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Thursday, July 18, 2024

New fighter jets lack Arctic abilities

The new US-made fighter jets meant to replace Norway’s ageing fleet of F-16s lack equipment needed for communication in Arctic areas. Canadian officials who’ve also ordered the expensive jets are already complaining, and Norwegian politicians want a solution as well.

Norway's existing fleet of F-16 fighter jets saw a lot of action over Libya recently, but their replacements must also be capable of operating in Arctic areas. PHOTO: Forsvaret/Lars Magne Hovtun

“The northern areas are among the most important of our areas of operation,” Ine Eriksen Søreide, who leads the parliament’ foreign affairs and defense committee for the Conservative Party, told newspaper Aftenposten. “Having complete communications systems is incredibly important.”

Søreide is sending written questions on the issue to Defense Minister Grete Faremo. “This is something Faremo has to clear up,” Søreide said.

The problem was debated among Canadian politicians this week as well, after it emerged that the F-35 Lightning jets, formerly known as Joint Strike Fighter, which Canada’s government has agreed to buy also will lack communications equipment suitable for Arctic areas. Standard radio signals don’t operate well north of the Arctic Circle, meaning the jets’ pilots need to be able to communicate via satellite.

The four prototype F-35s due for delivery in 2016 won’t have such equipment and Aftenposten reported there’s no guarantee as to when the jets’ producer, defense contractor Lockheed Martin, will have the necessary programming equipment in place.

The communications problem is the latest in a long string of challenges for Lockheed Martin, which also faces severe budget pressure and must set difficult priorities.

Stein Erik Nodeland, who leads the Norwegian fighter jet program for the Defense Ministry, confirmed that the jets so far lack integrated capacity for satellite communications. He told Aftenposten that various solutions are being evaluated.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund

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