Royal Danish Air Force
Badge of the Royal Danish Air Force
Founded1 October 1950; 73 years ago (1950-10-01)
Country Denmark
TypeAir force
RoleAerial warfare
Size3,476 personnel + 100 conscripts [1]
120 aircraft [2]
Part ofDanish Armed Forces
Stable belt
Chief of DefenceMajor General Michael Wiggers Hyldgaard
Chief of the Air CommandMajor General Jan Dam[3][4]
Chief Master Sergeant of the RDAFRené Hinrich [5]
Fin flash
Aircraft flown
FighterF-16 Fighting Falcon, F-35 Lightning II
HelicopterSikorsky SH-60 Seahawk, Eurocopter Fennec, AgustaWestland EH101 Merlin
PatrolBombardier CL-604 Challenger
TrainerSaab MFI-17 Supporter
TransportLockheed Martin C-130J Super Hercules

The Royal Danish Air Force (Danish: Flyvevåbnet, lit.'The Flying weapon') (RDAF) is the aerial warfare force of the Kingdom of Denmark and one of the four branches of the Danish Armed Forces.[6] Initially being components of the Army and the Navy, it was made a separate service in 1950. Its main purpose is to serve as enforcer of Danish airspace and to provide air support to Danish group troops on the battlefield.[7]


An RDAF Supermarine Spitfire on display at the Stauning Aircraft Museum
Danish Air Force AW101 hoisting from water

The Royal Danish Air Force (RDAF) was formed as a military service independent from the army and navy in 1950 from the merger of the Danish Army Air Corps (Danish: Hærens Flyvertropper) founded on 2 July 1912[8] and the Danish Naval Air Service (Danish: Marinens Flyvevæsen) which had been founded on 14 December 1911.[9] All military aviation had been prohibited during the Nazi occupation from 1940 to 1945 and so as of V-E Day the Danish armed forces had no aircraft, but the Luftwaffe had built or expanded air bases in Denmark.

The air force was led by Lieutenant General C.C.J. Førslev, who had previously served as a colonel in the army and as first commander of the Danish Army Air Corps. The national command was located at Værløse Air Base which also served as Command East, while Command West was located at Karup in central Jutland. Royal Air Force volunteer and former member of the Free Norwegian Forces in England, Kaj Birksted, was appointed chief of the flying staff. The rivalries and mutual disrespect between the established officer Førslev, who had never been in air combat himself, and the experienced fighter ace Birksted led to a series of misunderstandings which delayed the operationalization of the air force. Further, the East and West commands lacked experience and knowledge of the newly delivered Gloster Meteor and F-84 Thunderjet aircraft.

The Danish armed forces received 38 surplus Supermarine Spitfire H. F. Mk. IXE[10] and 3 P.R.Mk. XI in 1947–48[11] plus four additional airframes for ground instruction, which were operated by units of the Hærens Flyvertropper and Marinens Flyvevæsen prior to their merger, and by the Royal Danish Air Force until 1956, when the last examples were retired and all but two scrapped.

One survived for a number of years in a children's playground. The one surviving instructional airframe was later restored to depict the number '401' Spitfire Mk. IX. This airplane is now preserved at Dansk Veteranflysamling at Stauning Airfield in Jutland.[12]

Pilot training was initially based at Avnø from May 1946 until 1951, when the school were transferred to the U.S. under the "Military Assistance Programme". The school at Avnø continued to conduct tests to choose the candidates for the American training programme. In 1947 the RDAF established a school for aircraft mechanics, based at Værløse Air Base.[13] In 1951, the RDAF officers school was inaugurated at Rungstedlund north of Copenhagen, while airmen were educated at Værløse.


The air force received six F-84E Thunderjet and 238 F-84G Thunderjet as military aid from the US, and formed five new squadrons (726 to 730) at Karup Air Base from 1952 to 1954. The rapid expansion caused problems as neither two-seaters nor flight simulators were available, causing 89 crashed F-84's and 40 pilot casualties. Some casualties were due to the lack of experience in the newly formed air force while others stemmed from the tactics introduced by American WWII and Korean War-veterans based on fast and low flying attacks to avoid anti-aircraft fire.

To avoid further casualties the air force established a training squadron of two-seated T-33As in 1956 to train US-educated pilots to navigate under local weather conditions. Furthermore, Eskadrille 722 was changed to function as rescue squadron in 1956 and was strengthened by seven Sikorsky S-55 helicopters in 1957. Finally, Air Chief Marshal Hugh Saunders from Royal Air Force was employed in 1954 to reorganize the air force which led to the merger of Command East and West, forming Flyvertaktisk Kommando (Air Tactical Command) with the initial mission to lower the number of crashes during training.


In 1962, the Royal Danish Army's four SAM batteries based on Nike missiles were transferred to the air force. They were intended to defend Copenhagen against Soviet ballistic missiles and high altitude bombers, and based at Eskadrille 531 in Gunderød, Eskadrille 532 at Kongelunden on Amager, Eskadrille 533 in Sigerslev and Eskadrille 534 in Tune. In 1965 four batteries of Hawk missiles were deployed close to the Nike batteries to protect them from low altitude aircraft.

In 1968, Denmark became the first of three export customers for the Saab 35 Draken (Kite/Dragon). Ever since 1966 the Danish government had started looking for an aircraft to replace two squadrons of Republic RF-84F Thunderflash reconnaissance aircraft and North American F-100 Super Sabre fighter/ground attacker aircraft. A number of candidates were considered and these were: the Douglas A-4F Skyhawk, Northrop F-5 Freedom Fighter, Vought A-7 Corsair II, Lockheed F-104 Starfighter, Dassault Mirage III/5 and Saab's Draken. The F-5 and Mirage 5 were the favourites while the Draken was one of the least popular since it had poor payload/range performance and could not carry heavy weapon loads. In response to the Kongelige Danske Flyvevåben's (Royal Danish Air Force's) initial dislike, Saab decided to create a new Draken variant that would put it on the top of the competition shortlist.


In the 1960s and 1970s, the RDAF operated a number of US financed Lockheed F-104G Starfighters, North American F-100D and F-100F Super Sabres, and several other types.

The first Danish Draken, designated F35, delivery took place on 1 September 1970 when three F35s were delivered to Karup Air Base. They were later followed by another 17 F35s and six TF35s. Since the F35s lacked radar, they replaced F-100Ds in the ground attack role. However, Sidewinder AAMS could be carried for self-defence. The six trainers were delivered between 1970 and 1972 and the F35s were delivered between 1970 and 1971.

In 1971, the Danish army created the Royal Danish Army Flying Service as the first air-unit outside the air force, since its creation in 1950. It had observation helicopters and piston-engined artillery spotting aeroplanes. In 1977 the Danish Naval Air Squadron was extracted from squadron 722 to the Danish navy, and it had ship-based helicopters. In a joint arms purchase four NATO countries: Denmark, Norway, Netherlands, and Belgium introduced the General Dynamics F-16 Fighting Falcon as their common strike fighter in January 1980. The F-16 was later bought by additional NATO countries, Greece and Turkey, and the United States of America, also a NATO member operates the F-16.

T-17 Supporter at RIAT 2010


In 1982, the number of fighter aircraft was reduced by 12 units. General Dynamics F-16 is introduced to replace initially the F-100 and later the F-104G. The Royal Danish Naval Air Service is strengthened by eight Westland Lynx Mk. 80 from 1980, replacing the Alouette III helicopters. As a supplement to the Greenland-based C-130s the air force purchases three Gulfstream G-III.[14]


In 1990, the Danish Army Air Corps purchases 12 Eurocopter Fennec lightweight attack helicopters to strengthen capabilities to perform expeditionary mission. The helicopters were transferred to RDAF in 2003.

In 1992, during the Yugoslavian civil wars, the RDAF C-130 Hercules aircraft were used for transport of the 900 Danish troops participating in the UN-led mission to the Balkans. In 1996, a C-130 joined the NATO On-Call International Airlift Pool along with a Gulfstream aircraft. The Gulfstreams were replaced by Challenger planes the following year, when the Danish government ordered the three Challengers in current use.

In 1999, following the end of the Cold War, the Danish air force was re-organised to be an "expeditionary" air force, capable of supporting international operations worldwide – but at the same time still being able to uphold its domestic air and seaward defence commitments. The same year, an expeditionary force of 9 F-16s to join the Operation Allied Force is approved in parliament.


In 2002, Denmark joined the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter Team, and eventually up to 48 F-35s could be bought to replace the F-16s.

In October 2002, a tri-national detachment of 18 Danish, Dutch, and Norwegian F-16 fighter-bombers, with one Dutch KC-10 tanker, flew to the Manas Air Base in Kyrgyzstan, in support of the NATO ground forces in Afghanistan as part of the Operation Enduring Freedom.

In 2004, the older C-130H Hercules fleet of three transport aircraft (bought by the government in 1973) was replaced by three of the more-advanced and stretched C-130J transport aircraft. A fourth C-130J joined in 2007.

In 2005, a modification program (Mid Life Update) was completed on the remaining F-16 aircraft. The modification programme, started in 1995, introduced a new mission computer, colour multifunction displays, and other avionic improvements. Despite the modifications and improvements, in 2013/14 the Danish air force was considering the replacement of 30 F-16s with a more advanced fighter. Contenders include the two-seated Boeing F/A-18F Super Hornet, the Lockheed Martin F-35A Joint Strike Fighter and the Eurofighter Typhoon. The decision of the selected type will be announced before the end of June 2015*. Update: the RADF have selected the F-35 and 27 units are to be procured.[15][16]

Bombardier Challenger CL-604 at RIAT 2010

In 2003, 16 H-500 Cayuse and 13 Eurocopter AS550C2 Fennec from the Army Air Corps and eight Westland Lynx Mk. 90B from the Naval Air Squadron were supposed to be transferred to the air force. The 16 Cayuse and 13 Fennec helicopters were transferred to the newly re-formed Danish Squadron 724. The eight Lynx helicopters were supposed to enter another re-formed squadron, Squadron 728, but for political reasons those helicopters remained with the Navy. This change of "ownership" of the naval helicopters became effective on 1 January 2011 when the naval helicopters joined the newly formed Squadron 723.

In 2005, the 16 Cayuses were decommissioned, and also one of the Fennecs. The remaining 12 Fennecs took over many of the tasks from the Cayuses, including support-functions of the Danish police.

In 2006, the air force signed a letter of intent to purchase several of the Boeing Integrated Defense C-17 Globemaster III. That order needs to be confirmed, but it is to be made on the basis of the formation of a shared NATO C-17 air fleet to support international deployments. Denmark has later withdrawn from this arrangement but it is in existence today. See NATO Strategic Airlift Capability. The United States and the United Kingdom have already bought numerous C-17s, and several other NATO countries are considering doing so, too. In June 2007, Denmark's six EH101 transport helicopters were transferred to the British Royal Air Force to meet an urgent British requirement for additional transport helicopters.[17] In 2009 six replacement AW101 were delivered to the RDAF from AgustaWestland Yeowil and paid for by the UK.


In June 2010 the Sikorsky S-61 SAR helicopter was withdrawn.

The Danish Defence Acquisition and Logistics Organization (DALO), short listed five helicopters as potential replacements for the Lynx with around 12 new naval helicopters needed. The Sikorsky/Lockheed MH-60R, the NH90/NFH, H-92, AW159 and AW101 were on the short list and a Request For Proposal was issued on 30 September 2010. Ultimately the air force decided to buy nine Sikorsky SH-60 Seahawk helicopters.

In 2014, RDAF flew F-16 fighter jets in Greenland for the first time, testing the operational capabilities of maintaining sovereignty of the vast arctic airspace.[18]

In 2005 the RDAF requested information about the possible procurement of a replacement for the F-16 fighter aircraft from the producers of the Gripen, Rafale, Eurofighter and Joint Strike Fighter, to which the RDAF has been a partner since 1997. Due to this fact Rafale-producer, Dassault Aviation, decided not to participate in the information round as they considered it to be biased towards the JSF option. This also led to the withdrawal of the Eurofighter in 2007, reentering in 2012. Meanwhile, the Boeing F-18 Super Hornet entered the competition in 2008. After several delays, a request for binding information was sent to the four candidates in April 2014 expecting a final decision in mid-2015.[19][20] On 9 June 2016, the Danish Defence Committee agreed to purchase 27 F-35As to succeed the F-16.[21] The price tag is US$3 billion.[22]


In January 2020, Lockheed Martin announced that assembly had begun on L-001, the first of 27 F-35As destined for the Royal Danish Air Force.[23] The first F-35 was transferred to the Danish Air Force on 7 April 2021.[24][25]

On 14 September 2023, the first four F-35A fighters arrived at Skrydstrup air base after a transfer flight from Lockheed Martin's facilities in the USA.[26]


Structure in the late 1980s

Structure of the Tactical Air Command in 1989 (click to enlarge)

The Royal Danish Air Force Command was headquartered at Karup Air Base and tasked to train, maintain and prepare the army for war. However operational control in peacetime rested with the Tactical Air Command. In wartime the air force's commander would have become the commander of Allied Air Forces Baltic Approaches (AIRBALTAP). AIRBALTAP commanded all flying units, flying reinforcements, all ground-based radar systems and stations, all air defence units and airfields in its sector. In war the entire Royal Danish Air Force would have come under AIRBALTAP.

In 1989 the Royal Danish Air Force consisted of the following units:

Structure in 2020


RDAF F-100 Super Sabre patch


Current inventory

A Danish F-35A on first training flight over Luke AFB
An AW101 in flight
Aircraft Origin Type Variant In service Notes
Combat Aircraft
F-16 Fighting Falcon United States multirole F-16AM 30[38][39] All aircraft will be sold to Argentina and Ukraine[40]
F-35 Lightning II United States multirole F-35A 4[26] 17 on order
Maritime Patrol
Challenger 604 Canada surveillance / patrol / VIP CL-604 4[41]
C-130J Super Hercules United States tactical airlifter C-130J-30 4[42]
Eurocopter Fennec France utility AS550C2 11[42]
SH-60 Seahawk United States ASW / SAR MH-60R 9[42] flown for the Danish Navy
AgustaWestland AW101 Italy / UK transport / SAR Mk.512 14[42]
Trainer Aircraft
MFI-17 Supporter Sweden basic trainer 27[42]
F-35 Lightning II United States conversion trainer F-35A 6[42][43]
F-16 Fighting Falcon United States conversion trainer F-16BM 11[39][42]
Pipistrel Velis Electro Slovenia basic trainer 2[44] on lease[45]


Main article: Ranks and insignia of Royal Danish Air Force

Commissioned officer ranks

The rank insignia of commissioned officers.

NATO code OF-10 OF-9 OF-8 OF-7 OF-6 OF-5 OF-4 OF-3 OF-2 OF-1 OF(D) Student officer
 Royal Danish Air Force[46]
General Generalløjtnant Generalmajor Brigadegeneral Oberst Oberstløjtnant Major Kaptajn Premierløjtnant Løjtnant Sekondløjtnant Sergent
Danish Pay Grade[47] M406 M405 M404 M403 M402 M401 M332
M321 M312 M311 M310

Other ranks

The rank insignia of non-commissioned officers and enlisted personnel.

NATO code OR-9 OR-8 OR-7 OR-6 OR-5 OR-4 OR-3 OR-2 OR-1
 Royal Danish Air Force[46]
Chefsergent Seniorsergent Oversergent Sergent Sergent
Korporal Flyverspecialist Flyveroverkonstabel Flyverkonstabel
Danish Pay Grade[47] M232 M231 M221 M212 M211 M113 M112

See also


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  2. ^ "Danish Defence: Arms and equipment of the air force" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 19 July 2011.
  3. ^ "organizational chart". Archived (PDF) from the original on 10 October 2014. Retrieved 1 May 2021.
  4. ^ "Organisation". Archived from the original on 20 December 2014. Retrieved 24 December 2014.
  5. ^ Jensen, Kenneth Skov (31 May 2016). "Chief Master Sergeant of the Royal Danish Air Force Started Work". Centralforeningen for Stampersonel (in Danish). Archived from the original on 1 March 2017. Retrieved 28 February 2017.
  6. ^ ""The Danish Defence Agreement 2013–2017"" (PDF). Archived (PDF) from the original on 26 February 2014. Retrieved 28 May 2013.
  7. ^ "About the RDAF". (in Danish). Danish Defence. 19 January 2017. Archived from the original on 17 January 2017. Retrieved 28 February 2017.
  8. ^ "Flyvevåbnets Historie: Hærens Flyverstyrker 1912 – 1943" (in Danish). Archived from the original on 21 April 2009. Retrieved 27 December 2008.
  9. ^ "Flyvevåbnets Historie: Marinens Flyvevæsen 1911–1940" (in Danish). Archived from the original on 26 September 2008. Retrieved 27 December 2008.
  10. ^ "FTK – Flyvertaktisk Kommando". Archived from the original on 13 November 2004.
  11. ^ "FTK – Flyvertaktisk Kommando". Archived from the original on 13 November 2004.
  12. ^ "Danmarks Flymuseum, Stauning Lufthavn". Archived from the original on 18 May 2004.
  13. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 6 October 2014. Retrieved 30 September 2014.((cite web)): CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  14. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 16 December 2010. Retrieved 21 August 2014.((cite web)): CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  15. ^ The Selection of a New Fighter Starts Again Archived 18 March 2013 at the Wayback Machine 13 March 2013
  16. ^ "Informationsanmodning udsendt til kampflykandidater". Archived from the original on 26 December 2014. Retrieved 24 December 2014.
  17. ^ Defense News: Arrival of Danish Merlin helicopters increases UK fleet Archived 10 July 2007 at the Wayback Machine, retrieved 10 April 2011.
  18. ^ Osborne, Tony. "Denmark Looks To Boost Greenland Defenses Archived 3 October 2014 at the Wayback Machine" Aviation Week & Space Technology, 29 September 2014. Accessed: 3 October 2014. Video Archived 6 October 2014 at the Wayback Machine Archived on 3 October 2014
  19. ^ "Tidslinje". Archived from the original on 18 December 2014. Retrieved 24 December 2014.
  20. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived (PDF) from the original on 21 October 2014. Retrieved 13 October 2014.((cite web)): CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  21. ^ "Denmark F-35 Buy Goes Official". Defense News. 9 June 2016. Archived from the original on 3 May 2017.
  22. ^ "Danish Government OKs $3 Billion Purchase of 27 F-35 Fighter Jets". Lockheed Martin. 9 June 2016. Archived from the original on 9 August 2016. Retrieved 10 November 2016.
  23. ^ Jennings, Gareth (28 January 2020). "Lockheed Martin begins build of first F-35 for Denmark". Jane's. London. Archived from the original on 31 March 2020. Retrieved 31 March 2020.
  24. ^ "F-35 Rollout". Danish Ministry of Defense. 7 April 2021. Retrieved 4 May 2023.
  25. ^ "Sådan gik det til, da Danmark købte kampfly". Altinget. 7 April 2021. Retrieved 4 May 2023.
  26. ^ a b Meier, Ricardo (14 September 2023). "First F-35A fighters arrive in Denmark". Air Data News. Retrieved 15 September 2023.
  27. ^ "RDAF". Archived from the original on 22 January 2012. Retrieved 8 May 2012.
  28. ^ "Version 3". Archived from the original on 26 January 2013. Retrieved 8 May 2012.
  29. ^ "Prinsens Musikkorps overgår til Flyvevåbnet | Prinsens Musikkorps".
  30. ^ a b c "Om Helicopter Wing Karup". Royal Danish Air Force. Retrieved 4 June 2020.
  31. ^ "Operations Support Wing Organisation". Royal Danish Air Force. Retrieved 4 June 2020.
  32. ^ Air policing over the Baltics again "Igen danske F-16 over Baltikum". Archived from the original on 30 March 2012. Retrieved 21 October 2011. (in Danish).
  33. ^ "Danish helicopters finished in Iraq (in Danish)". 19 December 2007. Archived from the original on 31 May 2012. Retrieved 21 October 2011.
  34. ^ Danish Fennecs Deploy to Afghanistan, Air Forces Monthly, August 2008 issue, p. 14
  35. ^ AirForces Monthly. Stamford, Lincolnshire, England: Key Publishing Ltd. October 2014. p. 33.
  36. ^ "Danish helicopter rolled over in Afghanistan Archived 14 October 2014 at the Wayback Machine" Politiken, 12 October 2014. Accessed: 12 October 2014.
  37. ^ "Helikopter Hold 1 er hjemme igen Archived 1 December 2014 at the Wayback Machine" RDAF, 30 October 2014. Accessed: 31 October 2014.
  38. ^ "Denmark likely to make decision on fighter jets to Ukraine 'before summer'". 11 April 2023. Retrieved 1 June 2023.
  39. ^ a b "Denmark". - The ultimate F-16, F-35 and F-22 reference. Retrieved 27 October 2023.
  40. ^ "Denmark Confirms Transfer of Entire F-16 Fleet to Ukraine Following US F-35 Acquisition". Army Recognition. Retrieved 22 April 2024.
  41. ^ "CL-604 Challenger". (in Danish). 11 August 2020. Retrieved 14 November 2023.
  42. ^ a b c d e f g "World Air Forces 2023". Flight Global. Flightglobal Insight. 2022. Retrieved 12 January 2023.
  43. ^ "Det første F-35, der skal til Danmark, er nu leveret i USA". Forsvaret. 1 May 2023. Retrieved 4 May 2023.
  44. ^ "Nu har Forsvaret el-fly". Forsvaret (in Danish). 18 November 2021. Retrieved 21 January 2023.
  45. ^ Hovgaard, Laurids (7 March 2023). "Forsvaret returnerer sine elfly: Batterierne rækker kun til små korte skoleøvelser". Ingeniøren.(subscription required)
  46. ^ a b "Flyvevåbnets Gradstegn" (PDF). (in Danish). Danish Defence. October 2021. Retrieved 22 August 2021.
  47. ^ a b "Historik". (in Danish). Ministry of Defence. Archived from the original on 27 August 2018. Retrieved 26 September 2018.