The first F-35A Lightning II for the Royal Norwegian Air Force lifted off on its maiden check flight from Lockheed Martin's facility at Fort Worth, Texas, on Tuesday, the company announced. The RNoAF accepted aircraft AM-2 in a roll-out ceremony last month and it will soon fly to Luke AFB, Ariz., to support Air Force and international pilot training there. Norway plans to purchase at least 52 F-35As, and is currently developing the Joint Strike Missile for Norwegian and allied Lightning IIs, recently partnering with Australia on the project. "We continue to see significant political support for the F-35 … the aircraft is a central part of the government's efforts to strengthen Norway's defensive capabilities," Norwegian defense minister Ine Eriksen Søreide said in a statement. A total of 10 Norwegian F-35As are currently in production, and aircraft delivered through 2016 will all be delivered for training at Luke. Norway plans to begin domestic F-35 operations in 2017, and reach initial operational capability with the aircraft in 2019.
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