Norwegian air chief Major General Tonje Skinnarland has declared Norway's F-35As operational after completing a deployment in November.
The deployment was undertaken to validate that the Norwegians are able to operate the jets away from Norway's home base of Ørland Main Air Station.
Norway is the third European country to declare IOC, after the UK and Italy.
“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,” Norway’s Defence Minister Frank Bakke-Jensen said.
Over the last two years, the Norwegian Air Force has conducted intensive operational testing and evaluation (OT&E) in Norwegian conditions such as winter operations, operations in the northern areas and in cooperation with Norwegian Army, Navy and Special Forces.
To conclude the test period, the Norwegian Armed Forces spent several days transferring aircraft and equipment from Ørland Air Station to Rygge Air Station (close to the capital Oslo). This was the first time the fighter aircraft were operated from a base other than Ørland.
In 2020, Norway’s F-35s will deploy to Iceland to conduct air-policing efforts on behalf of NATO. In 2022, the Norwegian Air Force will have built up enough F-35s, pilots and maintainers in-country to let the F-35 take over the “quick reaction alert” mission, which calls for operators to stand on a 24/7 alert and scramble, if needed, to intercept aircraft flying near Norwegian airspace. These F-35s will be ready for air-policing in Evenes, in northern Norway.
Nine nations have F-35s operating from a base on their home soil and eight air services have declared Initial Operating Capability.
Australia is due to declare IOC for its F-35s at the end of 2020.