Historic Day! Denmark Welcomes Four F-35 Stealth Fighters That Are Set To Replace F-16 Fighting Falcons

On September 14, the first group of four F-35 stealth fighters touched down at a Danish airbase, marking the arrival of US-manufactured fifth-generation warplanes.

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The F-35 fighter jets, having previously been engaged in international training at Luke Air Force Base in Arizona, arrived at Skrydstrup Air Base (Flyvestation Skrydstrup) in Denmark. 

This arrival was witnessed by high-ranking officials from the Danish government and military, with Defense Minister Troels Lund Poulsen among them.

The MoD posted photos on their official X (formerly Twitter) handle and a caption stating, “Today the Minister of Defense @troelslundp received the first four F-35 aircraft in Skrydstrup in Southern Jutland. It is a very special day for Denmark, and it is an important strengthening of the air force and the Danish defense with modern aircraft.” 

This development occurred two years after the Danish Ministry of Defense (MoD) received its first F-35A for Denmark, identified by its serial number L-001. 

The first four F-35 fighters arrived in Denmark to replace their F-16 Fighting Falcons

The official handover occurred at Lockheed Martin’s production facility in Fort Worth, Texas, during a ceremony held in April 2021.

Denmark is a partner nation in the global F-35 program. According to Lockheed Martin, the country’s armed forces are an integral part of the development and operation of the F-35 capacity. 

The country has placed an order for a total of 27 F-35 aircraft. A handful of planes will continue to be stationed in the United States. These jets are designated for the retraining and training of Danish pilots. 

By stationing some aircraft at Luke Air Force Base, Denmark can efficiently collaborate with its allied partners, sharing the responsibilities and resources involved in retraining, education, and associated investments. 

This approach alleviates the need for Denmark to individually invest in infrastructure like buildings, training equipment, maintenance tools, and service facilities and establish a specialized staff structure for training.

Furthermore, this arrangement allows Denmark to acquire a distinctive experience by being part of a squadron alongside its close partners. It benefits from a substantial pool of aircraft provided by the USA and the Netherlands.

F-35s To Replace Danish F-16s

A NATO member, Denmark has procured US-manufactured planes to modernize its aging F-16 fleet. Some older F-16s are designated to be sent to Ukraine as promised assistance.

Since the start of the Russian invasion in February 2022, Ukraine has been appealing for Western fighter aircraft to bolster its defense. Recently, the United States authorized Denmark and the Netherlands to supply American-manufactured jets to Ukraine.

In August, Denmark and the Netherlands announced they intend to contribute F-16 planes to Ukraine. Denmark committed to providing 19 aircraft, while the number from the Netherlands remained unspecified.

Denmark stipulated that its ability to deliver these F-16s hinged on receiving new F-35s first. Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen said in August that she hoped the first six F-16s could be handed over to Ukraine around New Year 2024.

F-16 AM E-005 flies over Denmark on October 1, 2020. (Image credit: RDAF)

Denmark had confirmed in June that the training of Ukrainian pilots on F-16 jets had commenced at Skrydstrup Air Base. 

Denmark invested US$2.2 billion in acquiring a fleet of 27 F-35 Lightning II fighters, intending to retire its aging F-16A/B MLU fighters.

Copenhagen has designated 19 of its F-16s aircraft for deployment within the Ukrainian Air Force, while the US Government has extended an offer to provide 38 F-16s to Argentina. 

Meanwhile, the livery of the Royal Danish Air Force’s (RDAF) F-35, like those of other global operators of the stealth fighter, predominantly adopts a low-visibility grey color scheme. However, the Danish F-35s are the first to incorporate colored roundals and the Dannebrog national flag.

The palette of the Danish F-35. (Image credit: RDAF)

Colonel Jan Dam, the Chief of Staff in the Armed Forces Air Command of the Royal Danish Air Force (RDAF), previously explained that two main factors influence this design choice. 

Firstly, they aimed for the aircraft to be recognized when lined up on the runway alongside F-35s from other nations. 

Secondly, it was intended to convey a symbolic message: these fighter jets are not solely possessions of the Armed Forces or the Air Force but belong to the Danish populace.

“The F-35 is not just the Armed Forces’ or the Air Force’s new fighter aircraft. All of Denmark’s fighter jets must ensure that we can all sleep safely at night. Therefore, the F-35 must, of course, be painted with Dannebrog on the tail fin and, in that way, show that the F-35 is the nation’s shield against enemies,” Colonel Jan Dam added. 

Nonetheless, these aircraft will bolster the overall strength of the Danish Air Force and facilitate the timely retirement of the F-16s for their subsequent transfer to Ukraine.