The Netherlands will go ahead with the purchase of the controversial JSF jet fighter, despite objections, the Telegraaf reports on Tuesday. The decision brings to an end 18 years of political dithering about the wisdom of spending so much money on an aircraft when the defence ministry is struggling to find €1.33bn in cuts, the paper says.
The Netherlands will buy 37 JSF jets which will keep the cost within the €4.5bn special budget set aside for the purpose. They will cost an additional €270m a year to keep in the air, the Telegraaf reports, quoting sources in The Hague.
Defence minister Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert will confirm the buy when she unveils her vision for the future of the armed forces later on Tuesday, the paper says. Because of the careful budgeting, it is possible the Netherlands will buy more JSFs at a later stage, the Telegraaf said.
The JSF will gradually replace the aging F-16 fleet between 2019 and 2023. Earlier this month, sources said the Labour party, which had opposed the purchase of the JSF, was now in favour of the plan, clearing the way for cabinet approval. One Dutch jet is currently undergoing test flights and a second test aircraft is due to be delivered this year.
The issue has divided parliament for years, because of the high cost of the new American-built aircraft. There has also been criticism in the US over the mounting costs and delays.
A report by the Clingendael foreign policy institute earlier this year said an armed forces which includes the controversial JSF jet fighter is the least attractive scenario for the future of the Dutch military.
Clingendael says the JSF will only be needed if the Netherlands wants to take part in the opening phase of military interventions. The Netherlands rarely takes an active role.
But the high cost of the JSF will lead to ‘serious limitations’ to the country’s maritime operations – such as the role the Netherlands currently plays in protecting commercial shipping against pirates.