On Monday, US President-elect Donald Trump joined the chorus of F-35 critics, arguing that total cost of the controversial program was “out of control.” However, Nordic NATO members Norway and Denmark, which currently rank among the biggest F-35 buyers besides the US, don’t intend to back down and plan to make good their promises.
The F-35 program has been beset by problems from the start, with schedule delays and technical snags ballooning the price of the aircraft hundreds of billions above initial estimates.
Whereas Donald Trump pledged to modify the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter Program in a bid to reduce wasteful government spending, Norway and Denmark, which are both relying on the costly warplanes to update their ageing aircraft fleet, intend to carry on with their orders, which naturally pale in comparison with the massive procurement of over 2,400 jets by the US Air Force.
The F-35 program and cost is out of control. Billions of dollars can and will be saved on military (and other) purchases after January 20th.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 12, 2016
Earlier this year, Denmark, which is among the nine partner countries that are paving the way for the futuristic fighter jet, ordered 27 F-35s from American arms manufacturer Lockheed Martin. The choice stirred considerable criticism from Danish military experts, who argued that the transaction would leave a big dent in the Danish state coffers. The lifetime costs were estimated by former Defense Minister Peter Christensen as 56.4 billion DKK (over $8bln), whereas a Radio24syv report found the total expenditure to be closer to 100 billion DKK ($14.5bln). In November, the Danish government sought extra money for equipment for the fighters.
According to Danish military expert Anderas Krog, who keeps track of the Danish F-35 drama, Denmark’s decision was final and is unlikely to be shaken by Trump’s scathing remarks.
“I can’t see how it [Trump’s criticism] can possibly have any effect. Also, my impression is that the project is not out of control. Quite the contrary,” Anderas Krog said, as quoted by the Danish tabloid newspaper BT. However, Krog admitted that it may be of importance whether the US ultimately decides to have fewer aircraft or have them delivered at a slower pace.
At present, Denmark owns a fleet of 30 F-16 fighter jets that have been in service since the 1980s.
Even Denmark’s northern neighbor Norway, which previously ventured upon buying 51 F-35s in the nation’s single largest military procurement and tailored its new defense strategy to specifically rely on US-made fighter jets to provide the country’s security, intends to stay firm. Recently, Norway had the first four F-35s delivered and plans to continue its increasingly close cooperation with the US. “This is a very long-term and well-founded cooperation,” Norwegian Defense Minister Ine Eriksen Søreide told NRK during her recent visit to Luke airbase in Phoenix, Arizona, where Norwegian crews are being trained to fly and maintain Norway’s new war toy. Eriksen Søreide took special pride in the fact that Norway is at present the single largest partner nation in the US F-35 program.
The Norwegian Defense Ministry would not comment on Trump’s tweet, which caused Lockheed Martin’s stock to fall by 5 percent in only a few hours and filled a number of US states where the military-industrial complex is a major employer with fear.
“We can confirm that we had four aircraft delivered on time and at the agreed price,” Norwegian defense spokesman Endre Lunde told Norwegian broadcaster NRK. Previous estimates by the Norwegian Defense Ministry indicated that the aggregate price tag will reach roughly 70 billion NOK (some $8.5bln), whereas the total lifetime expenditure is expected to surpass 260 billion NOK ($31bln). Additionally, education and maintenance cooperation with the US is expected to continue for at least 40 years.