Norway’s generosity: F-16s bound for Ukraine, some as parts donors

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Last year, Norway expanded its military commitment by transferring F-16 aircraft to Ukraine. This move essentially inserted Norway into the proverbial “coalition” of nations supporting Ukraine’s military infrastructure. Early this year, information surfaced that Norway wasn’t just transferring a couple of these top-tier fighters, but an ambitious transfer program was in the works to train Ukrainian pilots.  

Photo credit: Wikimedia

However, uncertainties about the actual number of aircraft to be given to Ukraine’s Air Force offer plenty of room for speculation. While some reports estimate the number to be somewhere between 5 and 10, Nettavisen, a well-regarded publication, claims the number could be significantly more – over two dozen, to be more precise. 

Accompanying these reports are mentions of possible American authorization for a staggering total of 65 F-16 fighters to be transferred to Ukraine. This massive batch supposedly includes 19 from Denmark, 24 from the Netherlands, and an impressive 22 from Norway’s own fleet. Beyond simply providing the aircraft, Norway’s commitment extends to include engines, auxiliary equipment, test benches, necessary tools, maintenance materials, and simulators, among other things. Additionally, Norway has also taken up the dutiful task of forming a core group of highly skilled instructors to aid Denmark in its contributions to the “aviation coalition”.

Photo by Staff Sgt. Sarah M. McClanahan

Spare parts donors

Lastly, Nettavisen acknowledges the likelihood that not all of the 22 Norwegian fighters will be in optimal condition. It’s suggested that they might not all be fully airworthy, but they could serve a crucial role as potential spare parts donors for other aircraft on the frontline. 

The report indicates that Norway could have at least 12 combat-ready planes, the same ones that were previously intended for sale to Draken International in the United States. “These planes are in airworthy condition and remain stationed in Norway,” reads the statement.

Photo by Alex R. Lloyd, USAF

Delayed F-35 deliveries

In revisiting our discussion, Norway selected the fifth-generation F-35 as a replacement for its F-16 fleet, making a sizeable order worth approximately $10 billion for 52 planes. As we’ve previously noted, the Norwegian Ministry of Defense grappled with the expense of the F-35, which proved to be significantly costlier than initially estimated. What’s more, the ongoing delays in F-35 aircraft deliveries to European countries could potentially complicate transfers of F-16 jets to Ukraine. 

The problematic issue of late F-35 deliveries is a hot-button topic and its indirect influence on the situation in Ukraine cannot be ignored. The problem has now escalated to a point where international customers, especially those in Europe, are forced to rethink their defense strategies. The countries that are keen on donating F-16 aircraft to Ukraine hold particular interest. They may also need to delay the retirement of older aircraft until their replacements arrive. 

Photo by Eirik Helland Urke

Interestingly, Belgium, a nation set to donate F-16s to Ukraine, has yet to receive any F-35s. This indicates a likely delay in the decommissioning of F-16s. Denmark, meanwhile, has officially received only 4 out of a total order of 27 F-35 jets, with an additional six jets presently in the United States for pilot training. 

Norwegian F-16s

As we contemplate the equipment that the Norwegian F-16s will take to Ukraine, we can only hypothesize based on their current loadout in Norway. A substantial enhancement to the Norwegian F-16 is the integration of the AN/APG-68 radar system. This multifunctional radar equips the F-16 with capabilities for air-to-air and air-to-ground missions, including look-down/shoot-down capacity, ground mapping, and weather detection. 

Photo credit: USAF

An addition to the Norwegian F-16s’ arsenal is the AN/ALR-69 Radar Warning Receiver [RWR]. Another essential device is the AN/ALQ-131 Electronic Countermeasures Pod. This system functions by jamming enemy radars and communication systems, making the F-16 more elusive and challenging to target. Further, Norwegian F-16s are equipped with the Joint Helmet Mounted Cueing System [JHMCS], a unique system that enables the pilot to aim their weaponry simply by focusing on their target.

Most wanted

Without clarity on the upgrades that Norway will provide to Ukraine for its operational F-16s, similar uncertainty applies to spare parts. Nonetheless, experience suggests that certain components and assemblies from a non-operational F-16 are most commonly required. 

Photo credit: Twitter

The Pratt & Whitney F100-PW-200 engine ranks highly among these sought-after parts. Naturally, an effective radar system is another critical component. However, arguably the most coveted part of the complete F-16 structure is the Modular Mission Computer [MMC]. This part, often retrieved from older models, manages various systems and functions of the aircraft. Acting as the F-16’s nerve center, the MMC handles everything from the aircraft’s weaponry systems to the flight controls. Components that are typically in high demand include the jet’s ejection seats, produced by Martin-Baker. Additionally, the aircraft’s diverse avionics systems, such as navigation and communication, are frequently requested. 

However, the timeline for deploying the Norwegian F-16s for combat missions over Ukraine remains uncertain. Indications suggest that any aircraft donated by Norway may not be operational in Ukraine’s airspace until after the NATO summit in Washington in July, according to the report.

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