The Dutch Ministry of Defence four years ago failed to inform the [Lower] House of Parliament of a serious budget problem for the replacement of the F-16 fighter, according to a documentary broadcast Sunday night [Sept. 6] by the KRO Reporter television program.
In 2005, the top official of the Defence Matériel Organization (DMO, procurement department) concluded that too little money had been budgeted for the planned procurement of 85 Joint Strike Fighters.
Reporter on Sunday quoted confidential documents from DMO in 2005. "The defence ministry’s replacement scenario, with 52 planned aircraft, will only fit into the [long-term] Defence Plan with some difficulty.”
For the remainder of the capacity - for now 33 aircraft - additional funds are being provided, but not enough to accommodate the entire replacement scenario."
Defence decided to keep the financial problem to itself, and to pretend to the outside world that nothing was wrong. "The number of 85 is used for external communication as a planning number for the negotiations".
On November 11, 2006 then Secretary of State for Defence Van der Knaap signed a cooperation agreement with the United States and other international partners in the JSF project. That document states that the Netherlands intends to purchase 85 JSFs.
Defense, according to internal documents obtained by Reporter, feared that the use of a lower planning number would lead to fewer U.S. orders for Dutch aerospace industry. "The industrial work packages will almost certainly be adjusted downward, although Lockheed Martin will never officially admit it." Defense also feared for "lower impact" within the alliance with the Americans.
The House was not informed of the budget problem for the F-16 replacement plans, and its impact on the number of new aircraft to be bought.
"Humbug," said MP Krista van Velzen (SP) in the Reporter broadcast. "Defence deliberately kept a fairy story alive.”
seek a clarification from State Secretary of Defense Jack de Vries. "I have heard of many problems with the JSF project, but this is surely one which could break the eventual purchase."
Defence acknowledged that in 2005, as claimed by Reporter, there was indeed a financial problem. But the ministry said this has now been solved thanks to an increase of the procurement budget to 6.1 billion euros. Defence says it plans to maintain the original number of 85 aircraft.
Hero Brinkman (PVV party) is not reassured. "We still do not know where we have been cropped. Now it is 6.1 billion euros. But it could be eight billion in two years, or maybe nine or ten billion. Nobody knows."
The price of the Joint Strike Fighter has still not been determined. Meanwhile, Swedish aircraft manufacturer Saab, the maker of the Gripen fighter, has made a concrete offer to the Dutch government for the delivery of 85 aircraft. Saab’s Bob Kemp for the first time in public confirmed the terms of the offer.
"The price for 85 in-service Gripens is between 4.7 and 4.8 billion euros, all inclusive. All the Air Force has to do is put a pilot inside and fill the fuel tank."
(EDITOR’S NOTE: The Dutch Ministry of Defence issued a three-page clarification on Sept. 7, after the TV report was broadcast. An English-language translation is being prepared, and we will post it as soon as it is available. Meanwhile, the document is available in Dutch on the defence ministry website.)