Denmark May Recall F-35 Stealth Fighters From The US As Lockheed Stealth Jets Face Delivery Issues

The Danish Ministry of Defense is grappling with uncertainty surrounding the delivery timeline of the next batch of Lockheed Martin F-35A Lightning II fighter jets. This ambiguity has prompted Defense Minister Troels Lund Poulsen to call for exploring contingency plans to address potential delays. 

In a recent statement, Defense Minister Poulsen expressed concern over the ongoing uncertainty, stating, “I have informed the conciliation circle that there is still uncertainty regarding the delivery of the next F-35 fighter jets. It is too early to say what this will mean, but I have asked the Armed Forces to look at possible initiatives that can counter the delay.”

The focal point of concern revolves around the Technology Refresh 3 (TR-3) configuration, which Lockheed Martin, the manufacturer of the F-35 aircraft, aims to have ready by July 2024. This upgrade was anticipated between April and June 2024, following a delay from the original target of April 2023. 

The TR3 configuration is intended to equip the F-35 fighter aircraft with enhanced Block 4 capabilities by providing additional computing power. These upgrades include improvements to the radar system, electronic warfare capabilities, and the integration of long-range precision weapons. 

However, significant risks of delays loom over the project. The company has disclosed it is encountering hurdles in the flight certification process for TR3 due to unexpected challenges faced by its subcontractor, L3Harris, responsible for manufacturing the F-35’s new integrated core processor.

As a result, the exact delivery schedule remains uncertain. In response to the uncertainty, the Danish Ministry of Defense is planning proactive measures to address potential delays. 

These measures include considering the temporary recall of some Danish F-35A fighters currently stationed at the joint training facility in Arizona, USA, and exploring support from other nations for ongoing pilot training. 

Several European countries utilizing the F-35 have stationed their aircraft at Luke AFB to facilitate pilot training. Further, the Danish Ministry is evaluating options to acquire or borrow F-35 aircraft from partner nations. 

“I have asked the Armed Forces to prepare several proposals for solutions that can form the basis of an overall solution that we can discuss and decide in the conciliation circle. The F-35 fighter jets are a major investment for Denmark, which will be important for our defense and security for many years to come. It is crucial that we follow the case closely,” said Troels Lund Poulsen.

Danish F-35 Fleet

Denmark has received a total of 10 F-35s thus far, with four stationed at Skrydstrup Air Base and six at Luke Air Force Base, Arizona, where Danish pilots and maintenance crews are undergoing training. The country plans to acquire a total of 27 F-35 aircraft.

In October 2023, Lockheed Martin officially transferred ownership of Denmark’s initial four F-35s to the Danish Ministry of Defense Acquisition and Logistics Organization at a ceremony held at Skrydstrup Air Base. 

Over 450 Danish and allied government, military, and industrial leaders attended the event, along with more than 10,000 local citizens who participated in an open house at the base.

Denmark’s deployment of fifth-generation fighter aircraft is intended to enhance NATO’s collective resilience in the Baltics and reinforce the alliance’s capability to deter and defend against threats across all domains. Denmark is the tenth country and the fifth European NATO member to operate the F-35 domestically.

Since joining the program in 2002 as a partner during the System Development and Demonstration phase, the Royal Danish Air Force has played a strategic role in influencing the technical aspects of the program. 

Danish Air Force F-35.

Additionally, a Danish F-16 was contributed to the Joint Strike Fighter 461st Flight Test Squadron at Edwards Air Force Base, California, serving as a chase plane for the F-35 Development, Test & Evaluation program. 

Danish industry has also contributed to F-35 production, development, and sustainment, currently manufacturing parts and components for the aircraft.

Meanwhile, concerns regarding delays in F-35 deliveries arise as Denmark, along with the Netherlands and Norway, plans to supply F-16 Fighting Falcons to Ukraine. 

Denmark, with 30 F-16s in service, has committed to providing Kyiv with 19 of these American-made aircraft later this year. Reports suggest that the first of these aircraft could arrive in Ukraine by summer. 

However, the Danish Ministry has affirmed that the current situation is not expected to impact Denmark’s commitment to providing F-16s to Ukraine or its obligations to NATO in crises.