The Netherlands government has formally selected the F-35 to replace its fleet of F-16s, agreeing to purchase 37 of the new generation aircraft in what culminates a lengthy assessment, the decision based on creating a “a high-tech, future-oriented air force”.
In a statement announcing the selection, the government said: “From a military operational perspective the F-35 offers the greatest number of options. It is also the most future-proof option.
“The aircraft is best able to deal with the proliferation of mobile air defence systems and offers vastly improved observation capabilities, which are of great value in any type of mission. In addition, the aircraft offers great potential for follow-on development, particularly in the area of network-enabled operations. Also important are the possibilities for international cooperation in areas such as training, sustainment and deployment.”
The decision comes after a process of almost 15 years’ assessment by the Netherlands. Ultimately, a key aspect of the selection of the F-35 was the government’s ability to secure onshore work for the Dutch aerospace industry.
“The decision also consolidates the opportunities for the Dutch industry to gain contracts for high-quality work, both in the production of the F-35 and in the sustainment phase.
“The cutbacks in Defence budgets which many NATO member states, including the Netherlands, are facing demand careful consideration and astute choices. Above all, opting for a modest number of the best aircraft attests to a sense of reality.
The F-16 replacement will be conducted entirely within a previously agreed budget of €4.5 billion and within the current F-16 operating budget of €270 million euros a year.
“As the cost per unit and the operating costs for the F-35 are as yet not definite, there will be a contingency reserve of ten percent for the investments and the operating costs,” the government said.
It is anticipated the Dutch F-35s will be introduced from the beginning of 2019. The last F-16s would be decommissioned in the mid-2020s.