After evaluating the Eurofighter Typhoon, Boeing F/A-18 Super Hornet and Lockheed Martin F-35 as Denmark’s next primary fighter jet, the country’s government is recommending the F-35 “unequivocally” as superior in “strategic, military, economic, and industrial aspects.” Is this a needed win for this troubled jet?
That’s the exact language from the Danish government, which has posted an entire website explaining how they decided that the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter is far and away the best possible plane to replace the country’s current fighting fleet of F-16s.
Those jets have been flying for about 35 years, and are approaching the end of their usable lifespan according to an executive summary about picking Denmark’s next top jet fighter.
The Danish testing methods did not involve sending all three jets into the sky and seeing which could take the other two down or blow more stuff up first (a shame, I know.) The comparison was conducted hypothetically– with expert panels comparing the three jets’ functional abilities and economic models developed to tabulate lifecycle costs. Saab’s Gripen NG was initially on the short list as well, but retracted by Swedish authorities.
And apparently, in spite of the F-35's ongoing developmental issues and reputation for running over budget we’ve been hearing about for the past few years, the Danes are saying this jet beats the F/A-18 or Typhoon both on capability and cost.
The Danish government has officially recommended spending about $3 billion to procure a fleet of 27 F-35s. In combat, their studies cite “the low radar signature of the aircraft as well as the application of advanced systems and sensors that enhance the pilot’s tactical overview and ensure the survival of the aircraft and efficient mission performance” as major advantages.
This combat comparison scores all three jets on four aspects, which the Danish government defined as follows:
- Survivability: How well the fighter aircraft is capable of protecting itself against enemy weapon systems
- Mission Effectiveness: How well the fighter aircraft performs the task assigned.
- Future Development: The extent to which the fighter aircraft is expected to constitute a relevant operational and technically applicable fighter aircraft capability throughout its entire 30-year lifespan.
- Candidate risk: The risks that cannot be quantified economically.
The Danes have also decided that the F-35 will be significantly cheaper than the F/A-18 or Typhoon, mainly because they won’t have to buy as many jets in total.
Specifically citing that “the airframe of the Joint Strike Fighter is designed to be capable of flying 8,000 hours, whereas the Eurofighter and the Super Hornet are both designed to fly 6,000 hours,” the Danish government has determined that 28 F-35s can do the work of 34 Typhoons or 38 F/A-18s. Though the same documents actually recommend only 27 F-35s actually be purchased.
DefenseNews reports that Denmark has been shopping for an F-16 replacement for some time.
The competition was in its early stages in 2010 when economic woes forced the government to pause the program. It was officially re-launched in 2013, but with a reduced buy — 30 fighters instead of 48.
Denmark’s purchase of the new F-35s will still have to be approved in the country’s parliament, and debates are expected to last up to a month. That will be another opportunity for criticism of the jet’s continuously rising cost and development issues to surface, we’ll see how it plays out either way for this Scandinavian air force soon.
Meanwhile Denmark is sending some of their still-flying F-16s and 400 troops to Iraq and Syria as reported by The Local and others.