COPENHAGEN (Reuters) – Denmark will keep its fleet of F-16 fighter jets operational three years longer than planned amid a heightened security threat from Russia, the country’s Defence Minister Morten Bodskov said on Monday.
The NATO country will spend 1.1 billion Danish crowns ($156 million) to keep its F-16s flying until 2027. Denmark agreed in 2016 to buy a fleet of F-35 Lightning fighter jets from Lockheed Martin with a plan to retire its F-16s in 2024.
“The defence of NATO territory to the east is more central than at any other time in recent history. That is why we are extending the operational capacity of the F-16s while the new F-35 jets are being phased in,” Bodskov said in a statement.
“Putin’s aggression in Ukraine has changed Europe and the threats we face,” he said.
The decision will allow Denmark to strengthen its national defence and to participate in NATO missions, such as air policing in the Baltic countries, the defence ministry said.
($1 = 7.0640 Danish crowns)
(Reporting by Jacob Gronholt-Pedersen; Editing by Bernadette Baum)