Uncertainty looms over delivery of Danish F-35 fighter jets

Rebekka Søndergaard / Forsvaret

The timeline for the delivery of the next batch of Danish Lockheed Martin F-35A Lightning II fighter jets remains unclear, prompting Defense Minister Troels Lund Poulsen to urge the Armed Forces to explore contingency plans in case of potential delays. 

“Today, I informed the conciliation circle that there is still uncertainty about the delivery of the next F-35 fighter jets,” Poulsen said in a statement. “It is too early to say what this will mean, but I have asked the Danish Defense Forces to look at possible initiatives to counter the delay.” 

Lockheed Martin, the manufacturer of the F-35 aircraft, aims to have the first aircraft in TR3 configuration ready by July 2024. The TR3 configuration is designed to enable modernized Block 4 capabilities for the F-35 fighter aircraft by providing it with additional computing power. Block 4 is expected to feature a range of significant system upgrades, including an improved radar system, upgraded electronic warfare capabilities, and a new set of long-range precision weapons. 

However, there is a significant risk of delays, which means the exact delivery timeframe is uncertain. Lockheed Martin has disclosed that it has encountered setbacks in the flight certification process for TR3 due to unexpected challenges faced by its subcontractor, L3Harris. The latter is responsible for producing the F-35’s new integrated core processor. 

According to the Danish Ministry of Defense, the armed forces will be planning proactive measures to address the potential impact of any delay.  

These include considering the temporary repatriation of some Danish F-35A fighters currently deployed at the joint training facility in Arizona, US, exploring support from other nations for continued pilot training, and evaluating options for acquiring or borrowing F-35 aircraft from partner nations.

“The F-35 fighter jets are a major investment for Denmark, crucial for our defense and security for years to come,” Poulsen emphasized. 

The Danish Ministry has stated that the current situation is not expected to affect Denmark’s commitment to donating F-16 aircraft to Ukraine or its obligations to NATO in crisis situations. In August 2023, Denmark, the Netherlands, and Norway pledged to deliver their respective fleets of fighters. 

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