Norwegian officials have underscored their commitment to buying the F-35, pointing out that they are a counterweight to Russian military build-up.
Norwegian Defense Minister Ine Eriksen Soereide said Norway was concerned about what she called an “obvious projection of power” by Russia in the Baltic Sea region, where Russian military flights increased threefold from 2013 to 2014.
Norway participates in the F-35 program as a Level 3 partner in the system development and demonstration phase, with a view to enabling its industry to compete for industrial opportunities. Norwegian National Deputy Rune Fagerli, the country’s sole representative on the Joint Strike Fighter program, told SPACE.com that the Norwegian Royal Ministry of Defence has pledged $125 million in preparation to replace a fleet of F-16 jets that have about 12 years left of operation.
The F-35 was evaluated along with JAS 39 Gripen by the Norwegian Future Combat Aircraft Capability Project as a replacement for the F-16s currently in-service. In 2008, the government released a statement saying it will support buying F-35s for the Royal Norwegian Air Force instead of the Gripen NG.
In 2010 leaked United States diplomatic cables revealed that the USA decided to delay a request by Sweden for an AESA radar for the Gripen until after Norway had announced their decision to buy the F-35. The same cables indicated that Norwegian consideration of the Gripen “was just a show” and that Norway had decided to purchase the F-35 as a result of “high-level political pressure” from the US. Following the successful sale of the F-35 to Norway, US officials compiled a “lessons learned” memo that included a list of tactics for future sales to other countries.
Norway will receive its F-35’s 2017 with initial operational capability in 2019.