WASHINGTON — Norway welcomed its first three F-35 joint strike fighters to Ørland Air Base on Nov. 3, the Norwegian government announced Saturday.

The aircraft aren’t the first F-35s to be delivered to Norway, as the country already has seven F-35A joint strike fighters stationed at Luke Air Force Base, Arizona, for training. However, the new jets are the first F-35s to be permanently based in Norway.

The three aircraft took off from manufacturer Lockheed Martin’s production facilities in Fort Worth, Texas, at 6:35 a.m. Norwegian time on Nov. 3. They landed at Ørland Air Base at 3:57 p.m. the same day.

Maj. Gen. Morten Klever, the F-35 program director for Norway’s Ministry of Defence, called the event a “major step towards increased operational capability for the future,” adding in the written statement that the Royal Norwegian Air Force looks forward to using the aircraft to train its pilots.

Ahead of the arrival of the first Norwegian joint strike fighter, Lockheed also made its first deliveries of F-35 simulators to international countries, including Norway, Israel, Italy and Japan, the company said Monday. The simulators will also help enable these air forces to start standing up their own domestic pipeline for pilot training instead of having to send operators to U.S. bases for instruction.

Norway intends to buy 52 F-35A conventional takeoff and landing jets to replace its current inventory of 56 F-16 Fighting Falcons, which it will phase out as early as 2021. From 2018 to 2024, the country will accept six joint strike fighters a year.

The Norwegian government plans to hold a ceremony this Friday commemorating the arrival of the first F-35s.

Valerie Insinna is Defense News' air warfare reporter. She previously worked the Navy/congressional beats for Defense Daily, which followed almost three years as a staff writer for National Defense Magazine. Prior to that, she worked as an editorial assistant for the Tokyo Shimbun’s Washington bureau.

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