For the first time in nine months, Norway will finally receive new fighter jets. Unless weather or other unforeseen circumstances mean plans must be changed, F-35As Nos. 38, 39, and 40 will land at Orland Air Force Station on Thursday, May 11.
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New deliveries of Norway’s most important weapon system are an event in themselves. Colonel Egil Sorstronen, who is the Norwegian head of the US F-35 Multinational Program Office [JPO], described the milestone as follows:
“The F-35 program is solid and mature. This is also highlighted by the fact that the users together have already accumulated more than 650 thousand flight hours. More than 20 thousand of these hours are in Norwegian aircraft based at Luk, Orland, and Evenes, and the program was a great success for Norway.”
Twelve aircraft remain on Norwegian’s order after next week’s delivery. The delivery schedule to date indicates that the next three aircraft will arrive in the fall.
The delivery deadline is 2024
But it is highly doubtful that all 52 aircraft will be delivered in 2024 as originally agreed, partly as a result of delays with the “Technical Refresh-3” [TR-3] hardware update.
“Based on the delay we already have and the challenges with the TR-3, we should expect some delays in the final deliveries. How big those will be is hard to say at this point, it’s an ongoing process between us at JPO and Lockheed Martin,” explains Sorstronen.
Only three aircraft in 2022
The trio of fighter jets that US pilots from the Defense Contract Management Agency [DCMA] will fly across the Atlantic from Texas to Trøndelag this week was actually due to be delivered before Christmas. But an F-35B crash at the factory in mid-December grounded all newly built aircraft for a time.
Flight tests resumed in March after the JPO issued instructions for an update to all F135 engines that addressed a possible vibration problem that may have contributed to the crash. However, it is difficult to make up for all the lost time.
“When the world’s busiest production line for fighter jets doesn’t deliver anything for several months, it builds up a pretty solid backlog of planes that need to be tested and withdrawn,” Norwegian Brigadier General Jarle Nergaord said.
F-35 first delivery was in 2017
When deliveries of the F-35A began in Orlando in 2017, the fighters were delivered in batches of three: one delivery in the spring and one in the fall.
In both 2021 and 2022, however, spring delivery was pushed back to late summer. The delivery plan has been revised as a result of covid-19.
The previous delivery of a plane to Orland Airport took place on Wednesday, August 24 last year. These were F-35As numbered 35, 36, and 37 and were therefore the only aircraft Norway received in 2022.
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