04:31 GMT +322 September 2019
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    High Anxiety: Denmark's Choice of Air Force Update Triggers Debate

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    The Danish Defense Forces' decision to squander a potential 30 billion kroner (roughly 4.5 billion dollars) on F-35 Joint Strike Fighter aircrafts from the US has sparked strong reactions.

    Yesterday, the Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighter was reported to be the preferable alternative to both the Airbus Eurofighter Typhoon and Boeing Super Hornet, despite the latter's aggressive advertising campaign in Denmark. This decision, which took Denmark's national defense committee almost a decade, has already proven controversial, with numerous politicians and experts pointing out that an update of the air force may prove largely detrimental for welfare expenditures.

    According to newspaper Berlingske, 48 new jets were initially on the government's shopping list before it was trimmed down to 30 in 2009. Many regard this number as still far too high.

    "What concerns us most, is that the fighter jets may become a cuckoo that pushes everything else out of the nest. The aircrafts may actually eat up all economy," Flemming Vinther, President of the Army Constable and Corporal Association (HKKF), told the newspaper Jyllands-Posten.

    Central Organization for Cadres (CS), Denmark's largest military trade union, agrees with Flemming Vinther.

    "We agree with HKKF's arguments to 100 percent. At the moment, it comes to buying as few jet fighters as possible," the organization told Jyllands-Posten.

    F-35B Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter
    © REUTERS / US Marine Corps/Lance Cpl. Remington Hall/Handout
    The drive to modernize Denmark's aging stock of F-16 fighter jets has become even more relevant in light of the country's recent decision to expand its air force operations in both Syria and Iraq. This decision came under fire from the Red-Green Alliance and the center-left Alternative, which also rebuked the air force update, advocating a boost to the country's public sector instead.

    "Danish air forces must not drop bombs out in the world. And when it boils down to territorial defense, opportunities to extend the lifetime of the existing F-16 should be considered," Eva Flyvholm of the Red-Green Alliance she told Berlingske. In her earlier interview with Berlingske, she said that the Defense's top marks to F-35 "reeked of match-fixing."

    Earlier this week, estimates for economic growth were revised downwards. Therefore, Denmark may find it hard to maintain its current level of social welfare and living standards, Berlingske's analysis says. With both the number of the elderly Danes and the immigrant population on the rise, most Danes would rather see a long-term investment in healthcare and education rather than a costly purchase of new fighter jets.

    With a provisional price tag of 550 million kroner (85 million dollars) per jet, the final cost is yet unknown. According to a report by Radio24syv, the total cost for 28 fighter aircraft over a 30-year lifespan including equipment and maintenance may run as high as 100 billion kroner (15 billion dollars). The Danish Parliament has yet set to negotiate the exact number of jets, with preferences among parties varying from 18 to "at least 30."

    Spiraling costs, exceeding twice the initial estimate, have together with systematic delays led to none other than Senator John McCain calling the Joint Strike Fighter "a scandal and a tragedy with respect to cost, schedule and performance."

    Previously, rival manufacturer Boeing's aggressive publicity campaign in Denmark led to public ridicule of its advertisements, sparking a campaign against warplanes altogether. Boeing's campaign, heavy with posters depicting the Super Hornet and advocating the potential creation of jobs for Denmark, were followed up by mock posters encouraging the Danish state to build the Star Wars Death Star.

    Tags:
    Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, Lockheed Martin F-35C Joint Strike Fighter, Eurofighter Typhoon, Berlingske, Jyllands-Posten, Airbus, Boeing, Scandinavia, United States, Denmark
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