September 06, 2013
Credit: Lockheed Martin
The U.K. and Norway are exploring closer collaboration on the future operation of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) in Europe.
Ministers from the two countries signed an agreement on the initiative in London on Sept. 5 with the aim of exploring closer partnerships in maintenance and sustainment as well as the training of pilots and technical personnel. The talks come following the signing of a memorandum of understanding on a closer partnership between the two defense ministries, signed in March 2012 and against a wider backdrop of greater JSF cooperation among the European nations planning to purchase the aircraft.
While the pooling and sharing of resources and maintenance capabilities is expected to be at the heart of the support strategy for operating the F-35, Oslo and London say they want to see where further “national synergies may exist.”
The two governments are encouraging British and Norwegian industry to explore collaborative opportunities for cooperation in support and sustainment of the F-35 fleet. According to Norwegian officials, maintenance of the F135 engine would be one program that could be handled through the state-owned enterprise AIM Norway.
“This will be the first time in nearly 60 years that Norway and the U.K. will operate a similar type of fighter aircraft, and this naturally opens up new possibilities for cooperation,” said Norwegian state secretary Eirik-Owre Thorshaug, who signed the agreement with Philip Dunne, U.K. minister for defense equipment, support and technology. He said the U.K. had yet to make firm decisions on the “totality” of the country’s JSF program, but was keen to explore possibilities for collaboration on issues such as through-life support.
“It is clear that coordination and cooperation with like-minded allies such as Norway will offer many advantages in terms of shared knowledge, best practice and efficiencies,” Dunne said.
U.K. defense officials are due to decide on the purchase of up to 14 F-35s to form the first squadron before year-end. Although the U.K. has already taken delivery of three F-35As, British F-35Bs will not begin arriving until around 2018, where they will form the backbone of the U.K.’s carrier strike capability.
Norwegian F-35s are due to begin arriving at Orland Main Airbase in 2017, and will be among the first operational F-35s to arrive in Europe. Those aircraft will begin the work to build an initial operating capability ready for 2019.