The first two aircraft will be used for training and be based in the U.S. Deliveries are projected for the fourth quarter of 2015. Two more are to be acquired for training purposes with all four aircraft to be in place in 2016. The 48 other aircraft are to be based at Orland main air station with deliveries to start in 2017. The country expects the fighter to reach initial operational capability in 2019.
Norwegian pilots are set to begin training in the U.S. in the first quarter of 2016, with maintainers already moving to the U.S. in late 2013 to begin gathering experience in advance of the country's own aircraft being delivered.
The Evenes base in the north will be used as a forward operating location to help secure Norway's interests in the Artic region. Norway's air force projects that 10% of operations will originate from that facility
The Norwegian parliament this week signed off on the increased budget needed for the deal.
The Norwegian commitment, coming just days after the award of a $490 million contract for Lot VII production—including one F-35B for the U.K., two F-35As for Turkey, along with aircraft for the U.S. (19 F-35As for the Air Force, six F-35Bs for the Marine Corps, and four F-35Cs for the Navy)—should be good news for Lockheed Martin. But the positive developments are overshadowed by the release on June 14 of the latest in a series of stinging Government Accountability Office reports on the program.
The report characterized progress made in the F-35 program as mixed. For instance, last year only 6 of 11 important objectives were achieved and the GAO raised concerns about software development. “Until a fully integrated, capable aircraft is flight tested—planned to start in 2015—the program is still very susceptible to discovering costly design and technical problems after many aircraft have been fielded.”
It also raised questions about the significance of the Pentagon's move to take the F-35B program off “probation” after one year. “While several technical issues have been addressed and some potential solutions engineered, assessing whether the deficiencies are resolved is ongoing and, in some cases, will not be known for years,” the report states.
While noting that flight testing overall is progressing, the GAO also spotlights that “most development flight testing, including the most challenging, still lies ahead.”
While the GAO acknowledges that progress is being made, it also points to “parts shortages, supplier quality and performance problems, and manufacturing workarounds” that “still need to be addressed.”