Dutch Parliamentary Majority to Stop F-35 Participation

Opposition parties want to end participation in the Joint Strike Fighter program.

The Dutch opposition Labor Party on Tuesday announced that it would withdraw its support from the purchase of F-35 Joint Strike Fighter aircraft. With other left-wing parties, the centrist Democrats and the nationalist Freedom Party, it has a majority to block acquisition of the plane.

The opposition parties cited budget concerns as reason to end participation in the program. However, many have opposed the F-35 purchase from the start.

The Netherlands joined the Joint Strike Fighter project as a Level 2 partner in 2002 and pledged to invest $800 million in the development of the plane that is set to replace the Netherlands’ aging fleet of F-16s.

Labor, though wary of the purchase, agreed in 2007 in government with Christian Democrat parties to buy two test planes before committing to acquire a total of 85. That number was expected to drop even after the conservatives formed a coalition with the liberal party in 2010 as Lockheed Martin’s costs of developing the F-35 have significantly mounted. The Netherlands could buy as few as 42 planes instead.

When the country decided to enter the project in 2000, it expected a total cost per plane of €35 million. The Dutch Defense Ministry now estimates a price of up to €61.5 million per plane.

The Dutch Royal Air Force has operated F-16 fighter jets since 1979. Sixty-seven are still in service. Eighteen were most recently sold to Chile in 2010. The remaining aircraft are slated to be replaced in 2015 although it is doubtful that a full fleet will have been delivered by then.