The Netherlands will procure up to eight or nine additional F-35 combat aircraft to bolster its planned buy of 37 fighters, according to Defense Minister Ank Bijleveld. The precise figure to be ordered will be determined by the Euro-USD exchange rate.
The Netherlands entered the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program as a Level 2 partner and its roots in the combat aircraft’s development stretch back to 1997. The jet fighter was long seen as the logical successor to the Royal Netherlands Air Force (RNLAF) legacy fleet of F-16s.
The coalition government of Prime Minister Mark Rutte announced what had long been considered a foregone conclusion on September 17, 2013, when it unveiled plans to procure a fleet of F-35s via a EUR4.5 billion ($6 billion) special budget earmarked for the project (the estimate was revised upward to $5.2 billion in September 2015).
The Dutch F-35s will be gradually brought into service between 2019 and 2024 as the F-16s are retired. Dutch industry will benefit from the knock-on effect of the F-35 program by serving as the F-35 spare parts center, and as the engine maintenance-repair-overhaul-upgrade and distribution hub for Europe.
The Netherlands plans to earmark from EUR600-EUR700 million ($674-$787 million) toward the extra batch purchase of F-35s.
(EDITOR’S NOTE: Removing Turkey from the F-35 program will also remove one of the anomalies of the program, which originally intended most European engine heavy maintenance work to take place in Turkey.
Adapting to Turkey’s withdrawal will create new opportunities for the Netherlands and Norway, which were both eager to carry out that work, as well as the UK, so a redistribution of maintenance and support will have to follow the similar redistribution of production work carried out by Turkish industry.
The entire process is intended to take at least a year.)