PARIS --- The new Dutch government coalition agreed Oct. 29 that it will delay a decision on the procurement of a new combat aircraft until 2014, and that separately it will freeze defense spending at present levels until 2017.
The new government, an alliance between the right-wing Liberals and the Labour party (PvdA), was approved yesterday by MPs from the two parties, and will be submitted next week to the Queen for approval.
The coalition agreement recognizes that the original plans regarding the replacement of the F-16 – i.e., buying the F-35 - are not feasible without adaptations or a re-setting of priorities within the overall defense budget.
Consequently, the two governing parties have agreed to a complete review of the Netherlands’ ambitions in the defense sphere, before making any decision regarding the future fighter. The coalition expects to complete the review by the end of 2013; a competitive evaluation of alternatives will take place in 2014, leading to the signature of a purchase contract for the new fighter in 2015.
In a report issued Oct. 25 , the Dutch court of audit, the Algemene Rekenkamer, found that the 58 F-35s planned by the previous government were not enough to fulfill Dutch commitments to NATO, and would require “fundamental decisions…on other weapons systems, which might also affect the navy and the army.” The new coalition apparently agrees.
As part of its review of options, the coalition also has agreed to launch a detailed evaluation of the Operating and Support (O&S) costs of whatever fighter it selects to replace the F-35. This will be carried out by the Algemene Rekenkamer at the request of the Finance Ministry.
Also planned is a separate, forensic inquiry into how the O&S costs for the F-35 were allowed to balloon apparently unchecked under previous governments, as evidenced in the Rekenkamer’s Oct. 25 report. It found that estimated O&S costs for a fleet of 85 F-35A fighters had increased from €2.9 billion in 2001 to €14.2 billion this year, without Parliament ever being informed of the increase.