[LATEST UPDATE] - The Norwegian government has now officially selected the Joint Strike Fighter as the winner. It competed against the Swedish JAS Gripen fighter - Nov. 20th 2008
Norway's F-16 aircraft will reach the end of its life cycle at around 2020, after over 40 years in service. In 2008 the Norwegian Parliament is going to select the next successor. The Royal Norwegian Air Force [RNoAF] is instructed to analyze and give its recommendations on new fighter aircraft. Out of four candidates the strongest competition seems to be between the Eurofighter Typhoon and the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.
Biggest project ever for the Norwegian Defense
The evaluation is strictly based on operative criteria and will result in a military recommendation regarding which aircraft to choose and how many of it. This recommendation will then be included in the basis of the Norwegian Parliament's decision in year 2008. The procurement of new fighters in the period 2020-2050 is most likely to be the largest singular project in the history of the Norwegian Defense.
The Air Force is seeking several options
The Royal Norwegian Air Force will be evaluating the different aircraft based on what kind of roles the aircraft will participate in from around 2020 till 2050. For this procurement they will not take into consideration the political trade and other non-military aspects. They have yet to decide on plane and numbers that are best suited for Norway in the given time period and the result will not be clear until the final recommendation to the Norwegian Parliament around 2008. It is also worth mentioning that several of the aircraft candidates are still in a developing stage and the final data are therefore not yet available.
American or European solution
The RNoAF has been instructed to consider two of the aircraft candidates more thoroughly, namely the American F-35 Joint Strike Fighter and the European Eurofighter Typhoon. Also in the race is the French fighter Dassault Rafale and the Swedish fighter BAE-Saab JAS-39 Gripen. Below is a photo of each aircraft.
The Eurofighter Typhoon
The F-35C Joint Strike Fighter
The Rafale C
The JAS-39 Gripen single seater
Why does Norway need new fighter planes?
The RNoAF is clear on the matter than Norway will still need fighter planes when its fleet of F-16s are ready for retirement at around 2020. The need for maintaining national sovereignty across the land and the affluent resources of the sea will most likely be on an increase in the future. There is also expected a demand for Norway to participate in international and peace keeping operations led by the UN or NATO. It is also unclear as to what kind of threats Norway will face in the coming 30-40 years. In addition to resource conflicts, terror threats and possible armed conflicts, there may arise situations we are still unaware of. It is due to this uncertainty that Norway will still be needing the flexible capacity that a modern fighter represents. In addition to advanced possibilities for swift situational awareness and communication to decision-making authorities, the fighters will also have a pilot that represents experience and judgment during all stages of a mission. The pilot is the strongest link in a fighter aircraft, a safety valve against unintended weapon usage or an escalated situation due to unavailable information or mishaps.
The fighters will also be used in close cooperation with the Army and Navy. By increasing the effectiveness of the other military branches, the fighter aircraft will contribute to a more totality defense that will safeguard the nation's interests in the best possible way.