The news conferencewas billed as an order announcement, but the customer came to lobby the topleadership of the F-35 programme in full view of the press.
Rear Adm Arne Røksund, a career submariner and now head of Norway’sdefence policy, made a plea for the F-35 joint programme office to integratethe Kongsberg Joint Strike Missile (JSM) even as he confirmed Norway’s decisionto buy four F-35 training jets for delivery in 2016.
The missile is one of Norway’s top priorities for a successfulindustrial participation programme as part of its commitment to buy dozens moreF-35s starting in 2018, he said.
Røksund’s remarks were directed to journalists attending the F-35 pressbriefing, but it was clear that his message was intended for F-35 deputyprogramme executive Maj Gen C.D. Moore seated nearby.
Moore duly responded that the programme is currently assessing allpotential candidates for integration as part of the Block IV software upgradescheduled for delivery in 2019. Norway’s JSM is one of the candidates underreview, with a final decision next year, Moore added.
That timing happens to correspond with a pending decision by Norway’sparliament to make to commit to buying at least 48 F-35s. Norway’s militaryintends to buy as many as 56, Røksund said, but that depends on final costs.
Norway has budgeted about $865 million to buy the first four F-35As, but”there is uncertainty on top of that number”, Røksund said.
As Norway’s four aircraft on order will serve as trainers, Lockheed willdeliver the jets to Eglin AFB, Florida. Before further F-35s begin arriving inNorway after 2019, Lockheed will add a braking parachute to slow the jets onicy runways.