Faced with growing costs in the Lockheed Martin F-35 program, Denmark is reviewing its options for a new fighter and has invited Boeing (F/A-18 Super Hornet), Eurofighter (Typhoon) and Saab (Gripen E) to submit information for alternatives. A decision is due in 2015. Dassault (Rafale) may have been approached, but at the time of writing appeared unlikely to respond. The company has a history of not bidding on programs that it calculates have little chance of success.
Denmark’s participation in the F-35 industrial program as a Level 3 partner was based on plans to procure 48 F-35As to replace its F-16 fleet one-for-one. Being a partner, however, does not oblige any country to purchase F-35s. Given its dwindling defense budget and escalating F-35 costs, Denmark might not be able to afford even half of the planned total.
Although it has bought aircraft from European suppliers before, including Drakens from Saab, Denmark has exhibited a strong preference for U.S. equipment. If the F-35 is not selected, Boeing’s Super Hornet has a strong chance, and has received considerable interest in recent years. Eurofighter–which previously withdrew from the Danish bidding process in 2007–now claims that its Typhoon would offer reduced costs to Denmark through interoperability with key NATO allies. Saab, meanwhile, has been pitching Gripen variants to Denmark for many years. Its Gripen DK proposal, along with a similar aircraft aimed at Norway, was the first public showing of a heavier, longer-range derivative that has evolved into the Gripen E now in development for Sweden and Switzerland.
These requests for information make Denmark the latest F-35 international partner to re-examine its planned purchase. In December Canada asked Boeing, Dassault, Eurofighter and Saab for information to enable a review of its fighter requirements. In the Netherlands the F-35 has faced substantial opposition, with parliament choosing to scrap the buy in a vote taken last June. Dutch participation, including the purchase of two test aircraft, was subsequently restored, but the country has deferred a purchase decision to 2015.