F-16 fighters of the Royal Norwegian Air Force (RNoAF) will soon stop operating from Bodø Air Base above the Arctic Circle.
The last mission will take place on January 6, 2022, with two F-16s taking off from the base. Only one of them will come back to serve as a museum exhibit at the Aviation Museum in Bodø. Following the fighters’ departure, the air base will close. A detachment of search and rescue helicopters will remain, and civilian operations will continue in Bodø Airport (BOO).
The F-16s’s Quick Reaction Alert (QRA) role will be taken over by Norwegian F-35 fighter jets. They will launch their first active QRA on the same day from Evenes Air Station located further north near Harstad.
“Integrating the modern fifth-generation F-35 fighter aircraft into the 24/7 mission of safeguarding the skies at home and abroad is a quantum boost,” said Lieutenant Colonel Tron Strand, Commander of the RNoAF 132nd Air Wing in a NATO press release.
Strand said when emergency preparedness and QRA are flown from Evenes starting in 2022, the RNoAF will be providing “more networked and capable fighter assets to the mission”. He added: “Norwegian F-35s have already flown missions – in Norway and in Iceland – in a NATO context. They have proven their compatibility and integration with NATO Air Command and Control.”
Evenes also houses the 333rd Squadron, which plans to operate five Boeing P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft. The first Poseidon was delivered to Norway on November 18, 2021. The RNoAF participates in NATO’s efforts to monitor Russian aircraft near its airspace, specifically those operating above the Barents Sea.
Norway has ordered a total of 52 F-35s, of which 24 have already been delivered in the country and 10 are being used in the United States for the training of Norwegian pilots. They should eventually replace the F-16s as the backbone of the RNoAF fighter fleet. In early December 2020, Texas-based private military contractor Draken announced it had acquired 12 of the former RNoAF F-16s to help provide training to the company’s customers.