Tuesday, March 26, 2013

F-35 Orders From The Netherlands May Have To Be Reduced

The Netherlands may have to reduce the number of F-35 fighter aircraft by 17 to 33 from the 85 it originally planned to acquire. The F-35 is supposed to replace the F-16 currently in service in the Air Force.

However, a number of factors have made the role of the F-35 in the Netherlands uncertain, including:
  • The F-35 program is plagued by technical problems
  • The F-35 program is 7 years behind schedule
  • The cost of the F-35 is now 70 percent above initial cost estimates
  • Defense budgets are being reduced
  • There is uncertainty over the Netherlands future defense strategy
Some Dutch politicians are of the opinion that the F-35 may not be ideal for Dutch needs and that the Netherlands would be better off with a different aircraft such as Saab's Gripen, Boeing's F/A-18 E/F Super Hornet, or the EADS Eurofighter.

Even though the Netherlands is one of the 8 partner countries of the United States and it has already spent $1.59 billion on the development of the F-35, it is unlikely to buy the 85 F-35A, which is considered unrealistic.

It currently has a budget of $5.82 billion to replace 68 F-16 aircraft, which is enough for about 33 to 35 F-35 aircraft. The target now is to acquire about 52 to 68 F-35 fighter aircraft.

Although the Netherlands has yet to make any firm decision about the F-35, the worry is that reduced purchases of the F-35 will raise the price for everyone else.

Already other countries, such as Canada and Australia, have signalled their intention to acquire fewer F-35 aircraft due to the same reasons that the Netherlands has cited.

Lockheed Martin, in charge of development of the F-35 program, has stated in response to criticism that technical difficulties will be resolved. The cost estimate for the F-35 may be reduced from as high as $137 million to $90 million by 2018.

As a fifth-generation fighter, the F-35 can offer capabilities that other fighters cannot match. For now, the Netherlands remains active in the development of the F-35 and has ordered 2 test aircraft for this purpose.


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