Norway's milestone in air force flexibility

23.09.2023 posted by Admin

A historic milestone in military flexibility

Norway achieved a historic milestone this week when it successfully landed an F-35A stealth fighter jet on a highway for the very first time. This accomplishment highlights a flexible approach for military forces concerned about the vulnerability of their airbases.

The Norwegian Armed Forces carried out this impressive feat in collaboration with Finland, a fellow NATO member, during a training exercise. Two F-35As touched down on a Finnish highway while F-18s from Finland participated. Following their landing, the F-35s were promptly refueled with their engines still running, a technique known as hot-pit refueling, before swiftly taking off again.

Maj. Gen. Rolf Folland, Chief of the Royal Norwegian Air Force, expressed the significance of this achievement, stating, "This is a significant milestone, not only for the Norwegian Air Force but also for the Nordic countries and NATO. It showcases our ability to execute a dispersal concept." He emphasized that utilizing smaller airfields and now highways enhances their ability to survive during wartime, and it signifies a promising development in military-air cooperation in the Nordic region.

While Norway praised the advanced F-35, a fifth-generation aircraft, it also acknowledged its limitations in terms of operating duration without refueling, resupply of weapons, and ground support.

Gen. Eirik Kristoffersen, Norway's Chief of Defense, emphasized the deep cooperation among Nordic countries and how Finland's well-constructed highways contribute to the evolution of their dispersal concept. The goal of this concept is to make it more challenging for an enemy to target their aircraft while they are on the ground, and this demonstration is part of their preparation and practice.

Although this highway landing in Finland is a notable first, the idea of operating military aircraft on highways is not new. The US military has been doing this for years as part of its Agile Combat Employment strategy, aimed at dispersing forces across traditional and non-traditional airstrips to make it harder for enemies to target fixed airbases.

This approach has been demonstrated in various ways, such as landing multiple aircraft on highways in Wyoming, and even on non-traditional surfaces like dirt strips in Texas and potentially beaches.

While the F-35A's highway landing is groundbreaking, it's worth noting that other variants of the F-35, like the F-35B, have performed similar landings on highways. The motivation behind these efforts is to counter potential threats to traditional airbases and runways posed by adversaries like Russia and China in the event of a conflict.

In summary, Norway's recent highway landing of an F-35A is a remarkable achievement that showcases the adaptability of military forces in the face of evolving threats and highlights the importance of cooperation among NATO and Nordic countries in bolstering their defense capabilities.
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