Dutch to Buy Fewer F-35 Jets than Planned
The Netherlands will buy fewer than the 85 Lockheed Martin Corp F-35 Joint Strike Fighter jets it had planned to acquire because costs have risen and the country needs to replace fewer F-16 fighters, the Dutch defence minister said on Sunday.
The costs of developing and building the F-35, which will replace F-16 fighters, have been rising. Japan and a U.S. Air Force official have warned they may order fewer planes if costs go up further.
Asked on Dutch television programme Buitenhof if the Netherlands still planned to buy 85 F-35 planes despite higher costs, Dutch Defence Minister Hans Hillen said: “The next cabinet will decide. It will certainly be fewer.”
The Netherlands had planned to buy a total of 85 F-35 planes over the period 2019 to 2027, the Dutch Defence Ministry said in a letter to parliament last year. The ministry has reserved 4.5 billion euros to replace the existing F-16 fighters.
Hillen declined to say how many F-35s the Netherlands would buy instead but said fewer F-16s needed to be replaced.
“When we signed up (for the F-35) we took the number of F-16s at the time as a basis. When I became minister we had around 90 F-16s. Now we have 68,” Hillen said.
The Netherlands has not finally agreed to buy the F-35 planes but is participating in the development programme and has ordered two F-35 test planes, of which the first has been constructed.
A new Dutch cabinet, which will take office in 2015 unless the current government falls early, will make the final decision about replacing its fighters.