UK, Norway could share F-35 support work

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Norway and the UK are to explore increased co-operation on the Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, saying opportunities exist in "technical maintenance and sustainment, as well as within training of pilots and technical personnel".

Confirmed following a bilateral meeting held in London on 5 September, the pact builds on a wider co-operation agreement which was established by the nations' defence ministries last year.

"Both nations are encouraged by recent progress in the development and manufacture of the F-35," the Norwegian defence ministry says. "Both agree that it is of vital importance a capable, adequate and affordable sustainment solution is in place to support the first European F-35s when they begin arriving in Europe in the second half of this decade."

Oslo plans to acquire an operational fleet of up to 48 conventional take-off and landing F-35As, with the type to be flown from its Ørland air base from 2017. The UK has so far outlined its intention to order a minimum of 48 short take-off and vertical landing F-35Bs, with its total future fleet size to be determined through its next Strategic Defence and Security Review, to be completed in 2015.

The UK's first operational F-35s will arrive at the Royal Air Force's Marham base in Norfolk during 2018, with both nations to perform earlier training on the JSF in the USA.

"This will be the first time in nearly 60 years that Norway and the UK will operate a similar type of fighter aircraft, and this opens up new possibilities for co-operation," says Norwegian state secretary Eirik-Øwre Thorshaug. Both governments will encourage their domestic industries "to explore collaborative opportunities for co-operation in support and sustainment of our common F-35 fleet," he adds. Oslo, for example, will seek to secure maintenance work on the type's Pratt & Whitney F135 engine for state-owned entity AIM Norway.

"Whilst many decisions have yet to be made which will define the totality of the UK's JSF programme, it is clear that coordination and co-operation with like-minded allies such as Norway will offer many advantages in terms of shared knowledge, best practice and efficiencies," says UK minister for defence equipment, support and technology Phillip Dunne. "The UK looks forward to exploring possibilities for collaboration on our approach to through-life support and capability development with Norway over the coming years."