RNAF’s future takes flight in Arizona
Major Morten Hanche is the first Norwegian to pilot a Royal Norwegian Air Force F-35A
Howard O. Barikmo
On Thursday, February 18, the Torske Klubben of Sun City, Arizona, had the pleasure of hosting Major Morten Hanche, Royal Norwegian Air Force. In return for his dinner of codfish, potatoes, flatbrød, and aquavit, Hanche gave an outstanding presentation on the new F-35A training program to upgrade RNAF pilots at Luke Air Force Base.
He has been at Luke since September of 2015, receiving training in the Lightning II fighter. He is one of three Norwegians at the base who are to receive training and in turn assist fellow countrymen upgrading from the F-16, the present fighter aircraft Norway is using in its defense. A total of five of the F-35As owned by Norway will be used at the base in this training.
Hanche, with over 2,000 flying hours in the F-16, compares flying the F-35A to be much simpler than the F-16 since much of the tedium of micromanaging its sensors is done for him in the new plane. It gives the pilot more time to fly the airplane and assess the overall mission.
The performance of the new aircraft is much better since all the armaments are contained within the airframe and not hung out on the wings, thereby increasing drag and reducing performance. It also resembles more closely a “stealth” vehicle as the wings and fuselage have been designed to reduce the radar signature to an enemy’s radar.
Which allied nations are now beginning training in the F-35A? Australia, Italy, Norway, and the Netherlands will be taking part in the training activity at Luke. Other countries that will buy the F-35A include the United Kingdom, Canada, Denmark, Turkey, Israel, Singapore, South Korea, and Japan.
Norway has been training its F-16 pilots at the 162 Wing, Arizona Air National Guard, in Tucson, Arizona, for years. This will continue until about 2020, after which time all flying in the RNAF will be in the F-35A.
The friendly Torske Klubben audience was enraptured with Hanche’s words, and questions came almost at a staccato rate, keeping Hanche at the microphone for over an hour. Among members of the audience were two veterans of the Royal Norwegian Air Force, who were hanging on to every word. Tor Kirkvaag had graduated from pilot training at Williams AFB, some 60 miles on the other side of Phoenix from Luke AFB. He graduated in 1952 and was assigned to fly F-84s when he returned to serve in Norway. John Johnsen served as his crew chief for a number of years, after which he emigrated to the U.S., went to university, and became an aeronautical engineer, spending his career with Boeing. So there was a bit of camaraderie generated during the talk.
Also in attendance was Allan Solheim, who is vitally involved with the company his father founded, Karsten Manufacturing. He is also the emeritus Honorary Consul for Norway, having served Arizona well in that position for about 15 years. Since he is also a private pilot, it’s difficult to determine his thoughts about the F-35A. Would he like to be young enough to fly the most advanced airplane in the world? What pilot—military or civilian—wouldn’t?
Hanche represented Norway well during his presentation. It’s obvious he’s not just a skilled pilot but a pretty good wordsmith, too.
This article originally appeared in the March 11, 2016, issue of the Norwegian American Weekly. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.