In Norway, 12 deeply modernized combat-ready F-16s are aging

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Norway has 12 F-16 fighter jets in stock, which are intended for international sale. For almost a year, these fighters have been aging in the hangars of the Royal Norwegian Air Force [RNoAF]. These fighters are deeply modernized and combat-ready, writes the Norwegian TU.

Photo by Eirik Helland Urke

The 12 Norwegian F-16s were agreed to be sold to the American company Draken International. This happened almost a year and a half ago, in November 2021. Since then, however, Washington has not yet given permission to Oslo to carry out the transfer.

Norway took action years ago to phase out its F-16 fighter jets. In reality, they no longer appear in the inventory of Norwegian pilots. Today, the Norwegian Air Force flies 30 F-35A fighters, with another 12 expected to be delivered.

The first Norwegian F-16 was due to fly to the US last summer. Previously, the American customer had wanted to upgrade the fighters. Norway’s Kongsberg Aviation Maintenance Services [Kams] undertook and carried out the refurbishment. A deal between the Norwegian government and Draken International was agreed at just under $1 billion [US$900 million].

It is not clear why the Americans are not granting a re-export license to Norway at this time. The most logical explanation is that after the start of the war in Ukraine, Washington decided to stop the sale of some key American military technologies to the world. It is possible that even then the Pentagon and the White House assumed that if Ukraine failed to regain the temporarily occupied territories from Russia, it would be necessary at some stage to deliver a more effective weapons platform.

Photo by Eirik Helland Urke

Such actions and intentions are seen not only in this stalled deal of the Norwegian government. Previously, negotiations between Argentina, the United States, and Denmark for the sale of used F-16s were at an advanced stage. Argentina intends to acquire more capable fighters for its Air Force. Danish F-16s were pegged as the best option. Even technical commissions with Lockheed Martin representatives traveled to Denmark and Argentina. But such a transfer has also been suspended, although there is no official decision on whether Argentina will acquire the Danish F-16s.

Today, Norway may understand the reason why the deal with the American company did not take place. It’s only been a week, but the news that the White House will issue a training license to the Ukrainian pilots to its European partners has sparked a flurry of comments. But four months ago, for example, no one expected such actions on the part of the Americans.

A meeting was then held between military government officials of Norway and the United States. At the time, Norwegian Brigadier General Aage Longva, who is the project manager at the Defense Materiel Administration [FMA], was unable to provide an answer as to why the Americans would not allow the sale. Norwegian journalists also asked the Norwegian Ministry of Defense, and even then they assumed “a possible donation to Ukraine”.

Photo credit: Wikipedia

There is a similar case in the other part of the planet – Australia. 24 F/A-18F Super Hornets are aging in the hangars of the Royal Australian Air Force [RAAF]. Canberra began phasing this naval fighter out of service years ago. Australia already uses the F-35 as the backbone of its Air Force fleet, quite successfully at that. Just months ago we reported that the RAAF had reached full operational capability for its F-35 fleet.

One part of its F/A-18F Super Hornet Australia managed to sell. There are currently customers for the remaining 24 fighters, which are also operationally capable and upgraded. But Washington is again stopping their sale. It is quite possible, although there is no confirmed information about a possible transfer, that these fighters are kept as a reserve either in case of a possible conflict in the region [China – Taiwan] or for a possible transfer to Ukraine.

Just like in Norway, there are also attitudes in the Netherlands that their 12 F-16 fighter jets will not go to the US in the same American company. A total of 40 fighters were to be sold by the Netherlands to Draken. 12 of them flew to the US, but whether the other 28 will follow their fate remains unclear. Officially from the Netherlands, they say that this is a long process and takes time.

Just before Christmas 2022, the Dutch Ministry of Defense announced that there had been a delay in the transfer to Draken, without giving further details, stating that it was confidential information.

Photo credit: Getty Images

However, it is said that the aircraft currently at Draken in the US will be returned to Europe and transferred to Sabena Engineering in Charleroi, Belgium. There, the planes will be maintained in airworthiness and will most likely be used to train Ukrainian pilots.

Norway had an inventory of 57 F-16 fighters. Romania decided to buy a large number of used Norwegian fighter jets. It is about 32 aircraft. The first 16 are expected this year, while Bucharest will look forward to the second 16 knockout next year.

There are quite a few F-16s in the Norwegian Museums, some used for spare parts too, so that leaves 12 fighters. “Norwegian F-16s could have value as replacement aircraft for Ukraine,” said Lars Peder Haga, associate professor at the Norwegian Air Force Academy.


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