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Danish parliament approves F-35 selection

Denmark’s parliament has approved a government recommendation to acquire the Lockheed Martin F-35, with the decision edging Copenhagen closer to an order for 27 examples of the fifth-generation fighter.

To be operated from Skrydstrup air base, the conventional take-off and landing F-35As will be delivered between 2021 and 2026, the nation’s defence ministry says. The new type will replace the Royal Danish Air Force’s current Lockheed F-16s, the last of which will leave use in late 2024.

Approved on 9 June, the step follows a mid-May recommendation by the Danish government and defence ministry after an evaluation process by the latter’s New Fighter Programme Office. Boeing’s F/A-18F Super Hornet and the Eurofighter Typhoon had also been considered as candidates, but the F-35 was ranked first in all four assessment criteria.

“Based on the current level of ambition for the assignment of combat aircraft, the parties agree to purchase 27 F-35A Joint Strike Fighters,” the defence ministry says. It values the aircraft purchase at around DKr20 billion ($3 billion), but adds: “the determination of the acquisition cost will only happen after contracting with the supplier.”

With the F-35 still in its development phase and the F-35A yet to achieve initial operational capability with the US Air Force, the defence ministry notes that “there is and will remain a number of risks” to fielding the new type. “The [Danish] parties want to follow the development of the F-35 programme closely, and will be regularly informed of progress and risks,” it adds.

During the transition period from the F-16, Denmark will not be able to support international operations between 2022 and 2024, with “a limited number” of F-35s to be available for such activities from the following year.

“From 2027 it is expected that the Joint Strike Fighter can solve the all tasks, both nationally and internationally,” says the defence ministry.

Copenhagen plans to participate in a proposed multi-year purchase agreement for the F-35, along with several other customers, and says its final number of aircraft could increase if economic conditions allow. However, “prior to contracting for the last six aircraft a status [evaluation] will be made by the parties," the ministry says. "At this point the parties can decide to purchase fewer aircraft if the first aircraft are not delivered on time and to the expected price.”

Welcoming confirmation of the selection, Jens Maaløe, chief executive of Danish company Terma, says: “We look forward to explore new areas of co-operation and bring “best value” to the F-35 programme.” A supplier on the programme since 2005, it currently produces composite aerostructures and radar electronics.

Lockheed says it will “continue to work with Danish industry on F-35 production and sustainment".

Denmark will follow Australia, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Norway, South Korea, Turkey, the UK and the USA in signing a production order for the F-35.

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