Norway's first F-35 is formally rolled out on 22 September 2015.
Norway’s first F-35 is formally rolled out on 22 September 2015. Here in final finishing in August. Photo: Lockheed Martin

Long-term observer of the F-35, Bill Sweetman today published an article in Aviation Week stating that “Norway considers F-35 Order Cuts” and we wanted to provide a little more context to his article.

Last year our Minister of Defence, Ms. Ine Eriksen Søreide, initiated a new defence review process here in Norway, and as a result, on 1. October 2014, the Minister tasked the Chief of Defence, Admiral Haakon Bruun-Hanssen with providing what can best be translated as a “Formal Military Advice” to the Ministry that would inform a subsequent Long-Term Plan/White Paper, expected in 2016. The advice commissioned by the Minister is to be delivered on 1. October 2015, one year after it started, and will include a broad and detailed review of the entirety of the Armed Forces – including our future Combat Aircraft arm. Any review which did not include this capability, which will be central to our future Armed Forces, would of course be incomplete. Until the formal military advice becomes public, we will not be able to comment on its contents, but it goes without saying that the Armed Forces, as part of their work, have looked at any number of scenarios and options, and we would be very surprised if they had not also considered the F-35 among them. This is a completely normal process, carried out at regular intervals, and one that is mirrored in most other countries.

In terms of the additional cost for operating the future F-35-fleet compared to today’s F-16-fleet it is important to know that this is something we have been aware of for quite some time, and which has already been taken into account in our planning processes. It was also part of the information presented to Parliament when they approved the procurement phase of the F-35 as part of the current Long Term Plan in 2012.

Finally, regarding the JSM, we have already allowed for the cost of Norway having to pay for the full development and integration of the missile on the F-35 (as described in this article from last year). The Norwegian Parliament passed a bill to that effect in June 2014. The reason why we are willing to do so is quite simple – the missile is essential to our ability to deter any adversary from the use of force against Norway. In combination with the F-35, the missile offers even a smaller nation like Norway the ability to strike even well defended targets at range, a capability that we have never had before. And while it is true that no other parther has joined us yet in the development and integration of the JSM on the F-35, it is clear that this kind of capability is of interest to several nations, including Australia, which has already agreed to look for ways to support its development.

(PS: just to clarify, we are planning to buy 52 aircraft, and we have received authority to begin procurement of 22 of them.)