The Royal Danish Air Force (RDAF) has created a buzz in military circles with its decision to sell some of its older fighter jets. Awaiting the delivery of brand-new F-35As, the service has decided to sell its aging fleet of F-16s, which have been in use since the 1980s, according to Danish Radio.
As soon as the news broke out, speculation was rife about potential buyers. Some even expressed concerns fearing the jets might fall into the wrong hands.
The Danish Air Force is set to sell 16-24 out of its 43 F-16s that it says still have some life left in them from which other countries can benefit. Most of these aircraft are nearing their expiration date.
With the entire contingent of 27 F-35A to arrive in Denmark by 2027, it has decided to phase out its old fleet, reported Copenhagen Post.
The Danish Defence Command, Forsvaretdk took possession of the first F-35A in April this year. The aircraft are being tested in Arizona, where it is currently based, for the last four months.
The Danish Ministry of Defence’s Materiel and Procurement Agency (FMI) is set to start selling off the requisite stock of the nation’s F-16 fighter jets by early next year. It expects to sell every unit for about 100 million kroner each.
“From next year we will be able to sell the first eight aircraft. If we are so lucky that we can find a buyer who can be approved”, FMI Lieutenant Colonel Casper Børge Nielsen, who has been tasked with making the transition from F-16 to F-35 as painless as possible, told Danish Radio, according to Copenhagen Post.
Concern About F-16 Phaseout
The decision to sell off the aging fighter jets has sparked concerns among human rights organizations including Amnesty International, even though there is no clarity on the buyer yet. Activists believe that it could potentially lead to proliferation in hands that commit war crimes.
“Fighter aircraft is a powerful weapon that can be used in the wrong hands to attack civilian targets. We have seen this before in Syria and Yemen, among others,” said Dan Hindsgaul, Secretary-General of Amnesty International Denmark.
Even though Denmark said the money it makes from the sale will be invested back into the country’s defense budget, the process is not as simple as it may sound. According to the SOP in place, a reliable and interested buyer has to be found first.
Then the selected buyer will have to pass the legal approval test of the Danish Defence and the US apart from clearance from the Danish Parliament.
America is unflinchingly particular about who is using its weapon system so as to prevent its passing on to adversaries or rogue states and non-state actors. This makes the sale of F-16 a very deliberative and comprehensive process.
“The state must go to great lengths to ensure that the aircraft are not resold in 1-2 years. Our fear is that they end up in the hands of someone who uses them for war crimes or human rights violations”, Kristian Weise of Oxfam Ibis has said.
Is Turkey Buying Danish Jets?
Speculation is rife about Turkey being a potential customer for the F-16s, reported the Copenhagen Post. However, the possibility of that happening remains under the cloud with Ankara embroiled in a tussle with Washington over its Russian S-400 deal.
Since America oversees and approves who buys its equipment, Turkey’s chance with the F-16 looks bleak unless Washington takes an amicable decision in its rebellious ally’s favor. The prospect, however, is unlikely.
Turkey was ousted by the United States from its F-35 program as it decided to go ahead with the purchase of Russian Air Defence systems despite being a NATO ally.
The US move has put a big hurdle before Turkey’s air force modernization plan. Recently, Ankara has requested Washington to allow it to purchase the latest F-16 variant given that Turkey has to phase out its aging F-16 fleet.
In 2016, Denmark had signed a deal with Lockheed Martin for 27 F-35A Lightning II joint strike fighters (JSF) that are to be delivered by 2027. This deal makes Denmark only the fifth country after the UK, Italy, the Netherlands, and also its Scandinavian neighbor, Norway.
Lockheed Martin and the Danish Armed Forces have enjoyed a successful defense partnership with the latter securing tranches of the T-33 Shooting Star, F-104 Starfighter, C-130 Hercules, and the F-16 Fighting Falcon.
It remains an important partner in the F-35 production program and it flew its first F-35A in March this year, a month before it took possession of the first.
However, even this deal has been marred with controversies as the United States NSA has been accused of trying to influence the deal in America’s favor by overriding SAAB Gripens and Eurofighter Typhoons, as previously reported by EurAsian Times.
It has also been touted as an aircraft that will make the Danish military pay huge maintenance costs and one with a much more elevated noise level as compared to the Falcons.
However, the F-35A is set to become a force multiplier once it enters service in Denmark. The F-35A is the latest fifth-generation stealth fighter developed by the United States. It will replace the Danish Air Force’s aging fleet of F-16 Fighting Falcons which have been the primary fighter aircraft for several years.
Denmark’s F-16s are currently on their final deployment as some of them are nearing the expiry date. Since September this year, they have been based at the Siauliai Airbase in Lithuania where they are tasked with policing the area covering the Baltic States.
They have reportedly done a good job by intercepting several Military aircraft trying to enter the air spaces of NATO states. As tensions sporadically run high in the Baltic with aggressive and expansive Russian overtures, the deployment becomes necessary and the reliable Falcons have taken on the job quite successfully.
However, now Denmark has taken a call that it is time to bid farewell to F-16s starting early next year. The F-16s served as the most potent aircraft in the Danish armor with its multirole all-weather capabilities and its incredible agility.