Denmark backs Lockheed Martin's F-35 for $3 bln fighter jet deal
COPENHAGEN - ReutersU.S. defense company Lockheed Martin Corp is set to win a $3 billion order from Denmark for 27 F-35A stealth fighters, after a recommendation by the Danish government on May 12.
While a final decision by the minority government could still be weeks or even months away, the recommendation to buy F-35A jets marks a setback for Boeing Co, another U.S. weapons maker that mounted an expensive last-ditch marketing effort for its older F/A-18E/F Super Hornet.
Denmark would be the 11th country to buy the radar-evading F-35A jets, joining the United States, Britain, Australia, Turkey, Italy, Norway, the Netherlands, Israel, South Korea and Japan.
The government expects to spend about 20 billion Danish crowns ($3.1 billion) on the purchase, Prime Minister Lars Loekke Rasmussen said on Thursday, or about 740 million crowns per plane.
"The fighter jets are central to our participation in international missions in the Balkans, in Afghanistan, in Libya and recently in Iraq in the fight against ISIL (Islamic State)," Rasmussen told a news conference.
Lockheed Martin is expected to deliver the 27 jets between 2021 and 2027, he added. The plane will replace the Denmark's fleet of F-16s delivered by Lockheed Martin almost 40 years ago.
"In recent years we've seen how our existing F-16 jets have been in operation more often, for example when Russian planes have come too close to Danish airspace," Rasmussen said.
The selection by Denmark's minority Liberal government follows intense public debate about the cost of modernizing the country's air force, but it can still be blocked by parliament, where opposition politicians are urging budget restraint.
The government did not specify when the final decision would be made, but said enough time would be given to answer any questions from the parties backing the minority government.
Top Lockheed Martin and Boeing executives had planned to present their planes at a public hearing in Copenhagen on Friday, but were later advised by Washington not to participate.
Airbus Group said it still planned to attend the hearing to present the Eurofighter Typhoon - a third jet under consideration - and called for a "healthy and transparent" public debate. The German government is expected to throw its weight behind that bid by sending defence state secretary Katrin Suder to give evidence.
A Lockheed Martin spokesman welcomed the selection.
Reuters reported on Wednesday that Denmark's government would recommend the purchase of at least 27 F-35 fighters.