Fighter jet base landed at Ørland

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After months of rivalry and lobbying, Norway’s defense ministry will set up new bases for the country’s new fleet of F35 fighter jets at Ørland and Evenes instead of at Bodø, where the F16 fleet has been based for years. Bodø will continue as the F16 base at least until 2020, but city officials were disappointed.

Bodø officials fought to retain Norway's fighter jet base when new F35s replace these F16s, but lost out to Ørland and Evenes. PHOTO: Forsvaret

They fear a loss of jobs connected to the military presence, but Defense Minister Espen Barth Eide told newspaper Aftenposten that top Air Force officials and administrators plan to move from the Rygge base in southern Norway to Bodø. Current pilots will be 10 years older at that time and, perhaps, ready to take on new assignments in management. “Families will be able to stay in Bodø,” if they want to, Eide suggested.

He also said Northern Norway’s second-largest city will have less noise and be able to redevelop the land now used for the fighter jets “for something else.”

He said he thought the F35 based would land at Bodø, but the parliamentary groups of the three parties making up Norway’s government coalition voted in favor of Ørland, which also had been favoured by the head of Norway’s armed forces, General Harald Sunde. Both Labour and the Center Party wanted Ørland while SV was split between Ørland and Bodø but also seems to be going along with claims that building a new base at Ørland will be “cheapest and best,” not least for educating and training the jets’ pilots.

Ørland, located outside Trondheim, and Evenes, further north near Harstad, will both have bases, with Evenes to be used for launching the jets sent out to monitor the presence of foreign aircraft like those periodically sent from Russia that buzz Norwegian territory.

“With Evenes, we can spread out the fleet and take care of security issues in the north,” Eide said. “Training conditions there are also good.” He said Andøya was considered but was dropped because of noise issues, while another option for a base at Bardufoss was dropped because of difficult topography and high costs.

The first new F35 jets are due to land in Norway in 2018. They represent the biggest single investment ever made on the Norwegian mainland.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund

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