Danish military officials will be visiting Washington this week in a major step toward restarting competition for their fighter replacement program. The delegation will meet with representatives from Lockheed Martin’s F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) program and Boeing’s F/A-18 Super Hornet.
Although Denmark is a partner in the JSF program, officials insist all options are on the table.
“No decision has been made,” said Lt. Col. Per Lyse Rasmussen, assistant defense attaché at the Danish Embassy. “We want an open and fair competition.”
Denmark announced its intention to replace its fleet of F-16s in 2005. But the program was frozen in 2010 amid economic worries and a decision that the existing jets would last longer than expected.
The replacement program initially involved purchasing 48 next-generation fighters, but that number has been reduced to about 30.
In addition to the conventional takeoff version of the JSF and the Super Hornet, Denmark is considering the Saab Gripen. The Eurofighter Typhoon pulled out of the initial competition but has since signaled it wants to be considered when the program is restarted.
Rasmussen expects Denmark to pick the jet that can provide the best package of strategic capabilities and industrial impact for the country’s defense industry. He also expects negotiators to drive a hard bargain over what will likely be the largest Danish defense expenditure in the next 30 to 40 years.
“We are difficult to deal with when negotiating but are a good and loyal costumer once a decision has been made,” Rasmussen said.
Lockheed may have an advantage, having already established relationships with Danish industry through Denmark’s partnership in the JSF program. Last week, F-35 industry partner Northrop Grumman announced a long-term agreement with Terma, the largest defense company in Denmark, to produce 34 unique components on the plane, a deal worth $97 million.
Denmark is a Tier-3 partner on the JSF and has contributed $210 million to the program. Although the partnership was supposed to pay large dividends for the Danish defense sector, some industry executives have complained of paltry returns on the investment.
Tom Burbage, Lockheed’s general manager for the F-35 program, said the company is “very happy to have” the Danish interested in purchasing the JSF and believes it has “a really good chance” at winning the competition.
He dismissed the idea that having one of the first JSF partners decide to purchase a different jet could harm the program.
“It’s totally up to the countries to decide what they want to do, what their national interests are,” Burbage said. “I don’t think it reflects on the program at all. It reflects on the political situations in their own home states.”
“Boeing will host a delegation from the Danish defense offices and we are looking forward to learning more about their updated plans for a new combat aircraft,” Boeing spokeswoman Mary Brett wrote in an email. “The Super Hornet has been and continues to be a model program in terms of performance, effectiveness and affordability and we are confident it provides the best-value solution to Denmark’s fighter requirements.”