– The F-35 program is of vital importance to both the United States and Norway in ensuring that we fulfil our future operational requirements. I am therefore very pleased and reassured by the recent process in the development of the F-35, says Norwegian Minister of Defence Anne-Grete Strøm-Erichsen, who Monday met with US Secretary of Defence Leon Panetta at the Pentagon.
– We have a long standing defence relationship with the United States, both through organizations such as NATO but also on a bilateral basis. It is based on a common commitment to work for a more stable and peaceful world and finding areas where we can work together to promote our common security. I find meetings like this to be essential in developing our relationship further and I believe today has been very useful in this regard.
The meeting addressed several important issues, including developments in Afghanistan and the opportunities for US and Norwegian forces to work and exercise more closely together. The F-35 and future integration of the JSM, however, were central to the discussions as Norway is about to begin preparations for the order of the main body of the procurement.
– Our goal is to introduce a bill to Parliament early 2013 which allows us to receive the first aircraft to Norway in 2017. We have already ordered two aircraft for training purposes that are to be delivered in 2015, followed by another two in 2016, but these are to be based in the US. This new order is therefore a new major milestone for us. Since we are at this critical juncture I have also taken the opportunity to reiterate to Secretary Panetta the vital importance to Norway of securing integration of the JSM onto the F-35 in order to ensure that we meet our future operational needs. We truly appreciate his offer of support, but it is critical that the process moves forward. We had very good discussions today on this subject, says Ms Strøm-Erichsen.
– Norway’s support for the F-35 program remains as strong as ever, and we look forward to seeing this through to the end. Our cost estimates remain stable and we are confident in our choice. I understand that some partner nations are currently making an effort to ensure that their respective fighter procurement processes are as comprehensive and as well structured as they can be, and this is to be expected – this is after all a major investment. We have no doubt, however, that this is a necessary investment and that it will help strengthen the ability of our Armed Forces to contribute to Norwegian security for several decades to come, concludes Ms Strøm-Erichsen.