If everything goes as planned, the first new F-35 jets will land in Norway in 2018 – two years later than originally planned. It will take an additional two years before the first planes will be operational.
By 2023 all the F-16 jets are expected to have been retired, and the Norwegian fleet will only consist of new jets – 57 in total. In the meantime, however, all F-16 jets require new wings to remain operational. The budget for the upgrade has been kept confidential.
With new wings in 2014, the planes will be able to operate for another 10 years, according to Jørn Hoelsæther, Head of the Norwegian Defense’s Logistics Organization (FLO). The jets have been continuously upgraded the past few years. Most of the instruments have been modernized, and the engines were upgraded in the 90s. Still in 2020, the airframes will be 40 years old.
Norway is among the first countries in line to have the new F-35 jets delivered, but if there are any more delays there will be a tight window before the F-16s will have to be retired for good.
– We use the planes in a different way than we used to. They have taken off and landed with heavy loads of bombs, and that causes extra wear and tear, Hoelsæther explains.