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WASHINGTON — Denmark’s ranking military officer “strongly believes” his country will settle on its next-generation fighter design by mid-2015, expressing confidence in a timetable laid out earlier this year.
“I don’t sense any weaknesses in having this decision,” Gen. Peter Bartram, Danish chief of defense, said this morning. “I believe it will be there.”
Holding to that date is important as the life-cycle costs on the F-16 will reach untenable levels within the next decade, Bartram said.
“The reason why 2015 is relevant is, we all know it takes time to implement a new type of aircraft,” he said. “I can look at the life-cycle cost of my F-16s, which have been brilliant aircraft, and it is becoming extremely expensive.”
“I could probably prolong the time the F-16 could be active, but the spare parts, the logistics and the cost of having to keep them operational” would quickly become too expensive, he said. “We need to move forward.”
Bartram made his comments during an event hosted by the American-Danish Business Council at the Danish Embassy in Washington.
As part of his opening comments, Bartram spoke at length about the need for coalition partners and “smart defense” —sharing logistics and designs with other nations to help cut down costs. That will play a role in which fighter Denmark settles on.
“It matters to some extent whether we are the only one in future conflicts who have that kind of aircraft or vehicle” he said. “If we are the only one, we need to bring the logistics chain on our own. If we know other nations will have the same kind of equipment, you can at least expect there is potential for doing something on the logistics side.”
Finding a design that is used by many partners would be a positive in the eyes of the Danish military, he added.
“There will be tons of parameters,” Bartram said. “But if you’re looking at the smart defense aspect, it will be an advantage in that very focused area. Of course it will have an impact.”
That may give the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter an edge in the competition. In his speech, Bartram identified the US, UK and France as the three biggest allies for the Danish military, and both the US and UK plan to purchase large numbers of F-35s.
The JSF also has the advantage of economic ties to Denmark. The country is one of eight partner nations involved in funding the fifth-generation jet, and Denmark’s largest defense company Terma is part of the global supply chain for the fighter. Norway and the Netherlands, which share a water border with Denmark, are also partners on the program.
Denmark has eyed a replacement for their aging F-16 fleet for years. The competition was in the early stages in 2010 when economic woes forced the government to pause the program. It was officially relaunched in March, but with a reduced buy —30 fighters instead of 48.
Saab’s Gripen NG, Eurofighter’s Typhoon, Boeing’s F/A-18 Super Hornet, and Lockheed’s F-35 were all invited by the Danish military to compete for the award.