The Royal Norwegian Air Force has closed its Bodø Air Base, halting fighter operations from the crucial airstrip above the Arctic Circle. The base’s closure also marks the end of four decades in which the F-16 acted as the Scandinavian country’s main fighter jet, as they are set to be replaced by F-35s.
The Falcon jets flew their last mission in the country on January 6, 2022, with two F-16s taking off from Bodø, following which the base concluded its fighter operations. One of the two aircraft will come back to serve as a museum exhibit at the air base’s Aviation Museum.
However, a detachment of search and rescue helicopters will remain at the base, and civilian operations will continue at Bodø Airport.
Bodø has been Norway’s most important air base since the Cold War, with fighter jets stationed at the airstrip since 1955. It is located some 80 kilometers (50 miles) above the Arctic Circle, strategically located on the coast of the Norwegian Sea.
The airbase is also a short distance from the north of the country to monitor military flights out of Russia’s Kola Peninsula.
Norway’s new fleet of F-35s will be launched for their first active Quick Reaction Alert from Evenes Air Station.
The European country will be the first operator fully dependent on the fifth-generation F-35. It has received 24 of the 52 new F-35s ordered, and by 2025 all the aircraft will be in service. Ten more jets are being used for training Norwegian pilots in the United States.
Today, Norway’s F-35s officially took over the QRA mission for NATO and Norway. The introduction of the new fighter jets has been a great success since the first F-35s arrived Norway in 2017. The system will reach full operational capability in 2025. https://t.co/SwKMBplofI
— Royal Norwegian Air Force (@Luftforsvaret) January 6, 2022
“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,” Lieutenant Colonel Tron Strand, Commander of 132 Air Wing, said in a NATO statement.
Strand added that the F-35 has an onboard information system superior to the F-16. Moreover, the new jets have already been operated in missions in Norway and Iceland, where they proved their compatibility and integration with NATO Air Command and Control.