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Norway Welcomes First F-35, Signals More Purchases Likely

The government of Norway this week welcomed its first F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, a fifth-generation stealth fighter jet, in an elaborate ceremony in Texas.

The Sept. 22 event at Lockheed Martin Corp.'s production facility in Fort Worth drew officials from the Norwegian government, the U.S. Defense Department and the manufacturer, including Norway's Minister of Defence Ine Eriksen Søreide, the Pentagon's chief weapons buyer Frank Kendall and Lockheed CEO Marillyn Hewson.

"The F-35 provides us a capability we’ve never had before," Søreide said in a press release from Lockheed. "It's by far the most advanced fighter ever made. Today we are indeed turning the future into the present. The F-35 represents a new way of thinking, a new way of operating, which will benefit the entire Norwegian Armed Forces."

Kendall praised the "persistence" of the Norwegians on the acquisition effort, while Hewson said Norway's F-35, known as the AM-1, is a "unique solution" for the country's "high north threats."

"It is the only aircraft with adequate range, persistence, sensors and advanced communications to guarantee surveillance and defense of the high north against surface and airborne threats," Hewson said.

Norway plans to buy a total of 52 F-35A to replace its fleet of F-16s, though to date the government has authorized the purchase of 22 of the aircraft, according to an article by Guy Norris of Aviation Week. Details released this week indicate Norwegian officials support the acquisition quantity and plan to have the aircraft operational by 2025, the article states.

The Norwegian variants of the plane are designed to use a drag shoot and a cruise missile, called the Joint Strike Missile, developed by the Norwegian firm Kongsberg Defence & Aerospace.

Norway's first two aircraft, AM-1 and AM-2, are scheduled to be delivered to the Royal Norwegian Air Force later this year, according to the Lockheed release.

In addition to Norway, seven countries have committed to help develop the F-35, including the U.K., Italy, the Netherlands, Turkey, Canada, Australia and Denmark. Meanwhile, Israel, Japan and South Korea plan to buy production models of the aircraft.

The F-35 is the Pentagon's most expensive weapons acquisition program, estimated to cost $391 billion to purchase 2,457 aircraft for the Air Force, Marine Corps and Navy. The Corps began operational flights this year -- albeit with a less lethal version of the aircraft. The Air Force plans to follow suit next year and the Navy in 2018.

Here's a video of the roll-out ceremony:


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