The Norwegian Embassy in Washington announced yesterday evening, the conclusion of a bilateral purchase agreement. The concluded deal will see Lockheed Martin supply fifty two F-35A fighter jets to the Norwegian Airforce. The aircraft usually coming in at around, $80 million is likely to cost the Norwegian purse at least $4.1bln if not more after the inclusion of after-market requirements. The pronunciation of the deal, came via Norway’s ambassador to Washington – Anniken Krutnes. The order, signed at Lockheed Martin’s prestigious Fort Worth fighter aircraft factory, will require the vehicle’s to be delivered to Norway before 2025. Once in Norwegian hangers the multi-role aircraft are expected to be ready for live operations before the second half of this decade. The purchase from Lockheed Martin, is part of a joint ambition among NATO allies, to boost the defence capacities of nations residing within the Arctic Circle. The rationale for a relatively new Arctic centred posture on behalf of the American dominated alliance, lies in NATO’s current stance towards Russian aggression in the region. 2017’s NATO Assembly, saw the white paper – NATO and Security in the Arctic produced, seeking to highlight this danger. The document’s contents and conclusions reflect a growing concern among the trans-Atlantic organization’s analysts at the Russian Federation’s increasing interest in the Arctic Theatre. Among the 2017 report’s claims, is a judgement by NATO analysts that the Russian Federation was increasingly able to conduct full-spectrum operations in the Arctic region. The concluding section of the report, determines among other measures, that NATO capabilities in the Artic must be strengthened, increased surveillance capacities constructed, and a policy of deterrence encouraged. It is no surprise that Mrs. Krutnes – a former Ambassador on Arctic and Antarctic Affairs, has been so involved in an agreement weighted towards security concerns in the Arctic defence sphere.
The F-35A units ordered are in their fourteenth year of full production and are exclusively produced at Lockheed Martin’s specialist Fort Worth fighter manufactory. The aircraft is a single seat craft weighing 13,290kg when empty. The max take off weight stands at 31,751kg and its fuel capacity comes in at 8,278kg, held in internal tanks. The fuel then serves to power a single Pratt & Whitney F135 – PW – 100 afterburning turbofan engine. The engine itself is an impressive specimen, generating 191 kN’s with an afterburner and a turbine inlet temperature of 1,980 degrees centigrade. The additional integration of an annular combustor makes for a lighter, less unwieldly design. Warplanes cannot, however, survive on the capabilities of their powerplants alone and her frame includes the possibility for ten weapons at a time. A hard point distribution of four internal points and six external ones, creates exciting combat possibilities. The mountings are limited though, by the weight which they can acceptably carry without impinging upon the vehicle’s take off capability. The external points can tolerate 2,600kg worth of arms, whilst the external points can take on equipment of up to 6,800kg in weight. The aerial platform contains a single non-removable 25mm GAU-22/A four barrel rotary cannon, equipped with a supply carrying 180 rounds. For its main weapons, a plethora of varying missiles and bombs are available ranging from AIM-120 AMRAAM air superiority munition to AGM-158C LRASM anti-ship projectiles. It is not outside the realms of possibility though, that these state-of-the-art fighter craft, will later be equipped with a much more recent innovation in rocketry. The 2016 built MBDA Meteor. The French built missile is a work of modern craftsmanship, with a ducted rocket engine, 190kg HE fragmentation warhead and both proximity and impact fuses. The Meteor has so far enjoyed a successful roll out with Sweden, the UK, Italy and France enthusiastically taking up the new missile.
The wider context may be related to NATO, but Oslo’s intention to replace its aging fleet of F-16 Fighting Falcon’s was made clear as early as 2008. On the 20th of November, the then Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg had announced the phasing out of the F-16AM fighter. A 2012 White Paper emanating from the Forsvardepartement, called ‘A Defence of Our Time’ expanded on Stoltenberg’s remarks, laying out the F-35A’s geographical distribution. Two existing airbases were highlighted as being homes for the new additions to the air fleet. The first was the small community of Evenes, just 311 miles from the Russian border. The working paper, highlighted Evenes as the force’s rapid reaction airstrip. Designed to support any first response either to Russian aggression, or an unfolding proximate crisis outside of the environment of recent Russo-American tensions. The second locale – the Orland Airbase, is expected to provide the main accommodation for newly delivered F-35’s. The purchased craft, once delivered, will combine with the eighteen F-35’s already in service to act as a force multiplier in NATO’s mandated deterrent strategy in the Arctic. Diplomatically, the deal sits within a pre-existing convivial atmosphere between both the US and Norway, in the area of aerial defence. Throughout the force’s history, the United States has consistently provided, fighter aircraft to the Scandinavian nation since 1940. A relationship which has only become more binding as time has crept on. Today the Norwegian Airforce is among the first forces to fight alongside US and NATO partners, having eagerly deployed to Afghanistan and Libya in 2001 and 2011 respectively. The shipment announced today will go a long way to continuing this already robust friendship, over the coming decades.