Although the last Norwegian squadron to be converted to the F-16, it was the first to be introduced on the MLU platform. In late 1998, early 1999 the squadron started to convert on the type which came off the conversion line at the Kjeller depot. With the early software updates of the MLU package the Norwegian Air Force opted to convert their pilots in flying the aircraft and teaching them basic skills instead of demanding their pilots to directly take advantage of the new capabilities.
It was only with the introduction of the M2 software tape in the course of 2002 that Norway decided to integrate the PANTERA targeting pod onto their F-16s and thus integrating a modern pin-point accurate bombing system on their F-16s. The Norwegians were the first to introduce this pod onto the MLU F-16 and showed the advantages from this pod compared to the older LANTIRN system. More recently, also Belgium decided to acquire 8 examples of them.
RNoAF F-16AM #289
from 331 skv (with 338 skv markings) is taxiing by the camera at Bodø AB on July 7th, 2004 on its way to the runway. [Photo by Thomas Andre Hjelmen]
With the introduction of the M3/M4 software update, the Norwegians decided to integrate a more modern air-to-air missile in its inventory. After a competition in which a couple of missiles were compared, including the AIM-9X and IRIS-T missiles, the Norwegians decided to go for the German designed IRIS-T missile. This missile takes advantage of the use of a Helmet Mounted Cueing System. The Norwegians also became the first country worldwide to introduce this missile on the F-16 fighter. More F-16 operating air forces will be forced to take the same decision in the coming years.
In 2006 the Norwegian military decided that it would be easier to pool all F-16s into one unit, being the Forsvarets Logistikk Organisasjon or Air Force Logistic Organisation. This unit controls all F-16 assets and disperses them amongst all F-16 squadrons to have them work more efficiently. F-16s are assigned to squadrons according to their actual needs. Therefore the 338 skv markings will not be present any longer on the aircraft.
RNoAF F-16AM #292
from 338 skv spotted at the Tiger Meet Air Show at Cambrai AB in 2003. [Photo by Ed Groenendijk]