March 10 (UPI) -- The first F-35A fighter plane of the Royal Danish Air Force made its inaugural flight this week, manufacturer Lockheed Martin said on Wednesday, with 26 more on order.
Denmark joins Britain, the Netherlands, Norway and Italy as European NATO members flying the plane, made in the United States from parts from around the world, including Denmark.
The F-35 is regarded as the fastest and most lethal fighter plane in use, although it has seen significant cost overruns and repair issues.
"The F-35 will serve as a force multiplier for Denmark, allowing the Royal Danish Air Force to train and fight alongside NATO allies and create a strong deterrent," Lockheed said in a press release.
The plane will complement and eventually replace F-16s currently in use by NATO.
The majority of F-35 variants are in the U.S. Air Force, but Canada, Belgium and Poland have also purchased the plane and await deliveries.
"Achieving the first flight of Denmark's first F-35 is major milestone for the Denmark F-35 program and a testament to the outstanding abilities of our dedicated and highly trained joint industry and government team," said Bill Brotherton, acting F-35 vice president and general manager at Lockheed Martin.
Norway, the Netherlands, Italy and Britain each received their first F-35s starting in 2013.
The Danish F-35, identified as L-001, made its inaugural flight from Fighter Wing Skydstrup air base in Denmark.
It will be formally delivered to the Royal Danish Air Force in April, and will then be flown to Luke Air Force Base, Ariz., for pilot and maintenance training.
Denmark will receive additional F-35s beginning in 2023.
The plane's significant cost, supply chain issues and frequent mechanical problems have been a subject of controversy in the U.S. Congress.
House Armed Services Committee Chairman Rep. Adam Smith, D-Wash., has referred to the F-35 program as a "rat hole."
"I want to stop throwing money down that particular rat hole. I know it doesn't work particularly well," Smith told the Brookings Institutions this week.