The fact that Finland can buy F-35 fighter jets at a much lower price than Norway has provoked reactions in the Norwegian parliament (Storting). Several parties are now demanding answers.
Finland will buy 64 fighter jets from American Lockheed Martin and estimates the average price per plane at NOK 1.3 billion.
Norway is paying NOK 90.2 billion for its 52 aircraft of the same type, and this gives an average unit price of NOK 1.74 billion – NOK 440 million more.
“Norway should never have chosen the F-35,” Red Party (Rødt) leader Bjørnar Moxnes, who sits on the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee in the Storting, said on Wednesday.
Slap in the face
“WikiLeaks documents reveal that the USA exposed Norway to massive secret influence in order to force the choice of the American fighter aircraft F-35, the most expensive tax-financed purchase in Norwegian history,” Moxnes pointed out.
“That the Americans have also deceived Norway by demanding many billions more for the planes than the other country has to pay, is a slap in the face to Norway and emphasizes the need to investigate the entire scandalous purchase, as Rødt has proposed and will propose again,” Moxnes told NTB.
“The Progress Party has long feared galloping costs. We warned against this early in the project and wanted assurances of better cost control,” the party’s foreign policy spokesman Christian Tybring-Gjedde said.
“Development of high-tech projects often meets unforeseen challenges, which naturally increases the cost limits. Having said that, it is of course not inconceivable that we have been overly cautious in the negotiations with the Americans,” he said.
Norway originally planned to buy 56 aircraft, but the Storting later reduced this to 52. This should also be more than enough, Tybring-Gjedde believes.
“In the light of hindsight, it should not be ruled out that Norway has ordered more fighter jets than the need should indicate,” he told NTB.
Tybring-Gjedde believes that the United States may have gone to great lengths in the negotiations with Finland to secure a customer outside NATO.
“It makes the USA’s competitiveness vis-à-vis the European defense industry stronger,” he believes.
“The F-35 project has otherwise been good for the Norwegian defense industry,” said Tybring-Gjedde, who also pointed out that the Kongsberg Group alone has received contracts worth billions.
“The development and sale of the Joint Strike Missile is an economic and technological success story that would not have been possible without Norway making an early decision to participate as a partner in the development of the fighter aircraft,” he said.
Ingrid Fiskaa, who sits on the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee in the Storting for the Socialist Left Party (SV), does not agree.
“The project has become a cost bomb, and the promises of repurchases and massive benefits for Norwegian industry are far from being fulfilled. The parliamentary majority has repeatedly ignored this. We risk paying the price for this in the future,” she said.
The SV has encouraged the government to investigate whether it is still possible to reduce the price of the aircraft that have not yet been delivered and also wants new estimates of how much it actually costs to keep the new fighter aircraft in the air.
According to the Armed Forces, it costs NOK 110,000 per hour to fly an F-35, but the US Armed Forces estimate that it costs around NOK 310,000.
“We challenged the previous government on this and got very vague answers. Hopefully, the new government can give us a better answer to this,” Fiskaa said.
The fact that the cost of the planes has decreased in step with increased production is natural, according to the Conservative Party’s defense policy spokesman Hårek Elvenes.
“There are also many variables that form the basis for the unit price per aircraft, and it will depend on which equipment is included and how large a share of lifetime costs is calculated,” he told NTB.
However, Elvenes wants answers as to why Finland can buy the F-35 at a lower average price than Norway.
“The Conservatives are now sending a question to the Minister of Defense asking for an assessment of what is known about the Finnish agreement,” Elvenes said.
Åsmund Aukrust, who represents the Labor Party in the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, believes that it was necessary for Norway to be among the first to buy the F-35.
“The background for the time was the operational need and an old F-16 fleet,” he told NTB.
“The fact that the price of the planes would fall has been clear from the outset,” said Aukrust, who believes that it will be wrong to compare the average unit price Norway and Finland have to pay.
“I do not know the details of the Finnish project, and it is therefore not possible to compare directly. It will also not be correct to divide the sum by the number of aircraft,” he said.
Source: © NTB Scanpix / #Norway Today / #NorwayTodayFinance
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