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.
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.
The first of 16 AgustaWestland AW101 helicopters for the Norwegian Ministry of Justice and Public Security (MoJ) successfully performed its maiden flight at the AgustaWestland Helicopter Division’s Yeovil factory in the UK on 21 March 2016. This was announced by Finmeccanica on 23 March 2016.
The successful on-schedule maiden flight marks a major milestone and the start of the flight test programme that will lead to initial aircraft deliveries to the MoJ, for operation by the Royal Norwegian Air Force, in 2017. Aircraft deliveries will continue through to 2020.
“I am very pleased that Finmeccanica has reached this important milestone in the SAR helicopter project and thereby making good progress for the replacement of the aging Sea King helicopter with the new state-of-the-art AW101 by 2020,” says the Minister of Justice and Public Security, Mr. Anders Anundsen.
As we reported earlier, the Norwegian Ministry of Justice and Public Security signed a contract for 16 AW101 helicopters plus support and training, back in december 2013, to meet the Norwegian All Weather SAR Helicopter (NAWSARH) requirement based on a new generation aircraft. Each aircraft is provided with an advanced SAR equipment package including a multi-panel AESA (Active Electronically Scanned Array) surveillance radar system, that provides 360° coverage. The large cabin doors and rear ramp provide easy access for personnel, survivors and equipment into the 27 m3 cabin which has stand-up head room throughout.
Finmeccanica’s Helicopter Division will provide initial support and training services, including spares at each of the aircraft operating bases and aircrew training. It will then provide performance based logistic support to deliver approximately 90,000 flying hours across the fleet of 16 helicopters over the initial 15 year period of operation. In support of pilot training, a full flight simulator will be available in Norway in advance of the delivery of the first aircraft.
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.
Danish F-16 aircraft – or rather their pilots – are not ready to bomb so-called Islamic State forces (Daesh / ISIS / ISIL) in Syria. The fighter jocks need additional training now that Russia has deployed an advanced anti-air missile system in Syria.
“Our F-16 pilots need ‘re-schooling’ and more advanced training before they could be sent into Syrian airspace. The threat against the aircraft is just too big,” Danish defense minister Peter Christensen told journalist of the quality Danish newspaper Politiken.
Denmark may be called upon by France after Paris requested military help from the European Union countries following the terror attacks in the French capital. All EU countries, including Denmark, agreed to come to the rescue under EU rules.
F-16 Detachment in Kuwait
While Royal Air Force Tornado and Typhoon jets recently joined Royal Netherlands Air Force F-16s and the air forces of the United States and France in targeting both ISIS’s economic (oil fields) and military locations, the defence minister in Copenhagen says that Danish pilots are not ready to do a similar job.
S-400 on Khmeymim Airbase
The very advanced S-400 surface-to-air missile system that Russia deployed on/near Khmeymim Airbase near the Syrian city of Latakia after one of its Sukhoi Su-24 was downed by a Turkish F-16. The S-400 missiles are believed to be able to reach targets at more than 110 miles (185 km) with almost 3 times the speed of sound (Mach 2.9).
F-16 Detachment in Kuwait
Denmark withdrew its detachment of seven F-16 jets, based at Ahmed Al Jaber Airbase in Kuwait, this Autumn from Operation Inherent Resolve. The last of 547 missions was flown on 30 September 2015. The Danes retreated because of verworked maintenance crews, untrained pilots (for other missions than air strikes against ISIS) and budgetary constrains. The Royal Danish Air Force F-16s only operated against targets in Iraq.