Danish military officials crisscrossed the U.S. last week in a major step toward restarting competition for the country’s fighter replacement program.
On Nov. 12, the delegation visited Boeing’s facility in St. Louis to see the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet.
Nov. 13 and 14 were spent on meetings in Washington before traveling to a Nov. 15 meeting in Fort Worth, Texas, where the group got a firsthand look at Lockheed Martin’s F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) program.
“It was very productive, and we look forward to working with both companies in the future,” said Maj. Gen. Flemming Lentfer, the head of the delegation.
But Danish officials caution not to expect a quick decision.
“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 combat 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 since then, the Eurofighter consortium has signaled that it wants the Typhoon to be considered when the competition 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.
Boeing spokeswoman Mary Brett described the visit as positive but directed questions to the Danish Defense Command.
“We are pleased that the Danish delegation has visited our facilities to discuss a variety of subjects relating to Lockheed Martin aircraft,” wrote Lockheed Martin spokeswoman Laurie Quincy in an email. Quincy added that the company has not been given a specific time frame for when Denmark will renew the selection process.
Lockheed is advantageously positioned over the competition, having already established relationships with Danish industry through Denmark’s partnership in the JSF program.
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.
At an event Nov. 8, Tom Burbage, Lockheed’s general manager for the F-35 program, dismissed the idea that having one of the early 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.”