From Bodø Air Base in northern Norway, Norway’s fleet of F-16s has carried out the QRA on behalf of NATO for decades. The F-35s will fly this mission from Evenes Air Base, which is located near the border of Nordland County and the counties of Troms and Finnmark in northern Norway, as planned in 2012. Evenes is currently being developed and built to house both F-35 fighter jets and the upcoming P-8 Poseidon Maritime Patrolling Aircraft fleet.
Norway conducts the QRA mission on behalf of NATO. This means that Norway continuously has fighter jets on standby at all times. If an unidentified aircraft comes close to Norwegian – and NATO – airspace, the F-35s are missioned to scramble and, therefore, be airborne within 15 minutes.
The F-35 fleet has its home base at Ørland, but some of the F-35s will be transferred at Evenes to conduct the QRA mission.
The Royal Norwegian Air Force has closed its Bodø Air Base with the handover. Westland Sea King helicopters will remain active in the base and serve for SAR missions as a detachment of search and rescue helicopters of the former 330 Squadron. The civilian operations will continue at Bodø Airport.
The Bodø, the home of NATO’s northernmost operational Air Base in Europe, was Norway’s most important airbase since the Cold War. The runway at Bodø was 3,394 metres long (11,135 feet). In May 1940, a simple wooden runway was built as the first airfield. Germany took over the base soon after it was built and held it until 1945 when the RNoAF took over. In 1950, the upgrade to NATO standards began, and fighters have been stationed at Bodø since 1955. The base’s initial strategy was strategic. In case a war broke out between two poles, NATO and the Warsaw Pact, the fighter aircraft stationed in Bodø was to support NATO’s Atomic Strike Plan. The US Strategic Air Command (SAC) bomber aircraft would drop nuclear warheads over the base of the Soviet Northern Fleet. However, the importance of the base was diminished with the introduction of intercontinental ballistic missiles. It eventually became the home of QR missions.