Ask critics of the F-35 Lightning II why they're so opposed to the expensive, controversial plane, and they'll likely point to a report from an unnamed test pilot, reported here last June, that said the new jet was significantly outperformed in air-to-air combat maneuvers by the aging F-16. Now, a new and comprehensive report from the Danish government is painting a far different picture.
The Danish Ministry of Defense has published its findings from a three-way contest between the F-35, F/A-18 Super Hornet, and the Eurofighter Typhoon. And despite the F-35/F-16 controversy here in the US, the Danes claim the Lightning was the best in all four testing areas. The MoD considered the three fighters in strategic, military, economic, and industrial aspects.
While the strategic, economic, and industrial angles are largely Danish-specific points of view, the military position will be of particular interests to F-35 fans in the US. The MoD broke things down to survivability, mission effectiveness, future development, and candidate risk. The Danes said the F-35's stealthy characteristics as a big win in the survivability and mission effectiveness categories, and as the youngest, it has the brightest future in terms of development. The only area where the F-35 fell down was in candidate risk. The F-18 took the win there, while the F-35 and Eurofighter were nearly tied. According to the MoD, the Hornet's ubiquity and age mean that acquiring the planes and parts is easier. Unfortunately, none of the MoD's studying actually included real-world, air-to-air comparisons.
Now, you're probably wondering how the F-35 – better known as the most expensive weapons system ever created – won the economic and industrial aspects. In short, the plane's capabilities colored these two areas. Because it's so much more capable, the Danish report claims the government only has to buy 28 Lightnings to 34 Typhoons or 38 Hornets. Quality over quantity, it seems.
According to Foxtrot Alpha, the F-35's $3 billion purchase price still needs to be approved by the Danish parliament. A decision isn't expected until June.