Norway swaps in its F-35s for NATO quick-reaction mission in the High North
By Sebastian Sprenger
Sunday, Jan 9
Photo: One of the F-35A aircraft designated by Norway for a NATO quick-reaction alert role is pictured at Evenes Air Base. (Norwegian Air Force)
Norway has designated its F-35 aircraft for a NATO quick-reaction alert mission in the High North, ending a 42-year run of the country’s F-16s for that job, the government announced Jan. 6.
The Lockheed Martin-made jets are held at Evenes Air Base in northern Norway, with at least three ready to scramble within 15 minutes and examine potential airspace violations of Norway and, by extension, NATO. The fifth-generation aircraft have previously accompanied F-16s on such missions in anticipation of the formal takeover on Thursday.
The change in aircraft types further embeds the F-35 jet into the fabric of alliance patrol missions in Europe, just as Lockheed recently recorded initial wins in its sales campaigns for Finland and Switzerland.
Norway’s F-16 has operated the quick-reaction mission from Bodø Air Base for four decades, according to a defence ministry statement. The new location of Evenes puts the mission’s centre of gravity about 100 miles further north.
The Norwegian military is expanding the base to also house P-8 Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft, putting key aerial and naval surveillance assets into an area that has seen an uptick in Russian military exercises.
Norway expects to have its fleet of 52 F-35s fully operational by 2025, according to the defence ministry. Aside from a handful of scramble-ready planes at Evenes, the fleet’s home base is Ørland, located in the south-central part of the country.
Meanwhile, the U.S. Defence Department continues to use F-16 aircraft in the Baltics, another hotspot for NATO air patrols along the border with Russia. American jets arrived in Poland earlier this month, joining Polish and Belgian F-16s to prepare for that mission, according to a Jan. 6 alliance statement.