Boeing and Denmark: Here There They Go Again


2016-09-25 By Ed Timperlake and Robbin Laird

Last May we published an article entitled: Boeing in Denmark: The New Alabama?

Amazingly, having lost the fighter competition in Denmark, Boeing is back taking on a sovereign state and treating Denmark as if it were the state of Alabama in the tanker competition.

In a Monty Python sketch they brilliantly played off the name of a then powerful American conglomerate, Gulf and Western, by cleverly changing the name to an American firm called “Engulf and Devour.”

There is nothing wrong with mulit-nationals, except those from the state controlled PRC, so it was just a good joke.

But there is a serious side that if an American “Engulf and Devour” firm does make a bad move off shore everyone loses.

Sadly the Boeing Corporation did just that in their blind quest to keep their F/A-18 “Hornet” line alive.

To be very fair to Boeing they make world class aircraft, and are a national treasure.

The dilemma of managing such a complex global company is captured by a comment made by the former VP for Embraer Air military North America Bill Buckey. He astutely pointed out that in his experience, often one division of a large U.S. Defense Firm doesn’t connect with another division in their marketing and actual teaming arrangements and can actually work at cross purposes.

The F/A-18 is just another linear derivate from the last century.

And the big company challenge perhaps has impeded Boeing from learning from their involvement in the F-22 or their key role in standing up a P-8/Triton dyad which is no more a linear derivative of the P-3 than the F-35 is a linear derivative of the 4th generation aircraft.

Consequently synergy and unity of purpose for fair global competition in the very demanding combat aircraft market is a very worthy goal but at times missed badly with significant consequences for all American off-shore marketing efforts.

However, to be very fair to the Boeing Corporation sometimes nasty events can also occur beyond the firms control.

The best example in the world is Boeing tragically losing a fighter competition for an F/A-18 down-select that they should have won.

The competition was for modernizing the Brazilian Air Force and right at the height of the selection process it was revealed that NSA was reading then President Dima’s personal e-mails.

Even worse NSA had a management system that even let Edward Snowden read her e-mails.

This NSA stupidity cost America around $ 7-9 Billion in work, especially for our skilled workers in the Boeing, formerly. McDonald plant, in St Louis.

Those skilled workers are building the F/A-18 T/M/S aircraft.

But, that line’s product is rapidly aging out as the next generation fighter F-35 has captured the world’s fighter market.

It is out of their desperation to keep the F/A-18 going that that a division of the Boeing Corporation leadership made a very bad mistake with significant consequences.

They can do whatever they wish but solid analysis can also be brought to the discussion to point out how they are behaving.

“As we said when the decision was announced, we believe the ministry’s evaluation of the competitors was fundamentally flawed and inaccurately assessed the cost and capability of the F/A-18 Super Hornet,” said Debbie Rub, vice president and general manager of Boeing’s global strike division.

“We’re taking this step because there’s too much at stake for Denmark and, potentially, other countries considering the Super Hornet.”

Boeing going directly against a decision made by a sovereign nation, essentially telling them they do not know what they are doing is insulting. It is the worst aspects of “Engulf and Devour.”

It is also the case that it makes little sense to try and intimidate a small nation when Boeing is still trying to sell other small nations, like Finland.

Why would any small nation wish to have a US company play like it is the tanker competition in the United States?

Additionally, while we were presenting at an airpower Conference in Copenhagen, it was during this time that the Russian’s were actually threatening and targeting a nuclear strike on Denmark:

“The Russian ambassador in Copenhagen says Danish warships would become ‘targets for Russian nuclear missiles”

Our presentations were made in the wake of such a threat and was designed to discuss the evolving threat environment with those on the front line defense of Northern Europe:

For a Vice President of Boeing to challenge the wisdom and judgment of an independent nation, reaching out to Danish voters and all political parties to call their defense judgment suspect, crosses a very significant line of alliance comity.

The strategic and tactical decision of the Danish Government in selecting the F-35 was a well thought out choice because there is already a “tron” war going on in the Baltics and across Northern Europe.

The F-35 is at the heart of change for a very simple reason – it is a revolutionary platform, and when considered in terms of its fleet impact even more so.

The F-35, Lightning II, has a revolutionary sensor fusion cockpit that makes it effective in AA, AG and EW.

US and Allied Combat pilots will evolve and share new tactics and training, and over time this will drive changes that leaders must make for effective command and control to fight future battles.

An issue has been that the F-35 has been labeled a “fifth generation” aircraft, a sensible demarcation when the F-22 was being introduced.

But the evolution of the combat systems on the aircraft, the role of the fusion engine, and the impact of a fleet of integrated F-35s operating as a foundational element will make this term obsolete.

The global fleet of F-35s will be the foundation for a fundamental change in the way airpower operates and with it overall combats concepts of operations for the U.S. and allied insertion forces.

Reports are now entering the public debate from the most important people in that debate, fighter pilots of all nations, who  are finding out that by strapping-on an F-35 they are really getting ready to engage Russian bad behavior in the sky on land and at sea by engaging with their F/A/E-35, which can fight and win any modern “tron” engagement.

A core partner of Denmark and an anchor to the defense of Northern Europe is Norway.

And for Norway, the F-35 is a keystone for shaping their way ahead in deterrence in the region and anchoring their NATO engagements.

A recent Smithsonian publication, Air and Space, highlighted the role of the F-35 as a key element in the role of “Guard of NATO’s Northern Gate.”

Projected S-400 range from Kaliningrad.
Projected S-400 range from Kaliningrad.

And the core significance of the F-35 to Norway and certainly for Denmark as well was highlighted by a Norwegian F-35 pilot:

Major Hanche concluded with this key point:

To me, a compelling argument for how well the F-35 works is evident by what we´re able to do in training. 

Three weeks back I was part of a four-ship of F-35s. 

Our mission was to overcome an advanced airborne threat, while locating and destroying an equally advanced surface based air defense system. 

After neutralizing these threats, we were able to destroy four additional targets. 

All this prior to receiving the Block 3F capabilities. 

Suffice to say that this mission would have been close to suicide with a four-ship of F-16s alone!

The aviators who fly the F-35  are well trained and the top of the famous Tom Wolfe’s “pyramid” in his book The Right Stuff.

There is a team of engineers – American and Allied — in the defense industry and at the U.S. world famous test centers such as Pax and Edwards, who are equally dedicated and at the top of their profession in giving the warriors the best possible weapon system.

And this is the F-35 not the Super Hornet.

As the US Navy transitions from the kill chain to the kill web, it is the F-35 which is a key enabler of this transition; not the Super Hornet.

Clearly. Denmark faces a direct threat from the Russian actions in the Baltics and Russian defense buildups in Kalingrad.

The Kalingrad enclave has seen the deployment of Russian equipment which covers the Nordic states.

The quote from the Norwegian pilot highlights the threat facing the Nordics, including Denmark; it is not enough to simply replace Danish F-16s with an aircraft that is more like the F-16 than it is like a fifth generation aircraft when facing direct Russian threats.

It is about national survival; not supporting Boeing’s marketing strategy. 

This region is facing clear and imminent danger; it is not the time to assume that it is simply a market for exporting equipment.

It is about enhancing the capability of our allies to guard the Northern Gate of NATO.

For a recent Danish governmental publication outlining their current core Alliance engagements and exercises, see the following:


If one looks at the maps in the publication and lays on top of it the F-35 coalition partners and where they will operate, it is not hard to see why Denmark chose the F-35 as well.

For various articles examining the threat facing Denmark and the Nordics from the Russians and the ability to leverage Kaliningrad, see the following:

And one might note, that Kalingrad has kept its Soviet name as well.

Kaliningrad (Russian: Калининград; IPA: [kəlʲɪnʲɪnˈgrat]) (former German name: Königsberg; Russian: Кёнигсберг, tr. Kyonigsberg; Old Prussian: Twangste, Kunnegsgarbs, Knigsberg; Polish: Królewiec; Lithuanian: Karaliaučius) is a seaport city and the administrative center of Kaliningrad Oblast, a Russian exclavebetween Poland and Lithuania on the Baltic Sea.

In the Middle Ages, the locality was the site of the ancient Old Prussian settlement and fort Twangste.

In 1255, during the Northern Crusades, a new fortress was built on the site by the Teutonic Knights and was named Königsberg (König = “king”) in honor of King Ottokar II of Bohemia, who led two crusade expeditions against the pagan Old Prussians.

The town was successively part of the monastic State of the Teutonic Order, enfeoffed to the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth, then part ofPrussia and Germany (the latter until 1945). The city was heavily damaged during World War II.

Its ruins were occupied by the Red Army on 9 April 1945, and what remained of the German population fled or was later removed by force.

It was renamed Kaliningrad on July 4, 1946,[11] in honor of Soviet luminary Mikhail Kalinin, who died in the previous month.

We can look as well at what USAFE has had to say about the threat and the F-35 as well.

On the one hand, General Frank Gorenc has made it clear that the F-35 is a very new capability.

USAFE View of F-35 from a Joint Air Power Competence Center Briefing, 2016.
USAFE View of F-35 from a Joint Air Power Competence Center Briefing, 2016.

His own NATO analytical center has underscored the point as well.

The NATO Joint Air Power Competence Center Examines 5th Generation Enabled Air Power: Air Warfare in a Networked Environment

And here is what General Gorenc has said about the threat:

The commander of United States Air Force operations in Europe and Africa expressed “very serious” concern Monday over what he described as big buildups of complex Russian missile defenses that increasingly threaten NATO military access to air space in parts of Europe, including one-third of the skies in Poland.

He also said Russia had started to engage in similar missile buildups in the Crimean Peninsula, which it annexed nearly two years ago from Ukraine, and in war-ravaged Syria, where Russian military forces have been assisting the government by bombing its insurgent foes for more than three months.

The commander, Gen. Frank Gorenc, whose responsibilities include Air Force operations covering 104 countries in Europe, Africa, Asia and parts of the Middle East, said the Russian strategy, known as anti-access/area denial, or A2/AD in military shorthand, was among the most worrisome trends he had seen.

Some of the heaviest concentrations of A2/AD deployments, General Gorenc said in an interview with The New York Times editorial board, are in Kaliningrad, a Russian enclave sandwiched between Poland and Lithuania on the Baltic coast. The surface-to-air missile systems there, he said, are “layered in a way that makes access to that area difficult,” with a spillover effect in parts of Poland and the Baltics, should NATO jets have reason to operate there.

So you are the Danish government and know what the F-35 pilots are telling you, including the Norwegian one quoted above, and you are listening to the NATO and American air commander in Europe about the threat, what would you do?

Not really a tough decision, except for those marketing the Super Hornet. 

Perhaps the best comment came from Leanne Caret, executive vice president of Boeing and president and CEO of the BDS unit:

“If I told you that I am and want to be a market leader in the fighter business, you all would tell me that I’m an idiot.”

“Let’s be real clear: we lost JSF.”

She added: “We need to stop defining Boeing’s future based on a single program or two programs, and we have been doing that with the fighter story.

It doesn’t mean it was wrong or right, I just don’t think it represents the great diversity of the Boeing Defense portfolio.”

It seems someone missed the interview.

Boeing is a big company.