Norway will continue its involvement in the Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) programme, but need not make a decision on whether to buy the aircraft until 2008-9, says defence minister Kristin Krohn Devold.

"Up to now there is a quite fair balance between the payments out and the contracts in, so we are pleased enough to continue," she says. Norway is also gaining valuable insight to research efforts linked to the JSF via its Level 3 investment of about $125 million in the project, she says.

However, with national companies yet to secure significant workshare on the project, Devold cautions: "We will never buy any aircraft without a sufficient amount of interesting contracts for Norwegian industry. Lockheed Martin knows that if we are going to buy their aircraft, there needs to be a sufficient amount of work - either directly or indirectly." The JSF is Norway's preferred candidate to replace its current Lockheed Martin F-16AM/BM fighter inventory, which comprises an active fleet of 48, plus nine reserves.

Air force sources say the Eurofighter Typhoon remains the leading alternative to the JSF, with the service also watching the development of Dassault's Rafale. However, the sources say Saab's JAS39 Gripen is considered unsuitable to meet Norway's future fighter requirements, scotching speculation that Oslo could acquire aircraft freed up by Sweden's forthcoming defence review.



Source: Flight International