The Norwegian defense ministry has reached an agreement with US adversary air services provider Draken International for the sale of up to 12 former Royal Norwegian Air Force F-16 fighters to the company.
The aircraft will be used as part of Draken’s training services in the United States.
The F-16s spent decades in service in Norway before being retired to make room for the F-35 fifth-generation fighter the Scandinavian country is buying from the US.
With the F-16 approaching the end of its service, the Norwegian defense ministry set out in September 2019 to begin preparations to retire the remaining aircraft by the end of 2021, and potentially selling them to another user.
“The F-16 has served the Norwegian armed forces and the nation very well for over 40 years until their replacement by the F-35. The defense ministry has been clear on their wish that Norwegian F-16s should see continued use by others within the NATO alliance. We are therefore pleased that the Norwegian Defence Materiel Agency has agreed to sell up to 12 aircraft to Draken International, a company offering services to the US military,” Norwegian defense minister Odd-Roger Enoksen said.
“We also continue our discussions with NATO allies about the sale of several Norwegian F-16s. I therefore look forward to seeing our aircraft remaining in active service for some time,” he added.
The contract with Draken includes the sale of up to twelve aircraft and equipment necessary to operate the aircraft.
“I am very pleased that we at the Norwegian Defence Materiel Agency have secured a first agreement for the F-16s. These are among the most well-maintained combat aircraft in the world and are overall in excellent technical condition, which will provide years of solid service to Draken International,” said Norwegian Defence Materiel Agency director general Mette Sørfonden.
Norway expects to transfer the fighters to Draken International in 2022, pending formal approval by the US and Norwegian governments. The contract also provides opportunities for Norwegian industry, including maintenance of the aircraft in advance of delivery.
By acquiring the F-16, Draken will become the second private company to operate a fourth-generation fighter. The first was Canada-based Top Aces, which secured a Federal Aviation Administration approval to operate a fourth-generation fighter aircraft under a commercial license in May this year.