US Wants Denmark to Buy More F-35 Fighter Jets, Bolster Surveillance in Arctic

Several Danish parties opined that the US ambassador had gone too far in instructing Copenhagen how to spend its money.

The United States has encouraged Denmark to buy more F-35 fighter jets. This message has been delivered by US Ambassador to Denmark Carla Sands.

So far, Denmark has bought 27 F-35 fighter jets from the US, but at least five of those will be permanently stationed in the US.

“Some of the Danish planes stay in the United States, because Danish pilots will be trained in Arizona, and about 22 planes will come to Denmark,” Sands told the newspaper Jyllands-Posten.

“This is not many aircraft compared to the 38-40 F-16 you have today. It is actually a reduction in the number of aircraft, so Denmark should probably look into it,” Sands continued. According to the Danish Defence Ministry, only 30 F-16s are actually in use.

Furthermore, ambassador Carla Sands voiced her apprehension over NATO’s insufficient aircraft power and surveillance capacities in the Arctic, urging Copenhagen to fulfil three-year-old promises to strengthen defence and surveillance there.

Ambassador Sands referred to a 2016 report from the Ministry of Defence on the tasks in the Arctic, where concerns over the Russian military presence in the region was voiced. Sands also suggested that the report indicated a lack of satellites, which reflects the fact that Denmark does not monitor Greenland’s skies or waters well enough, and is lagging behind.

Military funding remains yet another sensitive spot in US-Danish relations, as Washington has been pushing for NATO members to raise their defence budget to at least 2 percent of the gross domestic product (GDP), in accordance with the 2014 summit in Wales.

While Denmark finally agreed on a DKK 35.3 billion (nearly $5.2 billion) boost the budget from 1.35 to 1.5 percent of the GDP in 2023, this is still a far cry from the stated goal.

While Washington previously demanded that each and every NATO member state present a plan on how it will raise military spending to the target level at a NATO summit in London on 3-4 December, it has not been specified what the consequences will be if they fail to comply.

Denmark’s Minister of Defence, Social Democrat Trine Bramsen, stressed that there are no plans to procure more fighter aircraft. Nor should US President Donald Trump expect Copenhagen to present a plan for an increased defence budget at the London summit, she said.

Gone Too Far

Both the Social Democrats and the right-wing Danish People’s Party concluded that Carla Sands had gone too far in instructing Copenhagen on how to spend its defence budget.

“It’s simply not possible for the US ambassador to start pinpointing what exactly Denmark should buy”, the Danish People’s Party foreign spokesman Søren Espersen told the newspaper Altinget. He called this unacceptable and stressed that he’s never experienced it before.

“I didn’t know she had become an aeroplane broker. I believe she was a diplomat first and foremost. It is a novelty that we have an ambassador who says we have to buy aircraft of a certain brand,” Social Democrats defence spokesman Bjarne Laustsen said. “She probably wouldn’t have said that had we chosen Eurofighter instead of F-35 as Denmark’s new fighter aircraft,” he added.

Denmark will receive a total of 27 F-35s produced by US Lockheed Martin between 2023 to 2027. The fighter jets previously sparked a prolonged political debate in Denmark and were found to have issues with noise levels.

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