Thursday, March 28, 2013

Denmark Considering Alternative Fighters Besides F-35

Denmark, one of the eight partner countries of the United States in the development of the F-35 fighter aircraft, will consider alternative candidates to replace its existing fleet of 30 F-16 aircraft.

The number and type of aircraft will be determined before the end of June 2015. The candidates under consideration are:
  • the F-35 Lightning II from Lockheed Martin
  • the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet from Boeing
  • the Eurofighter Typhoon from EADS, BAE and Alenia Aeronautica
  • the Gripen from Saab
The Dassault Rafale will not be competing at this point in time.

Denmark had originally been expected to buy as many as 48 F-35 aircraft, but may now only be able to afford at best 24 fighters. That is assuming aircraft costs that are escalating are brought under control.

While the partner countries are not obliged to opt for the F-35 and the Joint Strike Fighter may ultimately get selected, the decision by Denmark to look at alternative fighter aircraft is indicative of the problems facing the F-35 program.

The F-35 program that is led by Lockheed Martin is several years behind schedule in development, over budget and continues to suffer from unresolved technical problems.

These same issues have already caused several other countries such as Australia, Canada and the Netherlands to make changes to their original plans regarding the F-35.

The reduced purchases or even outright cancellations of F-35 aircraft by just once country put further pressure on aircraft costs for everyone else. These price increases can lead to further reductions in aircraft numbers somewhere else, creating a vicious cycle that feeds on itself.

The F-35 program was originally projected to be produced in very large numbers. Much of the original aircraft costs calculations were based on those projected numbers.

The F-35 program needs to have those numbers produced. If one country reduces its purchases, they have to be made up by purchases from some other country. Without that, it will be very hard for the F-35 to realize the goals that had originally been envisioned when the project was first conceived.

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