Lockheed Martin has flown the first example of an F-35A destined for the Royal Danish Air Force (RDAF, Flyvevåbnet). Company test pilot Joe “Hooch” Hutcheson was at the controls for the 90-minute maiden flight, which was undertaken from the Fort Worth factory on March 8. The aircraft wears the RDAF serial L-001, and is allocated the construction number AP-01 that identifies it as the first A-model for Denmark.
“Achieving the first flight of Denmark’s first F-35 is a major milestone for the Denmark F-35 program and a testament to the outstanding abilities of our dedicated and highly trained joint industry and government team,” said acting F-35 v-p and general manager Bill Brotherton. “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.”
Following manufacturer and government check flights, L-001 is due to be formally handed over to the RDAF in April. It will remain in the U.S. at Luke AFB, Arizona, where it will be employed for pilot and maintainer training under the auspices of the U.S. Air Force’s 308th Fighter Squadron, part of the 56th Fighter Wing.
The RDAF expects to receive its first F-35A on home soil in 2023. Twenty-seven are on order, and they will serve with the fighter wing at Skrydstrup. The wing currently has two squadrons (Esk 727 and 730) flying around 30 F-16AM/BMs. As well as domestic air defense commitments, the Danish F-16 force contributes to the NATO air defense detachments in the Baltic states and Iceland. It has also deployed aircraft for Operation Allied Force over Kosovo in 1999, to Kyrgyzstan for Enduring Freedom operations over Afghanistan in 2002, and for Unified Protector over Libya in 2011. The F-35 will replace the F-16 entirely in RDAF service, a process due to be complete by 2025.
Denmark invested in the F-35 industrial program during the System Development and Demonstration phase in 2002, and local companies Terma, Multicut, and Trelleborg Sealing Systems are elements of the supply chain. Terma is a major participant, supplying components such as engine nozzle rings, tail surface and composite skin components, underwing pylons, and the external cannon pod. As part of its team commitments, Denmark provided an F-16 to the Edwards-based 461st Flight Test Squadron in October 2008. The aircraft operated as a chase-plane for developmental test and evaluation trials until the end of 2016. In May that year, the Danish government firmed up its plans to acquire the F-35A following a long evaluation of alternatives.