Royal Norwegian Air Force / Luftforsvaret
By Hans van Herk
Although Norway's history spans many centuries, present day Norway became an independent, constitutional Kingdom in 1905. Its traditional policy of neutrality changed to one of support of NATO after the Second World War. Most of the Norwegian Armed Forces will be under Allied Forces Northern Europe control in the case of a major conflict. Norway has many times provided personnel for United Nations operations. As a concession to the fact that Russia has a common border with Norway, no permissions have been given to other NATO countries to station troops, or store war material, on Norwegian soil.
The Royal Norwegian Air Force was formed in 1944 by the amalgamation of the Army Air Force (Hærens Flyvapen) and the Naval Air Service (Marinens Flyvevsen), both of which had existed since 1915. Today the Kongelige Norske Luftforsvaret is responsible for all the nation's military aviation. Norway's Air Force is organised into two Air Commands (Luftkommando Nord-Norge and Luftkommando Sør-Norge) each with its own operational control but integrated within the NADGE air defence system.
The principle combat type is the General Dynamics F-16 Fighting Falcon which Norway selected in the mid-1970s in common with three other European NATO members. Today, all the F-16s are upgraded to MLU (Mid Life Update). These updates are also in common with the same three European NATO members; Belgium, Denmark and the Netherlands. Future plans for new aircraft are still undetermined. However, the Norwegian parliament has decided to buy four Joint Strike Fighter test aircraft. The vintage C-130H fleet has beeb replaced by four brand-new C-130J-30 Hercules transport aircraft.
Three F-16 squadrons operate from the two Main Air Stations (Hovedflystasjoner); Bodø en Ørland. Andøya, Bardufoss and Gardermoen have received the status of Air Stations (Flystasjoner). The remaining airfields will be "closed", but will be available for deployments. Banak is even a so-called satellite airfield under the command of Bodø Air Station. The Air Stations have received Air Wing (Luftving) status with the various units at those Air Stations direct reporting to the Air Wing. The Air Wings are numbered.
Together with the three other Scandinavian countries, Norway is involved in the Nordic Standard Helicopter Programme (NSHP). From 2012, the NH90 will see service with 334 skv and 337 skv. The in-service date for the new helicopter was originally planned for somewhere between 2005 and 2008. This has been postponed until late 2014, when 337 skv was declared operational and the Lynx helicopter is withdrawn from use. Six NH90s will fly with 334 skv as the new frigate helicopter and eight NH90s will replace the Lynx helicopter for use with Coastal Command. A further six NH90s will replace the Bell 412HP/SP with 720 skv as a special forces helicopter.
The basic flying unit is the Skvadron (skv), with up to four Flights; the various squadrons are grouped into two regional Air Commands, which parallel the ground force's Commands. The distinctive aircraft identification system which combined squadron codes with callsigns was discontinued in mid-1972. Three- and four-digit serial numbers, taken from the aircraft's previous identity or c/n, are now in general use. The F-16s are flying from a pool and they all belong to the NDLO (Norwegian Defence Logistics Organisation). Translated in Norwegian this unit is known as FLO, which stands for Forsvarets Logistikk Organisasjon. Also a new badge has been introduced; the well-known design of the triangular arrow, this time with the colours of the Norwegian flag (rd/wt/bl/wt/rd).
Norwegian Air Force pilots are trained in the USA under the Euro-NATO Joint Jet Pilot Training Programme. However, grading is carried out in Norway, trainee pilots undertaking 25 hours on the Saab T-17 Safari at Bardufoss.