The Norwegian government looks unlikely to send any of its F16 fighter jets to take part in bombing raids of IS targets in Syria and Iraq. There’s been widespread public opposition to joining such raids, and Norway’s fighter jets are needed for defense purposes at home.
Newspaper Klassekampen was the latest on Tuesday to report that Norway was poised to turn down at least the fighter jet portion of a request from the US for more help in fighting the Islamic extremist group IS. Norway was among scores of nations that were asked to contribute to bombing raids, logistic support or to send more special forces into the battle again IS.
Norway’s defense ministry isn’t expected to deliver a formal answer until after New Year, but it probably won’t contribute fighter jets or bombing crews like it did during the NATO-led bombing of Libya four years ago. Defense Minister Ine Eriksen Søreide has already noted that Norway is in the midst of a transition from its fleet of old F16 to new F35 jets. Many of the Norwegian F16s are inoperative because of maintenance issues and even cracks in their wings.
Those that are operative, meanwhile, are needed in Norway after months of increased tensions in the Arctic with Russia. Newspaper VG reported earlier this month that both NATO and the US agree the jets are needed in Norway as part of a desired military presence in the far north. Klassekampen cited government sources on Tuesday as also saying that the Norwegian Air Force needs to maintain fighter jet capacity to protect Norway’s borders.
There also has been widespread public skepticism in Norway towards any Norwegian bombing attacks against IS. A survey conducted by research firm Respons for newspaper Bergens Tidende earlier this month showed that half of those questioned opposed sending Norwegian jets to bomb IS targets. Only 30 percent supported such raids and the other 20 percent were undecided.
Øyvind Halleraker, deputy leader of the parliament’s foreign and defense committee for the Conservative Party, which in turn leads Norway’s government coalition, said he wasn’t surprised. Christian Tybring-Gjedde, a member of the same committee for the Progress Party, told Bergens Tidende there was a “large degree of doubt in all the parties” over the prospect of sending F16s. He has also opposed sending any ground forces to fight IS.
Norway, one of around 60 nations taking part in a coalition against IS, is more likely to take part in its “softer” operations, such as continuing to train Iraqi soldiers for battle with IS, sending support and rescue personnel, and more economic and humanitarian aid. Norway also has special forces already in Iraq and Afghanistan, and may be able to send more.