F-35 InternationalIndiaAfricaDespite far-reaching plans to offer maintenance services to F-35 users across Europe, Norway itself has so-far suffered from a severe shortage of mechanics — to the point of needing US hires to plug the personnel gap.The Norwegian Air Force has jointly with the company Kongsberg Defence & Aerospace decided to build a new support facility for F-35 Lightning II stealth fighter jets.The facility, to be located at Rygge air base near the capital city Oslo, has been valued at NOK 500 million ($46.5 million) and is expected to provide airframe maintenance and associated solutions for the entire fleet of F-35 fighter jets in the Norwegian Armed Forces, which is one of the prime users of the aircraft that has been troubled by a long history of technical errors and ballooning costs.Alongside maintenance, the site will offer modifications, upgrades, and related improvements for the F-35s throughout their lifetime.»Establishing a maintenance depot in Norway helps to retain and develop expertise and capacity to carry out maintenance and upgrades of Norwegian fighter aircraft, in accordance with the needs and priorities of the Norwegian Armed Forces,» Kongsberg Defence & Aerospace President Eirik Lie stated. He cited the «know-how» that has been built up over several decades, and claimed the agreement would cement the company’s role as a supplier of maintenance services in the defense sector.MilitaryPentagon Reportedly Refuses to Take Any More F-35s Until System Woes Are Solved12 June, 23:31 GMTAccording to Lie, the new depot will also be used to conduct maintenance services on «other nations’ F-35s,» so the list of potential clients includes numerous European nations, ranging from neighboring Denmark and Finland to Germany, the Netherlands, Switzerland, the UK, Italy, and Poland, with the latter three hosting Lockheed Martin facilities of their own.Kongsberg Defence & Aerospace is a subsidiary of Kongsberg Group, one of the pillars of the Norwegian industry and a supplier of defense and space-related systems and products, mainly anti-ship missiles, military communications, and command and weapons control systems. The new Norwegian facility is expected to enter service after its completion in the second half of 2025.
Norway’s Prized F-35 Fleet and Its Challenges
With 52 F-35s ordered, Norway already has an F-35 maintenance center at the air force’s main base in Orland. Furthermore, Kongsberg Aviation Maintenance Services, which supplies maintenance, repair and overhaul services, has already been working with Pratt & Whitney to sustain and upgrade F-35 aircraft and its F135 engines at Rygge air base since 2020.MilitaryNeeding US Hires, Norway Dubs Lack of F-35 Mechanics ‘Declaration of Bankruptcy’15 May, 11:51 GMTThe plans to expand maintenance services come on the coattails of a recent report by Norway’s Defense Commission that highlighted a severe shortage of mechanics within the Nordic country’s air force. The problem was said to have only become worse by the closure of the air base at Bodo, with the entire F-35 fleet to be distributed between the air stations Orland and Evenes.The challenges in recruiting and retaining enough technical personnel for the combat aircraft have been admitted by Defense Minister Bjorn Arild Gram. So far, Norway has been forced to hire technical personnel abroad (from none other than the US-based manufacturer, Lockheed Martin), but this solution has only been touted as temporary. However, while funds to secure enough local technicians have already been proposed, local air force professionals have warned that the shortages are persistent and cannot be tackled with money infusions alone.