Norway has signed a public procurement project worth NOK60bn ($10bn), the largest in the nation's history, for the F-35A Lightning II aircraft.
Authorised by Norwegian Defence Minister, Espen Barth Eide, the order follows extended negotiations with the US Department of Defence, and marks a key milestone in the Norwegian F-35 programme, with new combat aircraft ordered for the first time in three decades.
The procurement project also includes beginning of the final phase of Joint Strike Missile (JSM) development and the integration of the missile into the F-35 after receiving confirmation of JSM integration support from US Secretary of Defence, Leon Panetta, Eide said.
Selected by Norway in 2008, the new generation of combat aircraft will be integrated with the Norwegian-developed JSM to further enhance its operational capabilities.
The total market potential for the JSM is estimated to be between NOK20bn and NOK25bn ($3.3 and $4.2bn) while the overall procurement phase is estimated to cost NOK60bn ($10bn).
The newly approved Norwegian Defence White Paper 2012 has also confirmed the nation's plans to procure up to 52 F-35s for the Norwegian Armed Forces and a budget increase of 7% by 2016.
As part of a joint partner training centre, the first four F-35 aircraft will be based in the US while the remaining 48, which will be delivered from 2017, will be based at Ørland Main Air Station in central Norway.
Quick reaction alert services to the armed forces will be provided by a small forward operating base that will be established at Evenes, in northern Norway.
The Lockheed Martin-built F-35A is also being developed in two additional variants; a carrier variant and a short take-off and vertical landing aircraft.
Image: F-35 Joint Strike Fighter and Joint Strike Missile. Photo: courtesy of the Norwegian Ministry of Defence.