Norway Declares Initial Operational Capability For Its F-35A Lightning II

A Norwegian F-35 during take-off. The drag chute fairing can be seen between the vertical tails. (Photo: Royal Norwegian Air Force)

The milestone comes just two years after the first F-35 arrival in Norway.

Major General Tonje Skinnarland, Chief of the Royal Norwegian Air Force, declared the Initial Operational Capability of the Norwegian F-35A on November 6, 2019, becoming the third European country to reach IOC with the F-35 after Italy and the UK. The announcement comes just a couple of days after the second anniversary of the F-35’s arrival in Norway (November 3) and a few days before the RNoAF’s 75th anniversary (November 10).

During the last two years, the F-35 underwent an intensive Operational Testing and Evaluation (OT&E) to verify how it would perform in the Norwegian environment, with its peculiar cold and snowy winter conditions; how it could carry out operations in the northern areas near the Arctic Circle, in addition to test cooperation and integration with Norwegian Army, Navy and Special Forces.

A Norwegian F-35 taking off with two AIM-9X under its canted wingtip pylons. (Photo: Royal Norwegian Air Force)

The OT&E campaign was concluded by a deployment from Ørland Air Station, the F-35’s homebase in central Norway, to Rygge Air Station, close to the capital Oslo. The deployment, which included personnel and equipment in order to sustain operations from there, represents the first time the F-35s were operated away from Ørland Air Station and tested the capability to deploy away from home with the new jet.

Norwegian F-35s are unique compared to other nations’ F-35s as they are the only ones to use a drag chute during landing, housed in a special fairing on the upper rear fuselage between the vertical tails.

Actually, the the drag chute is failing more than expected and the Royal Norwegian Air Force is working with the Pentagon to fix the issue according to Defense News, that first reported the news last month.

The picture shows a Norwegian F-35 that landed at Rygge air station for the first time on 17 September 2019. Norway has currently received 22 new fighter aircraft, 15 of which are in Norway and operate out of Ørland. (Photo: Onar Digernes Aase, Defense)

Norway will deploy its F-35s to Iceland next year for a rotation in support of NATO’s Icelandic Air Policing mission, as done by the Italian Air Force last month. The RNoAF is planning to replace the F-16s that are currently performing Quick Reaction Alert missions by 2022, when there will be enough F-35s (out of 52 ordered), pilots and maintainers available to deploy to Evenes Air Station (Northern Norway).

About Stefano D'Urso
Stefano D'Urso is a freelance journalist and contributor to TheAviationist based in Lecce, Italy. A graduate in Industral Engineering he's also studying to achieve a Master Degree in Aerospace Engineering. Electronic Warfare, Loitering Munitions and OSINT techniques applied to the world of military operations and current conflicts are among his areas of expertise.