Denmark’s first F-35A takes flight

The first Lockheed Martin F-35A Lightning II fifth-generation multi-role stealth fighter for the Royal Danish Air Force has completed its maiden flight.

The aircraft – serial L-001 (c/n AP-01) – graced the skies for the first time on March 8, flying out of Lockheed Martin’s F-35 production facility in Fort Worth, Texas. The Danish government approved the procurement of 27 examples of the conventional take-off and landing (CTOL)-configured F-35A in June 2016, with the new fleet serving as a replacement for its ageing Lockheed Martin F-16AM/BM (MLU) Fighting Falcon multi-role fighters.

Danish F-35A [Brandon Thetford]
Denmark's first Lockheed Martin F-35A Lightning II - serial L-001 (c/n AP-01) - completed its maiden flight from the company's F-35 production facility in Fort Worth, Texas, on March 8, 2021. Brandon Thetford 

Lockheed Martin states that the first F-35A is scheduled to be handed over to the RDAF during a ceremony in Fort Worth on April 7. It adds that the aircraft will be flown to Luke Air Force Base (AFB), Arizona, for air and ground crew training purposes later this year. Denmark’s first F-35As will arrive in-country from 2023, with the initial examples being based at Flyvestation (Fighter Wing) Skrydstrup in the nation’s Jutland region.

Bill Brotherton, the acting vice president and general manager of Lockheed Martin’s F-35 programme, said: “Achieving the first flight of Denmark’s first F-35 is a major milestone for the Denmark F-35 programme and a testament to the outstanding abilities of our dedicated and highly trained joint industry and government team. This team’s focus on delivering the most effective, survivable and connected fighter in the world will ensure the sovereign protection of Denmark and strengthen allies and partners through the NATO F-35 coalition.”

Danish F-35A [Lockheed Martin]
Denmark will receive 27 examples of the CTOL-configured F-35A to replace its ageing fleet of F-16AM/BM (MLU) Fighting Falcons. Lockheed Martin

When Denmark officially receives its first aircraft this April, it will become the fifth nation in Europe to receive the F-35 – joining Italy, the Netherlands, Norway and the UK. While the other four nations already employ the platform operationally from their own sovereign territories, Denmark will not start flying the stealth fighter from its home soil until 2023.

Lockheed Martin adds that “the vital interoperability of the fifth-generation F-35 binds 13 allies and partners with the US in air dominance and enabling critical joint capabilities. The F-35 will serve as a force multiplier for Denmark, allowing the [RDAF] to train and fight alongside NATO allies and create a strong deterrent.”