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Denmark’s First Production F-35 Lightning II Takes Flight

March 22, 2021
The first production F-35 Lightning II fighter aircraft is being delivered to NATO member Denmark and the Royal Danish Air Force.

Denmark became the fifth European NATO nation to adopt the advanced F-35 fighter jet with the inaugural flight of its first F-35 Lightning II production aircraft, the L-001. The other four nations are the United Kingdom (UK), the Netherlands, Italy, and Norway. Developed by Lockheed Martin Corp., the F-35 Lightning II supersedes the F-16 fighter jet with a superior suite of surveillance, electronic warfare (EW), and electronic countermeasures (ECM) systems within an airframe capable of long-range coverage and supersonic (Mach 1.6) speeds.

The fifth-generation F-35 (see the figure), scheduled to be delivered sometime in April 2021, adds tremendous warfighting capabilities to the Royal Danish Air Force. Bill Brotherton, acting F-35 vice-president and general manager, says: “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.” Brotherton points out that his team’s efforts on the aircraft add capability to the Danish forces and strengthens NATO: “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.”

The F-35 Lightning II is equipped for external and internal (stealth) weapons payloads. It features advanced data collection and tracking capabilities using advanced sensor fusion coordinated by high-powered computer processing and can also securely communicate details about collected data with allied air, maritime, and ground forces. For example, the aircraft integrates an active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar for long-range intelligence gathering and infrared (IR) cameras for 360-deg. shorter-range threat detection; six IR cameras mounted around the aircraft send detected imaging to a pilot’s helmet for rapid response. The extended suite of electronic weapons systems allows the F-35 to respond quickly to existing and emerging threats much faster than earlier-generation aircraft. 

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