In a first for the country, five US Air Force F-35 fighter jets will operate out of the Skrydstrup airbase in Denmark.
The aircraft arrived at the base in Southern Jutland on Monday, where they will be hosted until March 16 in preparation for the arrival of Denmark’s first F-35s from the US in the autumn.
The new planes will replace the Royal Danish Air Force’s current fleet of F-16s.
Originally slated to be drawn down with the first arrivals of new F-35s, Denmark has kept the F-16s — in service since the 1980s — in the air much longer than expected due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
The defense ministry revealed last summer it would extend the F-16’s service until 2027.
The fighters will be used to conduct training exercises with the Danish Armed Forces during this period in anticipation of the handover of the F-35s later this year.
“The visit by American F-35 fighter jets and associated personnel is an important part of the preparation for us receiving and starting to operate with our own aircraft later this year,” the Danish Ministry of Defence said.
“We gain operational experience when we fly and operate together in the air, but also all the logistics on the ground by having the planes here at the air station teaches us a lot.”
Though the American F-35s are the first to land in Denmark, six of the fifth-generation fighters are currently in service with the Danish Air Force at Luke Air Force Base in Arizona while personnel undergo training.
Denmark is keeping the fighters in the US to minimize the need for expensive training and infrastructure investments. Danish pilots are also taking advantage of the valuable experience they gain through close cooperation with experienced US counterparts.
Denmark is set to receive a total of 27 F-35s between 2021 and 2026.
The country has been part of the Joint Strike Fighter program since 1997.