A motion from the Dutch Labor Party was narrowly accepted in parliament on Thursday night to end the Netherlands’ participation in the testing fase of the Joint Strike Fighter program.
The decision comes three weeks ahead of parliamentary elections in the Netherlands, necessitated by the Labor Party’s pulling out of the ruling coalition in February. In government with the Christian Democrats, Labor agreed to the purchasing of a single experimental aircraft. Now, according to a party representative, it is no longer “financially responsible” to continue participation in the current stage of the program. The next government will be forced to enact massive budget cuts with parties to the left of Labor already proposing to pull out of the JSF entirely.
No matter concerns to the contrary, the Netherlands is not quite abandoning the project altogether. Parliament has merely called upon the government to stop the country’s participation in the so-called Initial Operational Test and Evaluation fase of the program. There are elections before it will have a chance to comply and it seems likely at this point that a center-right coalition will emerge of liberals and Christian Democrats, supplemented with one of the smaller parties to win a majority in parliament. Both factions are both in favor of continuing the Netherlands’ purchasing of the F-35 fighter plane.
The Dutch Royal Air Force currently operates ninety F-16 fighter craft, eighteen of which are scheduled to be sold to Chile near the end of this year. Originally, the Dutch anticipated to purchase 85 F-35s but this number may well go down to sixty or even fifty as the costs of the project continue to the rise.