Friday, November 21, 2008

Norway Chooses American Fighter

The Norwegian government announced this week that the Norwegian Ministry of Defense will recommend that Norway replace its fleet of F-16 fighter aircraft with the American-built F-35 Lightning Joint Strike Fighter (JSF). The decision comes at the end of a long competition between the JSF and the Swedish-built SAAB Gripen NG fighter. The Prime Minister’s office sighted the JSF’s superior performance as the primary factor in their decision, as well as the lower initial and operating costs. You can read an English-language version of the press release announcing the decision here and the longer Norwegian version here.

The Ministry of Defense’s recommendation will still need to be approved by Parliament next year. According to the plan, the JSF will be phased in between 2016 and 2020, as the F-16s are gradually phased out.

The choice will likely bring some welcome warmth to US-Norway relations which have been decidedly chilly in the last few years. US Ambassador to Norway Benson K Whitney has advocated strongly for the JSF, and personally delivered the initial bid to Norwegian Minister of Defense Anne Grethe Strøm-Erichsen back in April. The US Embassy webpage has extensive information about JSF here.

The decision wasn’t scheduled to be made public until December 19th, and both the American and Swedish teams have reacted with surprise. Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg has been criticized from both the right and the left within Norway for the early announcement. The Socialist Left party, which is a member of Stoltenberg’s governing coalition, has expressed disappointment in the announcement. Jan Peterson, a Conservative Party member of parliament and a defense committee chair told Dagbladet “This is a majority government at its worst. There has been no attempt at dialog from the government’s side between them and the committee or the rest of Parliament.” However, Peterson added that he thought the JSF was a good choice, and said he was glad the government chose “the best plane, and not prioritized industrial cooperation.”

The project has been stalked by controversy almost since the beginning. About a year ago a Eurpoean consortium withdrew their bid for the Eurofighter Typhoon from consideration because they felt the process favored the Americans too heavily.

SAAB and others from the Swedish side have also expressed their disappointment. Their chances could not have been helped by this photo, which has appeared widely in the Norwegian press in the last week.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I was hoping the F35 would come out on top. It brought great joy when I finally heard our primeminister reveal the good news.