Cablegate: Norway Chooses the F-35
DE RUEHNY #0629 3301031
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 251031Z NOV 08
FM AMEMBASSY OSLO
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 7178
INFO RUEHBY/AMEMBASSY CANBERRA 1072
RUEHCP/AMEMBASSY COPENHAGEN 2486
RUEHSM/AMEMBASSY STOCKHOLM 3347
RUEHTC/AMEMBASSY THE HAGUE 4406
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHINGTON DC
RHMFISS/CDR USEUCOM VAIHINGEN GE
RHMFISS/JOINT STAFF WASHINGTON DC
RUEHNY/ODC OSLO NO
C O N F I D E N T I A L OSLO 000629
E.O. 12958: DECL: 11/25/2018
TAGS: MARR MASS MCAP PREL PGOV NO
SUBJECT: NORWAY CHOOSES THE F-35
REF: OSLO 585
Classified By: Deputy Chief of Mission Kevin M. Johnson for reasons 1.4 b and d
1. (C) On November 20, PM Stoltenberg and Defense Minister Strom-Erichsen announced that the GON recommends the purchase of the F-35 to replace Norway's aging F-16 fleet. The timing of the announcement was a surprise, coming earlier than expected, as was the exceptionally strong endorsement of the F-35 by the GON panel. A concerted effort by Lockheed Martin, Embassy Oslo, EUCOM, and the Departments of State and Defense played a key role in this decision.
2. (C) The GON's announcement concludes the multi-year competition between the F-35, Saab's Gripen and the Eurofighter (which dropped out earlier this year). The favorable decision is important as it strengthens the U.S.-Norway bilateral relationship as well as improving Norway's capabilities as a NATO ally (see reftel). The November 20 announcement is not the final step in this process, but it is the most important. Shortly after the announcement the GON reached internal agreement among its three coalition members (including the Socialist Left) and will now present its conclusions to Parliament for formal approval at some point before December 19. The proposition will contain further details on the number of planes to be purchased, the range of costs expected, financing information and expectations for industrial contracts. Passage of the proposition is almost certain as there is no significant opposition to the F-35 in Parliament. The Socialist Left party had been the most critical of the F-35 and the fighter competition but apparently has been brought to heel by the Labor Party on this issue. Parliament will vote to approve or reject the proposal made by the GON (it cannot choose another plane).
Praise and Thanks for Nuanced USG Lobbying ------------------------------------------
3. (C) In a call on November 21, Deputy Defense Minister Espen Barth Eide thanked DCM and praised USG efforts for being nuanced, calm, and non-controversial (although persistent) in promoting the F-35. Barth Eide said that this was key in avoiding a backlash which could have delayed or weakened the majority for buying any new fighters. Barth Eide said that a swing to the Gripen was not possible once the qualitative difference between the planes became clear.
4. (C) Embassy Oslo believes strong and consistent engagement by senior defense and state officials played a key role in persistently lobbying without overplaying our hand. The Deputy Secretary of Defense, USAFE Commander General Brady, Deputy Undersecretary of the Air Force Lempkin, and Assistant Secretary of State Kimmit all expressed the United States' interest in the process without appearing to bully or attempt to force a decision. Combined with the Ambassador's efforts, the united USG message helped highlight the importance of this decision, the abilities of the F-35 and the value we put on our relationship with Norway. This united effort has paid off already with the decision and will contribute towards continued good will in the Norwegian political and defense world.
5. (C) We thank Washington, EUCOM and USAFE for strong engagement that helped make the GON decision possible and hope the Norwegian experience proves useful in other countries facing a similar competition. WHITNEY