Concerns fly over fighter jet costs

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Norwegian politicians are once again deeply concerned by reports of soaring prices for the US-made fighter jets that the government has agreed to buy. Newspaper Dagsavisen reported Tuesday that the price may have jumped from the NOK 18 billion approved by the Parliament, to an astonishing NOK 144 billion.

The new Lockheed Martin fighter jets are supposed to replace these old F16s, but reports of rapidly rising prices are raising new concerns. PHOTO: Forsvaret

So enormous is the feared price hike that the issue is heading for review by the Norwegian Parliament’s committee charged with control of cost and constitutional matters, reports Dagsavisen.

Hallgeir Langeland, a Member of Parliament and its control committee, said lawmakers must discuss whether the costs can possibly be accepted in relation to the decision taken to buy the jets in 2008.

“The government said at that time that we’d be buying the cheapest jets,” said Langeland, who hails from one of the three parties making up Norway’s coalition government, the Socialist Left (SV). “But we didn’t know the price then and we don’t know it now. The only thing we know is that it’s climbing, and it’s climbing fast.”

The Canadian report is the latest in a series of indications that the fighter jet prices are accelerating quickly. The jets remain on the drawing board, not least because the countries that have ordered them have various desires and specifications that also are driving up the price, according to Dagsavisen.

The new jets, long referred to as the Joint Strike Fighter, are meant to replace Norway’s fleet of F16 fighter jets, and also have been ordered by the US, Italy, Canada, Denmark, Australia, the Netherlands and Turkey. Reductions in the actual numbers of jets ordered, however, are also driving up the price.

Canadian authorities have now issued a report with estimates that the price per jet will rise from the original equivalent of NOK 375 million to as much as NOK 3 billion. The estimated price overruns as calculated by the Canadians are “completely new,” reports Dagsavisen, and alarming.

The report shows that the price to be paid by the Norwegian state has risen to NOK 120 billion during the past two years. The report claims the price will continue to rise until the first of the new jets are produced by US defense contractor Lockheed Martin and delivered to its Norwegian customers in 2016.

“If we can’t afford to lay down undersea cables in Hardanger, we have to ask ourselves if we really can afford these jets, when they’re becoming 10 times more expensive,” Langeland told Dagsavisen, referring to the government’s recent controversial decision to build overhead power lines in the scenic Hardanger area because the cost of undersea cables was too high.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund
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