WASHINGTON — Norway’s procurement of the F-35 joint strike fighter and new high-end submarines is on track, and the government is working to induct both new systems, Norway’s top defense official said Tuesday.
Norwegian Defence Minister Frank Bakke-Jensen told Defense News that he sees no problems ahead for either program, which, along with the planned procurement of the P-8 anti-submarine aircraft, constitute a major modernization of Norway’s military equipment.
Specific to the submarines, the minister said there were no concerns over the decision to pick the ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems 212A-class design, despite the fact the German fleet of similar design was put out of commission in late 2017 due to bottlenecks in the procurement of spare parts and an accident to one boat that happened off the coast of Norway.
“We also have some knowledge about submarines, so we think this will be a good project, building the new submarines with Germany. We also are looking for more partners to see if some more countries could participate,” Bakke-Jensen said of the program, which was selected February 2017. “So I think this is a good project so far.”
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.
Meanwhile, the country plans to have its four new submarines ready to go by the mid-2020s, while also adding five P-8 aircraft in the 2022-2023 time frame.
That means Norway’s military will have a very busy few years in the early part of the next decade — something for which Bakke-Jensen said his ministry is trying to plan.
“It’s challenging to change systems, of course. We are also changing the military system, the education system at the same time to cope with the changing and the new technology and the new jobs,” he said. “We think we have a very good plan. We think it’s important to stick to the plan.
“I think we will cope with it. But every time when you change existing systems you will have a dip in operational readiness, but not more than we can cope with.”
The minister said his team is working on timing to avoid that “dip” hitting all at once, adding that “we can assure that we can do the mission we’re supposed to do … we will time it and cope with it. That’s possible.”
Aaron Mehta was deputy editor and senior Pentagon correspondent for Defense News, covering policy, strategy and acquisition at the highest levels of the Defense Department and its international partners.