As the costs of the F-35 fighter aircraft continue to mount while the Joint Strike Fighter program is plagued with delays both Italy and the Netherlands are reportedly considering to cut their F-35 purchases.
Across Europe countries have to make cutbacks in defense spending. Italy and the Netherlands each prepare for many billions in spending cuts while British armed forces are confronted with painful austerity measures.
The United Kingdom’s likely reduction in F-35 purchases has prompted the Italians to reconsider their own plans. Without British participation, the costs of the project would likely increase even further, especially for the so-called Level 2 partners, Italy and the Netherlands. They are scheduled to contribute $1 billion and $800 million respectively while Britain was expected to cover approximately 10 percent of the planned development costs, or $2.5 billion.
According to the Italian defense undersecretary Guido Crosetto, the country may decide not to acquire the F-35B vertical landing variant and only buy the F-35A conventional version. The Italian air force originally envisaged buying forty vertical takeoff JSFs to replace its AMX fighter bombers alongside 69 conventional aircraft to replace its aging Tornados.
The future participation of the Dutch in the project has been in doubt before when the ruling Labor Party refused to commit to the purchase of 85 F-35As earlier this year. Since, a new, conservative government has taken power but it, too, is confronted with rising costs.
Defense minster Hans Hillen publicly complained that the cost of individual aircraft had mounted with 20 percent in parliament today. He suggested that the Netherlands may not be able to afford the 85 fighters it pledged to acquire.