Justin Wastnage / Copenhagen

Denmark's strategy for JSF workshare has, so far, failed to stay on track

The Danish blueprint for industrial workshare on the F-35 has not exactly gone according to plan. B¿rge Witth¿ft, chairman of the steering board for the Danish industrial body, JSF DK, says: "If we compare ourselves to our plan, and to other countries, we have to admit we are behind."

JSF DK is committed to funding around DKr790 million ($125 million) of development for the fighter over 10 years. The country's defence ministry says it would be "disappointed" if it were not to receive a similar value of contracts for work on the programme.

But since parliamentary approval to join the programme was granted on 29 April last year, there have been fewer than 30 requests for proposals (RFP) to Danish firms and less than DKr6.3 million in contracts, according to Aage Madsen, president of defence consultancy Atlantic Services.

Copenhagen has asked industry to invest in meeting the costs of F-35 system development and demonstration (SDD) phase participation rather funding it directly from its own coffers.

So Denmark's three largest defencecontractors are contributing DKr126 million to JSF DK, with systems specialist Terma Industries paying the lion's share. "We had the perception that we were in for a quick take-off in terms of contracts, but it seems as if we have been too optimistic," says Witth¿ft.

The sense of frustration is exacerbated when comparisons are made with other countries. The Netherlands, for example, has received more than 100 requests for proposals and contracts worth over c127 million ($150 million), says Madsen. "It is obvious that Level 2 countries takepriority, but to avoid being left with the scraps, we are working with Lockheed Martin to find contracts that fit our profile. We are confident of success downstream, even if it comes later than expected," adds Witth¿ft.

Denmark has a history of co-operation with Lockheed Martin on fighter development going back to 1997. The country had already begun work on planning a replacement for its 62 F-16A/Bs and had also jointly developed the European F-16 mid-life update programme with Belgium, the Netherlands and Norway.

"Initially all four decided to co-operate with Lockheed Martin in the development of the Future Joint Combat Aircraft," says Maj Gen Lars Fynbo, deputy chief of staff for materiel, infrastructure and logistics at Defence Command Denmark. But with the Belgian government short of funds and the Netherlands outspending Denmark and Norway, the bloc has been reduced to the two Nordic countries.

Progress evaluation

JSF DK has to make a progress evaluation at the end of next year, on which continued participation in the SDD phase depends. Part of the group's near-term strategy has been to set up a formal approach to pursuing work packages in conjunction with Canada and Norway.

Fynbo says that the government is "optimistic" that next year will be a turning point, since Danish areas of specialisation lie in the autonomic logistics (autolog) area, for which few RFPs have been issued. "Eight out of 14 companiesin the JSF DK are looking at autolog, and the RFPs for training, simulation and course development are not out there yet," says Madsen.

Denmark also leads the world in printed circuitboard manufacture, acoustic technology and high-speed titanium machining, which are also less immediate concerns for the JSF primes, he adds. The Danish firm Systematic has already sent engineers to Lockheed Martin to demonstrate their expertise.

Indeed, although Terma has a contract to support General Dynamics in development, testing and production of the gun pod, expectations for other structural parts are limited, since it is competing against US industry, says Witth¿ft. He also complains that BAE Systems, despite being Europe's Level 1 partner, has done little to promote European industry involvement.

Fynbo says the Danish government is willing to raise concerns about the lack of high-level access on JSK DK's behalf. Some industrialists fear the country's stature may also be diminished by any formal selection of the F-35 to replace the F-16s.

"The decision in 2002 to commit funds to F-35 development was to ensure the military could get inside the fighter and ensure that it works in northern European environments," says Fynbo. Certainly, if the current drought of work continues, the selection will be less of the foregone conclusion than it currently appears.

Source: Flight International