Sideview of F-16 cockpit when aircraft is on ground at Kjeller,  Norway.
It all started with a “touch and go”

From prototype to success story: a celebration of 40 years with the F-16 Fighting Falcon

It all started with a “touch and go”. For four decades, KONGSBERG has maintained the engines for the Norwegian Fighting Falcon F-16 fleet. The last F-16 maintenance delivery from Kongsberg Aviation Maintenance Services (KAMS) is now being handed over to the Norwegian Air Force.

  • Text:Njål Frilseth, Communications Manager

    Photo:Njål Frilseth / KDA Communication

A large and complex apparatus is required when providing the Norwegian Air Force with accessible, reliable and air-worthy combat aircrafts - all with the right performance capabilities required. Base Kjeller and KAMS have managed to provide exactly that for over 40 years. But their story begun long before F-16 and jet engines.

Kjeller Airport, Norway’s very first airport, was established back in 1912 out of the need for an military airport for the Norwegian Army Air Service. In 1914, polar explorer and first person to reach the South Pole, Roald Amundsen started his flight training at Kjeller - not only did he beat Robert Scott to Antarctica, but he was also the first Norwegian civilian to hold a pilot license.

Two years later - and with no direct link to Amundsen -  Aviation Maintenance Services was established, and it has played a significant role in Norwegian aviation industry ever since.

Where it all started

It was in 1980 when Odd Svang Rasmussen, the test pilot of Norway's first F-16, did a “touch and go” at Kjeller Airport that marked the beginning of a 40 year long maintenance-adventure.

The first aircraft maintenance took place in August the following year, with an upgrade of an aircraft with the tail number 272. Back then, modifications, upgrades and heavier maintenance was the highest priority - and it was on top of the list for years. The real major aircraft modifications began in the early nineties, with large structural upgrades and creative modifications.

“When Norway bought the plane, it was like a prototype,” says Jan Bratland from KAMS. Bratland has been involved with the F-16 aircraft since the very beginning, and represents of the continuity of aircraft maintenance at Kjeller. “We have modified the aircraft to what it is today,” says Bratland proud when asked about the Fighting Falcon and its history.

The mid-life upgrades (MLU) of the Falcon started in 1995, and was completed on 58 different aircrafts. From 1995 to 2002, 250 employees managed to clock over 1 million working hours. From 2002-2009, major programs such as the Falcon star and M3 were also completed with over 1 million working hours.

The last Phase

It was in 2004 that the KAMS’ Phase maintenance started. In fleet management, all aircrafts undergo phase inspections. This is to maximize the aircrafts’ availability and life expectancy. An aircraft is grounded after reaching a maximum threshold of flight hours accumulated since its last phase inspection. After each maintenance at the KAMS maintenance hangar, the Falcon is ready for another 300 hours of flight time. On the F-16, the life expectancy is 8000 flight hours in total before the aircraft is phased out of action.

KAMS has carried out 122 phase inspections at Kjeller. During the operational test flights, KAMS pushes the aircraft to the absolute limit of what it can take, in order to make sure that everything is in shape before handing the F-16 over to the air force’s squadron. With close to a million working hours, the KAMS maintenance team has generated 36.600 operational flight hours.

“Everyone at Base Kjeller has made sure that the Norwegian Air Force has, at all times, a high-tech fighter aircraft on par with most fighter jets in the world,” says Section Chief Tor Børre Arctander from the Norwegian Defence Materiel Agency. “KAMS is a skilled maintenance organization, with great integrity in service-deliveries to the Norwegian Air Force. Together, we have created and further developed solutions that Lockheed Martin and the US Air Force have implemented on most F-16 aircrafts around the world.”

Kongsberg Aviation Maintenance Services has now reached a milestone in their long history. For four decades, KAMS has maintained the F100 engines for the Norwegian F-16 fleet. It is now the end of an era as the last F-16 maintenance delivery from Kjeller is being handed over to the Air Force.

The last F-16, an aircraft with tail number 680, is an F-16A machine delivered to the Norwegian Air Force from the Netherlands on February 10th, 1984. The beautiful bird has a total of 6 497 hours of flight time, which means that there are over 1500 flight hours left before reaching the magic number of 8000. Those remaining hours have a lot to say for the future.

F-16 aircraft in flight, flying low at airport
KAMS t-shirt and a F-16 aircraft
Officer hold a speech infront of a F-16
F-16 tail with number 683
Detailed photo of F-16 fuselage with a "remove before flight" marker

The future and beyond

The Norwegian Air Force’ fleet of F-16 has plenty of hours left before they are grounded and phased out. Which means that KAMS’ work is far from over. Even though the Norwegian Air Force no longer sees a need to keep the old Falcon, other nations might.

“There are potential customers replacing old Eastern European equipment and who do not have the opportunity to build their own expertise on the F-16. We can certainly assist with that,” says Atle Wøllo, President of KAMS. “KAMS’ work on the F-16 is definitely not over!”.

An important and strategic factor of success is that KAMS is the only company with an official license, supported by the manufacturer Lockheed Martin, for the maintenance of this type of aircraft outside the United States. In fact, the KONGSBERG company is Lockheed Martin’s preferred partner in F-16 maintenance internationally. In other words: there will be considerable future work, both in connection to the phasing out of the aircrafts from the Norwegian fleet, and in the construction and preparation for new users of the Falcon.

“The expertise in aircraft maintenance we have at KAMS is completely unique, and has benefited the Norwegian F-16 fleet all these years,” says Wallø. “I would like to express my pride in the one-of-a-kind and competent work environment that exists at Base Kjeller, and at the same time give thanks for the great collaboration with the Norwegian Armed Forces and for everything we have managed to achieve together.”