Norway: We don’t have enough mechanics to support the 52 F-35s

Norway is facing a challenge with a shortage of aircraft mechanics. 52 of the Royal Norwegian Air Force’s [RNoAF] state-of-the-art F-35 fighter jets can remain on the ground. The Ministry of Defense is looking for ways to solve the problem of general maintenance of aircraft.

Norway: We don't have enough mechanics to support the 52 F-35s
Photo by Monica White Martinsen / NRK

The RNoAF currently flies 27 Lockheed F-35 Lightning IIs. 25 more of the same class will arrive in the coming years. At the moment, they are all located at Orland and Evenes Air Base.

Last week, the Norwegian government read a report from the defense committee. It specifically states that the country does not have the personnel to undertake the extensive ground support of the fighters. The Ministry of Defense outlined the problem in a very brief statement: “We have 90 billion kroner [nearly $8.5 billion] worth of planes, but we don’t have the personnel to operate them.”

It turns out that the problem is short-term and long-term. Norway will most likely solve the short-term personnel shortage through US assistance. There is a proposal for the RNoAF to hire specialists from Lockheed Martin by the end of 2023.

However, the long-term problem will take years. There are currently four aviation majors in Norway. The government proposes to “inject money” into the education system to increase majors. This should increase the number of people willing to study them. According to various reports, the financial injection will be in the amount of 60 million kroner [nearly 5.5 million USD].

Norway: We don't have enough mechanics to support the 52 F-35s
Photo by Monica White Martinsen / NRK

However, military experts predict that the mechanics eventually hired by Lockheed Martin are likely to stay for at least half a decade [five years]. This is because the training of a young Norwegian aircraft mechanic or specialist takes a minimum of five years. Then it takes more time to gain experience.

All this shortage of personnel brings with it another problem of national importance. National security. F-35s are not supposed to stay on the ground, but fly in the air. Thus, they reach the necessary initial, and subsequently full operational capability.

In Norway, they have already invented an expression for this situation – Declaration of bankruptcy. It concerns both the hiring of foreign mechanics and the long time it takes to train our own, as well as how often the planes will be in the air.

The Norwegian Bodo Air Base was recently closed. It also hosted several F-35s. After the base closed, 100 mechanics and support material were effectively released. But the government didn’t expect just a few to join Orland and Evenes. I.e. a large part of the mechanics released from the Bodo base have decided to look for another challenge in their professional life.

Norway: We don't have enough mechanics to support the 52 F-35s
Photo by Monica White Martinsen / NRK

The first graduate mechanics are expected to enter next year as trainees at Orland Air Force Base. But a short survey among young people shows that despite the attractive major, some prefer to work elsewhere after graduation.

The Ministry of Defense believes that the government needs to work much faster. People who are to be assigned to the airbases should be assigned quickly.

But aviation specialists are highly knowledgeable people in a highly specialized work environment. They conduct themselves as people of great competence. This means that they will be in high demand, which means that Norway can train them but cannot keep them working for Norwegian defense.

“Regardless of this, our goal is to ensure a stable capability to perform maintenance in the armed forces,” the ministry said.


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