The Royal Norwegian Air Force (RNoAF) is one of the many European operators of the versatile F-16 as the mainstay of its fighter/strike fleet. Out of an original order of 74 F-16s that rolled off the Fokker production line in the Netherlands, 57 remain in service, having undergone the Mid-Life Update (MLU) modifications.
Instead of individual units owning their aircraft, the Royal Norwegian Air Force established the Forsvarets Logistikk Organisasjon (Air Force Logistic Organization), or FLO, which dishes out F-16s and other assets on an as-needed basis to the three F-16 squadrons within the force.
One of those three squadrons is 338 Squadron, the Norwegian Tiger squadron. Based at Ørland Main Air Station, the Tigers were the last of the active fighter squadrons to get their hands on the Viper. Initially based at Sola Air Station, 338 Squadron was formed in 1954 and shortly moved to their current home at Ørland and took over the prestigious Tiger role following the disbandment of 336 Squadron in 1999.
As one of NATO’s Tiger units, 338 Squadron is a regular at the organization’s annual Tiger Meets, hosting the famous events in 2007, 2012, and 2013. The 2009 event was held at Kleine Brogel Air Base in Belgium, and 338 Squadron offered some sporty departures during the day’s first launch, the Pratt & Whitney F100-PW-220 churning out a highly visible afterburner in the process.
The RNoAF’s F-16s are slated to be replaced by the F-35A in the coming years, to be based at Ørland. The service has planned to buy 52 of the 5th-generation fighters, but so far the purchase of only 22 has been authorized. The second-built F-35A for Norway became the first to fly, taking to the skies in early October. The first 4 jets will be transferred to Luke AFB for training of RNoAF personnel and the service hopes to be operational with the F-35 in 2019.
Though it will likely take another decade before they are totally replaced, the Norwegian F-16s will continue to stay busy in the years to come, taking part in NATO’s Quick Reaction Alert (QRA) forces in the Balkans and Iceland, in addition to Norway’s own air defense reaction force.
(featured photo by Jonathan Derden)