The Royal Norwegian Air Force’s (RNoAF) Lockheed Martin F-35A stealth combat jets have reached the initial operational capability (IOC) milestone.

RNoAF declared the IOC status for the F-35A aircraft after a deployment to Rygge Air Station near Oslo validated that the jets can be operated away from its home base of Ørland.

Norway is the third European country to achieve the IOC milestone after the UK and Italy.

Norway Defence Minister Frank Bakke-Jensen said: “I would like to congratulate the Norwegian Armed Forces on declaring IOC with the F-35. This is a big day for the entire armed forces.”

So far, eight military services around the world have declared for the F-35 fighter aircraft.

The IOC comes after RNoAF spent two years conducting operational testing and evaluation (OT&E) of the aircraft.

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By GlobalData

The F-35A was tested in special Norwegian conditions to validate its cold-weather capabilities.

In a statement, the Norwegian Ministry of Defence said: “To conclude the test period, the Norwegian Armed Forces spent several days transferring aircraft and equipment from Ørland Air Station to Rygge Air Station.

“Deployment of Rygge’s fighter aircraft system includes technicians and other important personnel, as well as necessary equipment in order to train and practice operations from there. This was the first time the fighter aircraft were operated from a base other than Ørland Air Station.”

Oslo has plans to procure a total of 52 F-35A aircraft. Ørland serves as the main location for the jets.

The aircraft will deploy from the Evenes Air Station from 2022 to take over the Nato quick reaction alert (QRA) air-policing mission in Evenes in northern Norway.

RNoAF will deploy its F-35s to Iceland next year to conduct Nato air policing missions.