By Evan Sweetman

Danish and Norwegian approvals to continue F-35 involvement to slip into 2007, while nations consider rival bids

With the USA expecting the first international Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) partners to sign up for the Lockheed Martin F-35 production programme later this month, Denmark and Norway could be poised to delay their decisions on participation until next year.

Denmark is expected to sign the memorandum of understanding (MoU) for the production, sustainment and follow-on development (PSFD) phase, which does not commit it to buying the F-35, but may need more time to gain national political approval, say programme officials. Norway is also expected to need more time to gain approval to sign the MoU, also without committing to buy the JSF.

Danish Gripen W445
© Gripen International (Modified by Tim Bircheno-Brown) 

 A Danish decision not to buy the F-35 could prompt a Gripen DK purchase

"We do not expect them to push past February or March," says JSF programme executive officer Brig Gen Charles Davis. In contrast, the Netherlands and the UK could sign the MoU early this month, he says, with the Dutch parliament already having approved continued participation (Flight International, 24-30 October).

The Turkish government is also expected to approve signature of the MoU by late November, says Turkish defence minister Vecdi Gonul.

Denmark plans to issue a request for quotations next year for the Eurofighter Typhoon and Saab Gripen, as well as the F-35, with a decision planned for 2009. The chosen successor to Denmark's current Lockheed F-16s will ideally be operational by 2010, Hans Rusmussen of the Royal Danish Air Force's fighter replacement branch told IQPC's Fighter conference in London late last month.

The F-35 will not be available to international customers before 2014. Norway's fighter competition, which also pits the F-35 against the Gripen and Typhoon, is already under way, with a decision expected in 2008.

Saab-led Gripen International is offering Denmark a tailored aircraft, dubbed the Gripen DK, while Eurofighter is proposing the multirole Tranche 2 Block 8 Typhoon, deliveries of which will begin to launch nations Germany, Italy, Spain and the UK late next year. Danish requirements include carriage of the Raytheon AIM-9X short-range air-to-air missile and Rafael Litening II/III targeting pod, improved situational awareness and passive and active countermeasures.

Saab last week announced a new co-operation agreement under which Danish Aerotech will receive business worth up to DKr200 million ($34.1 million) if the Gripen DK is selected to meet air force requirements. The firm will supply mechanical, electrical and electronic components for the aircraft, says Saab.

A Danish decision not to buy the F-35 could prompt a Gripen DK purchase

Source: Flight International