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Norway delays order of F-35s

disclaimer: image is for illustration purposes only
by Staff Writers
Oslo, Norway (UPI) Oct 1, 2010
The Norwegian government says it will delay its purchase of 16 of 20 F-35A Joint Strike Fighters as part of its bid to slash spending.

The Norwegian Defense Ministry said the order would be pushed back by two years to 2018, reaffirming, however, its commitment as a "serious and credible partner" to the Joint Strike Fighters program.

Defense Minister Grete Faremo said the delay signaled Norway's desire to buy a "more mature" aircraft at an optimum production cost, not any weakening of confidence in the Joint Strike Fighters project.

"We are still fully committed to the JSF project," Faremo said.

Last month, the Norwegian defense ministry announced plans to buy four Lockheed Martin F-35s in 2016 to serve as trainers. The remaining were slated for purchase in 2016.

By some accounts, Oslo's original designs included a purchase order of 48 F-35s over a five year period between 2016 and 2020.

Opposition leaders have lashed out at the move, saying it could compromise the capabilities of the Norwegian armed forces as well as the country's ability to fund operations, exercises and upgrade garrison facilities.

As a result of the cutbacks, critics argue, all three branches -- the army, navy and air force -- may be forced to reduce normal duties, pilot training, land forces exercises, sea time for warships and routine air surveillance.

The delay has also deferred designs by the Norwegians to choose a base location.

"Having more time will allow for a better decision," the Web site reported. "The old plan called for a decision in 2010 in order to complete the necessary construction and infrastructure for deliveries in 2016-2017. Now the … training jets are likely to be stationed in the U.S."

Faremo has said that the United States would bear the cost of the delay.

She also said the delay won't obstruct efforts by Norwegian industries to negotiate up to $5 billion in F-35-related offset contracts from U.S. partners.

"Norwegian industry has already obtained contracts worth $350 million. Overall, the industry has good prospects to secure contracts for more than $5 billion," Faremo was quoted saying in a report by Flight Global.

The delay in the F-35s will also allow Norwegian defense officials to reconsider options for upgrading the existing fleet of F-16s.

"The military will argue that if the fighter program is being pushed back, then at least some of the current stock of F-16s will need to be upgraded to extend their life-service," Lars Nilssen, an Oslo industry analyst told Defense News. "There is no budget for this at present, so this is something the government will need to look at."

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