by Staff Writers
Oslo (AFP) June 15, 2012
Norway said on Friday it had authorised orders for the first two of dozens of F-35 fighter jets it plans to buy from the United States as part of its largest-ever government spending project.
"Norway today commenced the largest public procurement project in its history," the government said in a statement.
Defence Minister Espen Barth Eide hailed the 60-billion-kroner ($10-billion, 8.0-billion-euro) deal for a total of 52 jet fighters.
"The F-35, which Norway selected in 2008, represents a completely new generation of combat aircraft that will form a corner stone of the future Norwegian Armed Forces," he said in the statement.
Norway agreed in 2008 to buy 52 Lockheed Martin-built F-35A Lightning II planes from the United States, but had put off placing its orders until it got the green light from US authorities to integrate a Norwegian-made weapons system into the plane earlier this week.
"We will begin preparations for the final phase of Joint Strike Missile (JSM weapons system) development after receiving confirmation from US authorities of their support for the integration of the missile into the F-35," Barth Eide said.
"Securing such support has been an important precondition for many of our partner nations before they would themselves commit to supporting the JSM," he said, adding that securing the US support meant that other users of the planes could also integrate the missile system.
"Total market potential for the JSM is estimated to be between 20 and 25 billion kroner," the government said.
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