RAMSTEIN, Germany - The Norwegian F-16 Fighting Falcon, which has safeguarded the skies for 40 years, will close an honorable and historic chapter as the F-35 Lightning II opens a new one, starting its Quick Reaction Alert (QRA) duties from Evenes Air Base next January.
On January 6, 2022, the Royal Norwegian Air Force F-35 fighter jets will launch an active QRA from Evenes for the first time. According to the plan, the last two F-16 QRA aircraft will have their last mission out of Evenes and return to Bodø, marking the official end of Bodø Air Base as a home to fighter aircraft; one of the long-standing reliable F-16 jets will remain as a museum exhibit at the Aviation Museum in Bodø.
Some remarkable air incidents that occurred during the QRA duties above Norway in the last 40 years
February 14, 1975, technical problems: A Soviet plane came from the Barents Sea and flew West, into Norwegian airspace. It entered South of Vardø, took a right turn, turned over Vardø and flew out again. This was intercepted by a Soviet fighter jet and escorted back to its home base. "We reckon that the plane had technical problems", said Colonel Per Erik Solli (retired), former Executive Officer at Bodø Air Base.
November 17, 1975, four strategic bombers over Lofoten: Four Soviet Badgers conducted mock attacks on a US naval force south of Bodø. In two separate formations, they approached the city from the west. After simulating an attack on the naval force, they turned left and ended up in Vestfjord. They managed to fly over Lofoten before four Norwegian Starfighters pushed them away from the Norwegian airspace border. This was the second cut-off within Norwegian airspace.
In the late 1970s apology from the Soviet Union: A Soviet plane flew over both Finnmark and Finland before returning to the Soviet Union. In this case, the Soviet embassy in Oslo sent an unsolicited apology to Norway the same day it occurred. Albert Andersen, who was monitoring the case from the air operations centre at Reitan, was informed about the apology before he left duty. The border violation was no provocation, but the aircraft had to take a shortcut to get home, probably due to a low fuel level.
Four Norwegian Starfighters intercepted four Badgers after a simulated attack. Photo courtesy: Royal Norwegian Air Force
F-16 Crew Chief doing pre-flight procedures at Bodø Air Port, Photo courtesy: The Royal Norwegian Air Force
Norwegian control and reporting personnel watch the airspace 24 hours 365 days a year. Photo courtesy: The Royal Norwegian Air Force
Norway safeguards the skies at home and abroad
As part of the cooperation with NATO, Norway contributed with policing both the Baltic and Icelandic air space. Iceland does not have an air force of its own, but NATO takes care of integrates the Ally in the High North into its Air Policing system and Allies deploy fighter jets to the country regularly. Norway manned the mission in 2011, 2014, 2016, 2020 and 2021; Norwegian fighter aircraft also took part in Baltic Air Policing in Lithuania 2005, 2007 to 2008 and in 2015, where other NATO members have contributed as well since the beginning of the mission in 2004. The QRA is ready every day, all year!
Integration of fifth generation F-35 into national and NATO Air Policing
"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. When emergency preparedness and QRA are flown out of Evenes next year, the Royal Norwegian Air Force will provide more networked and capable fighter assets to the mission. The F-35 has an onboard information system from a completely different generation and a situational overview of the airspace that is significantly superior to that of the F-16. 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," said Lt. Colonel Tron Strand, Commander 132 Air Wing
Two Norwegian F-16 and two Norwegian F-35 aircraft together during exercise with allies off the Helgeland coast. Photo: Onar Digernes Aase