Denmark agreed Tuesday to contribute $125 million over the next decade to help the United States and the United Kingdom develop the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, the first of four European countries with aging F-16 fleets to join the program.
Getting allied participation in the estimated $200 billion F-35 program has been a top goal for both the U.S. Defense Department and Lockheed Martin, the main contractor for the plane. More countries participating would mean more countries buying copies of the jet — driving down costs for the Pentagon and boosting sales for Lockheed Martin.
Denmark is the third U.S. ally to agree to participate in the F-35 development phase. The U.K. is contributing about $2 billion and Canada about $100 million.
But it’s the first European nation owning an F-16 fleet to sign up for the development phase. Parliaments in the Netherlands and Norway – two other countries with F-16s — are discussing possible participation. The fourth country, Belgium, doesn’t plan to replace its F-16s until after 2015.
Meanwhile, Italy and Turkey also are discussing their possible involvement in the F-35’s development, said Pete Aldridge, the Pentagon's acquisition chief.
Tuesday's agreement does not commit Denmark to buying any of the jets, said Jorgen Hansen-Nord, Denmark's national armaments director.
“That decision is 12 to 15 years in the future,” Hansen-Nord said at a Pentagon ceremony to sign the agreement.
But participating in the development phase offers Denmark an opportunity for lower fly-away costs on the final product.
In October, the U.S. Defense Department awarded Lockheed Martin a nearly $20 billion engineering and development contract that is expected to lead to contracts to build more than 3,000 of the planes.
The Pentagon plans to use versions of the F-35 to replace its F-16s, A-10s, AV-8B and older F/A-18s used by the Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps. Britain's Royal Air Force and Navy plans to buy 150 of the planes as a replacement for its Harriers.
The plane is designed to combine supersonic speeds with stealth technology to thwart enemy radar. Versions for the Marines will be designed to hover and take off vertically, while the Navy versions will be designed to take off and land on aircraft carriers.
The first 22 planes are to be delivered in 2008. Each is expected to cost between $40 million and $50 million, depending on its configuration.
© Aviation Week & Space Technology 05/29/02