The sounds of aircraft blared from a video showing a computer-generated F-35 Joint Strike Fighter turning its nose toward an anticipating audience. Then, the sounds stopped. The lights shut off completely, and the aircraft faded from the screen.
Suddenly, the lights returned. The curtain dropped and, in place of the video, a real F-35 appeared. A crowd of hundreds rose from their seats to catch a glimpse of the jet – the first F-35 to be delivered to Norway from Fort Worth’s Lockheed Martin.
The presentation was part of a ceremony held Tuesday at Lockheed Martin, celebrating the first rollout of F-35s being delivered to Norway. Norwegian dignitaries, Lockheed Martin employees and government officials, including U.S. Reps. Kay Granger and Marc Veasey, were in attendance. Other guests walked upon a red carpet as they entered the building.
“We love being in the spotlight because it enables us to bring the world to our employees who come to work every day to build incredible technologies,” said Lorraine Martin, F-35 program executive vice president and general manager at Lockheed.
Norway purchased 52 jets from Lockheed, but the price of Norway’s purchase could not be disclosed, Martin said.
Norway is one of nine countries outside the United States that partnered with Lockheed’s F-35 project, agreeing to invest in the project and purchase aircraft. Norway had originally planned to make its purchase in 2016 but decided to buy the jets a year early.
The F-35 is not yet in its final state, as more tests need to be conducted before the jets can be used in combat operations. For now, Norway will use the F-35s for training, according to Admiral Haakon Bruun-Hanssen, Norway’s chief of defense.
Norway will launch its regular training program on the F-35 in March 2016, Bruun-Hanssen said.
In 2001, the Pentagon announced that Lockheed had won the contract to build the F-35 for the Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps. The projected total cost of the project is about $389 billion, which includes spending from 2001 until 2039.
The F-35 is meant to be a more technologically advanced plane, allowing pilots to fly higher and at faster speeds, as well as collect intelligence. The plane also features stealth technology that would allow pilots to locate and strike targets at long distances without being noticed by the enemy.
The project was delayed by difficulties with the plane’s weight, software, reliability and other issues.
Despite the delay, Martin said Norway has maintained a good relationship with Lockheed.
“When we were behind schedule and over budget, they stuck with the program,” Martin said. “They knew this was the technology that they needed for their armed forces.”
Back in August, Lockheed spokesman Mike Rein said the company planned to deliver 3,170 F-35s to both foreign and U.S. military.
In July, the Marine Corps declared “initial operating capability” for the F-35, meaning the plane could fly in limited combat operations.
The Air Force should declare initial operating capability for the F-35 by August 2016, Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James said during a visit to Lockheed in August.
The Navy is expected to do the same in 2018, Rein said.
The F-35 should be completely combat ready by the beginning of 2020, he said.