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March 23, 2012

Norway will buy some F-35s sooner, but others much later

Those restless Norwegians continue to change their minds about when they plan to buy F-35s.

Norway, the smallest and most restless of the eight nations that joined with the U.S. in 2001 to pay for development of the F-35, has hemmed and hawed for years and worried over costs and whether to stay with the program.

Now, after zigging just 18 months ago, Norway zagged again Friday. The Ministry of Defence released a new defense policy statement that contained a bit of good news for Lockheed Martin and the U.S. government, as well as some bad news.

The government said it remains committed to its original plan to purchase 48 F-35s, plus four training aircraft. The policy statement said it "will consider" ordering two of the four training jets a year earlier, in 2015 rather than 2016.

Also, the government said it will also consider ordering its first production jets in 2017 instead of 2018.

On the flip side, the government said that it now plans to order 42 jets, some of them not until  until 2023 or 2024, and will defer a decision on the other six until after all the other aircraft have been ordered.

When the original Memorandum of Understanding between the U.S. and the eight partner nations was updated in 2009, Norway contemplated ordering its 48 production jets in the 2014-2018 time period. As development and testing has fallen behind schedule and costs has risen, the Norwegians, and other countries, have constantly been reevaluating their plans.

Lockheed issued a statement saying the company "is honored by the trust and confidence the Norwegian government showed in the F-35 program with today’s announcement.  We will work closely with the government to accommodate Norway’s decision and support their plan to begin purchasing aircraft, which will not affect F-35 production schedules."

- Bob Cox 






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