WASHINGTON — The US State Department has cleared a sale of five P-8 maritime surveillance aircraft to Norway.

The potential sale, with an estimated value of $1.75 billion for prime contractor Boeing and its partners, still needs to be cleared by Congress. But no opposition is expected, given Norway's increasing role as a partner for the United States and United Kingdom in monitoring Russian activity in the north Atlantic.

In addition to the planes, the planned buy covers a large collection of equipment, including radios, radar, missile warning sensors and 2,000 AN/SSQ-125 Multi-Static Active Coherent Source Sonobouys, launched from the plane to help track submarines.

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Norway has operated a fleet of P-3 aircraft, Boeing’s predecessor to the P-8, since the 1960s, and it was vital for Norway to modernize that capability, said Norwegian defense minister Ine Eriksen Søreide.

"For a country like Norway, with maritime areas that are almost 80 percent of the Mediterranean, they are almost seven times as big as our land territory, it is unthinkable or us not have good situational awareness in our own areas," Søreide told Defense News in a Dec. 2 interview at the Reagan National Defense Forum. "We see that Russia is also developing new capabilities, especially sub-surface capabilities, that we need to keep track on. And for us, it is just a very good way to continue to develop a very important capability for Norway that gives us the situational awareness we depend on."

She added that there is great potential for Norway to work with the United Kingdom, which is also procuring P-8s, both in operational terms and in procurement.

"We just signed an agreement with the UK…on doing a lot of cooperation on both the F-35 and the P-8s," Søreide  said. "For the first time in over 60 years we will be flying the same fighter aircraft, the F-35, and we have also huge opportunities for cooperating on training and exercises, spare parts, maintenance and actually everything that entails having these new modern capabilities."

For US industry, the P-8 represents yet another major contract that could be cleared by Congress before the end of the Obama administration. The Norway announcement is the seventh such notification since Oct 1. of a potential sale to Congress that would exceed the $1 billion mark, keeping US weapon exports on a record pace for fiscal year 2017.

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