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Denmark picks F-35 in historic jet purchase

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Denmark picks F-35 in historic jet purchase
A Lockheed Martin F-35 fighter jet on display at the Singapore Airshow 2010. Photo: Roslan Rahman/Scanpix
08:43 CEST+02:00
Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen announced on Thursday that Denmark has settled on the F-35A Lighting II in the culmination of a years-long process to replace the nation's fleet of fighter jets.
The government will recommend that parliament approve the purchase of 27 new new F-35A Lightning II jets, also known as Joint Strike Fighters.
 
"We can monitor our airspace... and work in wars and conflicts around the world," Rasmussen said at a press conference announcing the choice.
 
The F-35 from American weapons producer Lockheed Martin was chosen over Boeing's Super Hornet, the other contender for the massive Danish contract, despite Boeing's aggressive advertising campaign and concerns about the F-35's stability. 
 
US production of the F-35 has been beset by problems to such an extent that Senator John McCain recently called it “a scandal and a tragedy with respect to cost, schedule and performance.”
 
Spiralling costs and schedule delays for the production of 2,457 planes in the United States has left the development of the aircraft costing over $400 billion, almost twice the initial estimate, according to a CNN report.
 
A Pentagon report said in February that the F-35A remains dogged by dangerous problems sure to further complicate what is already the most expensive weapons project in history.
 
In the latest blow to the programme, engineers uncovered a slew of flaws during extensive testing of the newest versions of the F-35 series, the report found, adding to a litany of issues including software bugs, technical glitches and cost overruns.
 
Defence Minister Peter Christensen said that the total lifetime costs of the new fleet would cost 56.4 billion kroner ($8.7 billion), but a recent Radio24syv report indicated the total cost for 28 fighter aircraft over a 30-year lifespan including equipment and maintenance could run as high as 100 billion kroner ($15 billion).
 
The purchase of a new fleet of fighter jets has been on the agenda of the Ministry of Defence for almost a decade. The purchase was supposed to have been completed by July 1st, 2015.
 
Although the government is finally due to make its final recommendation on Thursday, a new political likely awaits over the final number of jets that will be purchased. 
 
Upon the news of the government's final pick, support party the Conservatives immediately said that there should be at least 30 jets while the left-wing Socialist People's Party countered that Denmark should only purchase 18 to 24. 
 
One contingent that appears to agree on the purchase is the Danish public, which is soundly against the idea. 
 
A poll conducted for political site Altinget showed that 59 percent of Danish voters disapprove of the huge purchase while just 25 percent think it's a good idea. 
 
A spokesman for government party Venstre said the poll results reflect a misguided debate around the historic purchase. 
 
“The entire discussion [about what the jets will be used for] has been missing and that can possibly be the reason why there are so many who cannot see the advantages of buying new fighter jets,” he told Altinget. 
 
Denmark currently has a fleet of 30 F-16 fighter jets that have been in service since 1980.
 
The F-35A fighter jets, which would replace the F-16 and which is still in development, are expected to be ready by 2027. Denmark is one of nine partner countries, that also include Britain, Canada and Turkey, who are helping pay for the futuristic F-35A fighter jet's development.
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