The Danish parliament poured cold water on plans for the Royal Danish Air Force to acquire American-made F-35A Lightning II jets as their next-generation fighter, citing the trillions of dollars spent by the US military on an aircraft that, in testing stages, fails mid-flight due to software glitches.
The parliament’s Committee of Defense strongly criticized the minority conservative-liberal government for initially selecting the F-35, questioning defense minister Peter Christensen and officials from the New Fighter Program Office (NFPO) on Wednesday.
The committee demanded that Christensen and NFPO officials explain the rationale behind choosing an aircraft with extraordinarily high capital costs compared to both flyaway-unit purchase price and lifecycle for each of the competitors to the F-35 in their fighter replacement program.
Despite heated opposition in the Danish parliament, the country’s defense ministry faces pressure from the US government, which has been aggressively lobbying other countries to acquire a jet that has already cost the American military in excess of $2 trillion and is unlikely to pass flight tests within the next few years. Defense industry analysts had expected that Denmark would commit to purchasing the F-35 ahead of the NATO summit meeting in Warsaw in July.
Danish opposition leaders argue that the F-35 will not be combat ready until 2024 at the earliest, leaving the country with a three-year gap starting in 2022, during which time their air defense will fall below military readiness assessments. They also allege that Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen has inflated flight-hour projections and understated the costs of the beleaguered fighter jet.
The Danish acquisition plan calls for purchasing 27 F-35A jets at a total lifecycle cost of $8.2 billion, assuming that the aircraft will not suffer the same technical glitches that continue to suck a massive portion in the US military’s budget.
"Costs can rise and fall. There are always some risks, but we will negotiate the best terms we can and we will do our utmost to clarify details as much as we can before we make the first purchase. We will look to secure better certainty on costs," said Christensen before parliament on Wednesday.