Norwegian Armed Forces to sell F-16 aircraft to company that trains Saudi Arabian pilots

F-16Photo: Rune Stoltz Bertinussen / NTB

The Armed Forces will sell old F-16 aircraft to a company that also has Saudi Arabia’s air force on its list of customers. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has not yet issued an export license.

“We positively view (the fact) that the Norwegian Defense Material Agency has now entered into an agreement with the American company Draken International,” Minister of Defense Odd-Roger Enoksen (SP) said when he announced that a contract had been entered into for the sale of up to twelve aircraft in December.

However, the sale presupposes that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs issues an export license, which it has not yet done.

Draken International has around 150 aircraft and is referred to as the world’s largest private air force. The company provides services to the US military, more specifically, so-called Red Air services, where it plays the role of enemy aircraft when pilots from the US and NATO countries practice air combat.

Saudi Arabia’s air force is also on its customer list. Saudi Arabia went to war against the Houthi rebels in Yemen in 2015 and, at the head of a regional coalition, has carried out more than 24,000 airstrikes in the country over the past seven years.

The United Nations Development Fund (UNDP) estimated in November that the war had claimed at least 377,000 lives.

Already aware

“We ensure that our customers succeed in every single operation they carry out,” Draken’s website points out, where the company also advertises several new positions in Saudi Arabia, including as flight instructors and specialists in electronic warfare.

The Armed Forces are aware that Draken International and their subsidiary sell training services to a number of countries, according to Magnus Hansvold, the head of material disposal at the Defense Material Agency.

“The Norwegian F-16 aircraft, on the other hand, cannot be used as part of the services they sell to third countries, including Saudi Arabia,” he told NTB.

“The training that will be conducted with the planes they want to buy from Norway is of a completely different type, and it will take place exclusively in the US on behalf of the US military,” Hansvold said. He emphasized that this will also benefit Norwegian pilots.

Strict confidentiality

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs did not want to answer questions about whether it is familiar with Draken International’s activities in Saudi Arabia and whether this is a factor that will be given weight when the application for an export license is to be considered.

“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs cannot comment on individual cases like this due to the strict confidentiality that follows from the Export Control Act,” communications adviser Mari Bangstad told NTB.

She also did not want to say when a decision could be expected.

Source : © NTB Scanpix / #Norway Today / #NorwayTodayNews

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