Danish parliament on Thursday 9 June formally decided the country is buying 27 F-35 Lightning II fighter jets. The Lockheed Martin aircraft was announced to have won the bid for replacing Demark’s ageing fighter jets last month, leaving parliament with the final vote of approval.
The majority in parliament voted in favour, although an amendment now says the total number could be reduced to just 21 aircraft if budget doesn’t allow the desired total of 27 aircraft. Denmark is the fifth European country to choose the Lightning II, following the Netherlands, Italy, the UK and Norway.
The selection was heavily criticized however. Opponents remarked that the Boeing F/A-18 Super Hornet and Eurofighter Typhoon never made a chance in the process. Saab opted to never enter the Danish competition in the first place, believing the choice for the F-35 was already made by Copenhagen. Similarly, Dassault didn’t bother to offer its Rafale to the Danish.
Denmark now operates 44 F-16s, which are up for deployment over Syria and Iraq soon.
Danish parliament will decide next month if the country is to purchase 27 F-35 Lightning II fighter jets. The Lockheed Martin aircraft was announced to have won the bid for replacing Demark’s ageing fighter jets this week.
The selection of the F-35 over the Boeing F/A-18 Super Hornet and Eurofighter Typhoon comes as no surprise, since Denmark already supports the F-35 program. One of its F-16s operates in support of the test program at Edwards Air Force Base in California. In a statement however, Lockheed Martin states it is pleased that Denmark has reaffirmed its commitment to the F-35 program ‘in this fair and open competition’.
Financially, the F-35 is a hot debate and it will also be in parliament. Denmark struggles to maintain its defense and it is feared a F-35 purchase will put even more strain on other parts of the military. The country now operates 44 F-16s, which are up for deployment over Syria and Iraq soon.
Royal Netherlands Air Force (RNLAF) F-16 fighter jets hardly see action over Syria despite being cleared to do so earlier this year by Dutch parliament, reports on Tuesday 3 May say. The ageing jets apparently do not have the right communication equipment for combat over the war torn country. Most missions take place over Iraq instead.
Dutch F-16s have been engaged in fighting so-called Islamic State since the fall of 2014, operating from Jordan. They previously flew solely over Iraq until allowed to operate over Syria also earlier this year. In reality, Dutch pilots mostly only see action over Iraq.
Operations over Syria require satellite communication equipment, a feature the Dutch jets do not have. They largely rely on UHF radios. The reports do not say why the jets apparently do not need satellite radios over Iraq.
The Dutch Ministry of Defense in The Hague later on Tuesday stated that its F-16 indeed lack some relay methods, but at the same time said the jets do not operate over parts over Syria because the current mandate prevents it. It’s mostly US aircraft that operate over areas that now see fighting, according to Dutch MoD.
The RNLAF is replacing its F-16s with Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning IIs from 2019 onwards.
The apparent shortcoming begs the question how Belgian and Danish F-16s will support operations over Syria later this year. Both countries operate F-16s identical to the RNLAF, and are preparing to send jets to the area after the Dutch leave next July.
© 2016 Airheadsfly.com editor Elmer van Hest
Featured image: A Royal Netherlands Air Force F-16. (Image © Elmer van Hest)
Denmark is eager to buy up to 28 new Lockheed Martin F-35s, but nobody really knows where the money for the stealthy multi-role fighters will have to come from.
Officially the Danes haven’t made a decision yet on which aircraft replaces the F-16. But the Royal Danish Air Force focuses on the American aircraft so much, that Swedish SAAB already dropped out of the race in an early stage. The Swedes don’t see any fair play in the process after judging the criteria set by the Danish Ministry of Defence.
The Danes keep up appearances by saying the Eurofighter EF2000 Typhoon or the Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet may still be chosen, but nobody with insight into the process really believes that is the case. Nevertheless, Boeing recently began a final charm offensive towards Copenhagen in the hope to sell its Super Hornet, in particular now that Kuwait has opted for the Typhoon over the Boeing jet.
In the Danish capital, the debate on where the billions of dollars for the new jets have to come from has flared up again. As a cost-saving action is likely to buy Denmark between 24 and 28 jets, down from the projected 30 to fulfill basic needs. But that won’t be enough. Defence watchers fear the Danish military will be emptied from the inside – focusing on high-profile international operations with the new jet and undermining the strength on the ground and at sea.
Denmark won’t be the first. Officers of the Norwegian armed forces – Norway plans 52 F-35s – were recently ordered to turn in their sidearm, while the Norwegian navy is struggling to keep new frigates operational and manned.
For the Danes a same future lies ahead in a strategically located country that – when looking at its relatively small defence force – was already not taken seriously before NATO expanded with even less capable former Warsaw Pact countries.
Until the introduction of the new combat jet, the Royal Danish Air Force soldiers on by keeping 24 F-16s operational (with more in long-term maintenance). Their role will almost certainly be taken over by F-35s, but when and with what consequences the next few years will tell.
© 2016 Airheadsfly.com editor Marcel Burger
Featured image: An F-35A inflight. (Image © Lockheed Martin)
If the Danish government has its way, Royal Danish Air Force F-16s will rejoin the fight against Islamic State forces in Iraq and Syria. Plans were unfolded in Copenhagen on Friday 4 March to send F-16s to the area, along with a C-130 transport aircraft and 400 personnel. The Danish jets already operated over Iraq until October 2015.
The deployment plan comes after initial reports over a supposed lack of appropriate training of Danish F-16 pilots. Also, earlier operations were said to have taken their toll on equipment and people. The Danish operated from Kuwait earlier, using seven F-16s.
France and the US requested the support of the Danes again in fighting Islamic State or Daesh forces in Iraq and Syria. A parliamentary vote on the issue is expected in the first half of April.
Dutch and Belgian F-16s were also involved in combat missions before. Currently, only Dutch F-16s remain in theatre. Their mission will end in October, with Belgian F-16s returning to take their place.
© 2016 Airheadsfly.com editor Elmer van Hest
Featured image: A Danish F-16. (Image © Elmer van Hest)