ORLAND AIR BASE, Norway — For the first time outside the U. S., Norwegian and American F-35 Lightning II maintainers worked together on their aircraft June 17.
A team of five maintainers and four pilots, deployed from Hill Air Force Base’s 388th Fighter Wing with the 421st Expeditionary Fighter Squadron, forward deployed to Norway for the historic cross-servicing event, during which the maintenance teams received and turned two American F-35As after their arrival from Finland.
The Norwegian air force already operates a fleet of 12 F-35s at Orland Air Base, and plans to eventually employ 52 of the fifth-generation aircraft throughout Norway. The visit was the first time American F-35s have landed in Norway.
“All firsts are special,” said Royal Norwegian Air Force Lt. Col. Eirik Guldvog, 132nd Air Wing executive officer and chief of staff. “For Norway and our European allies, who are entering the fifth-generation fighter era, it’s important to both have the U.S. on board and to train with the other partners around the North Sea.
“To have multinational cooperation within these nations and to have a significant F-35-capable force in the North Atlantic, of course that is important,” Guldvog continued. “This is the first step.”
While the visit was short, it was an opportunity to practice seamless integration in preparation for future deployments.
“Air operations are often multinational, so it’s important that we train together and find every opportunity to interact on a normal basis,” Guldvog said.
According to U.S. Air Force Capt. Brett Burnside, 421st EFS F-35 pilot, the entire endeavor felt familiar and without any significant challenges.
“Even though they are from a different country and speak a different language, they are fighter pilots as we are,” Burnside said. “We simply connected with them on our F-35 datalink and it was just like working with any U.S. F-35 unit.”
Burnside said because Norway is a partner in the F-35 program, it’s extremely important to continue to foster this relationship. Additionally, he said Norway’s geographic location is immensely strategic as they have a large responsibility in quick reaction alert to scramble fighters to intercept hostile aircraft in the arctic region if necessary.
The now-proven ability of RNorAF’s Lightning II maintainers to successfully catch and turn American F-35s is a huge milestone for the country.
“F-35s will be the most important combat element within the Norwegian defense agencies,” Guldvog said. “Not just the air force. It will be the most potent offensive capability in Norway.”
A fleet of F-35As is currently deployed to Europe as part of the European Deterrence Initiative, which enables the U. S. to enhance a deterrence posture, increase the readiness and responsiveness of U.S. forces in Europe, support the collective defense and security of NATO allies, and bolster the security and capacity of U.S. partners.