European mountain bunkers house nuclear-capable F-35 fighters

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Recently, photos surfaced online showing underground shelters at Norway’s Bardufoss Air Force Base. These images appear to have been taken during a Norwegian Air Force exercise featuring fifth-generation F-35A Lightning II fighter jets practicing in underground shelters within a mountain complex. 

Photo credit: Twitter

You should know that Norway is a NATO member, and the F-35 aircraft are fully certified to carry tactical nuclear weapons. Housing these planes in underground shelters makes them almost immune to missile and drone attacks. 

Since Norway’s inclusion in NATO, the Nordic region has seen almost continuous military exercises. This highlights the ongoing militarization of Scandinavia as the threat of potential military conflict in the Arctic escalates.

Photo credit: Twitter

Bardufoss is the oldest airbase of the Norwegian Air Force. This airbase carries a rich history, dating back to World War II. After the Allies withdrew from Norway, the Germans took over Bardufoss and used it as a launchpad for fighter, bomber, and reconnaissance missions targeting naval convoys in the Murmansk area. Luftwaffe fighters based here also provided crucial air support for German naval operations in the region. 

Situated in Målselv Municipality within Troms og Finnmark county, Norway, Bardufoss is now a key military airbase operated by the Royal Norwegian Air Force. It holds significant strategic value due to its closeness to the Arctic region and its vital role in Norway’s defense setup. 

The airbase is equipped with a single runway, designated 10/28, spanning 2,443 meters [8,015 feet]. This versatile runway can accommodate an assortment of military aircraft, from fighter jets to transport planes and helicopters, enabling Bardufoss to support a wide range of offensive and defensive operations.

Photo credit: Twitter

139th Air Wing, which includes helicopter squadrons like the 337 Squadron, flying NH90 helicopters, and the 339 Squadron, operating Bell 412 helicopters. These units are crucial for performing search and rescue missions, anti-submarine warfare, and troop transport.

The airbase also hosts a detachment from the Norwegian Army’s Aviation Battalion, which uses Bell 412 helicopters for various support roles, including reconnaissance and medical evacuation. This collaboration between air and land forces boosts the base’s operational versatility. 

Equipped with state-of-the-art radar and communication systems, the airbase ensures robust surveillance and coordination capabilities. These systems are essential for monitoring airspace and supporting NATO operations, as Norway is a valued member of the alliance.

Photo credit: Royal Navy

NATO’s decision to conduct exercises near Russia’s northern borders stems from rising tensions in the area. This is largely driven by the West’s growing concern over the perceived threat posed by Russia. 

Norway has ordered a total of 52 F-35A Lightning II aircraft from Lockheed Martin as part of its effort to modernize its air force. These fifth-generation multirole fighters are intended to replace the aging fleet of F-16s. 

The F-35A has a wingspan of 35 feet [10.7 meters] and a length of 51.4 feet [15.7 meters]. Its height is approximately 14.4 feet [4.38 meters]. The aircraft’s maximum takeoff weight is around 70,000 pounds [31,751 kilograms].

Photo credit: USAF

The propulsion system of the F-35A is powered by a single Pratt & Whitney F135-PW-100 turbofan engine. This engine provides a maximum thrust of approximately 43,000 pounds [191 kN] with an afterburner, enabling the aircraft to achieve speeds of up to Mach 1.6. 

The F-35A is equipped with advanced avionics, including the AN/APG-81 AESA radar, Distributed Aperture System [DAS], and Electro-Optical Targeting System [EOTS]. These systems provide superior situational awareness, targeting, and reconnaissance capabilities. 

The aircraft features an array of sophisticated systems, such as the Autonomic Logistics Information System [ALIS], which supports maintenance and operational readiness, and advanced sensor fusion technology that integrates data from various onboard sensors to present a comprehensive battlefield picture.

Photo credit: Reddit

In terms of armament, the F-35A can carry a variety of weapons. Its internal weapons bay can house up to four air-to-air missiles or two air-to-ground munitions and two air-to-air missiles. It also has external hardpoints for additional ordnance. Typical armaments include AIM-120 AMRAAM, AIM-9X Sidewinder missiles, and precision-guided bombs like the GBU-31 JDAM.

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