The first Dutch F-35 takes to the skies. The Dutch Parliament voted Nov. 7 to purchase the F-35 as their next-generation fighter. (Lockheed Martin)
WASHINGTON — The Dutch Parliament has ratified the government’s choice of the F-35 as the Netherlands next-generation fighter, putting an end to a 15-year debate.
The vote on whether the stealthy plane will replace the Dutch fleet of F-16s occurred the evening of Nov. 7.
“This is a very important moment in history: Finally we can give clarity to our military and to our international partners,” Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert, the Dutch minister of defense, said in a statement released by the government. “With this choice for the F-35, we provide the Dutch Armed Forces with the best aircraft available to deal with the challenges of our time and of the future.”
Both Lockheed Martin, prime contractor on the plane, and engine manufacturer Pratt & Whitney reacted positively to the news.
“Lockheed Martin is honored that the Netherlands Government has selected the F-35 as the F-16 replacement,” Lockheed Martin said in a company statement. “We are proud that for more than 30 years, the Royal Netherlands Air Force has owned and operated Lockheed Martin aircraft. Flying the F-35 will represent the next chapter of our partnering by providing the very best aircraft capabilities possible for Netherlands’ national security. Dutch Industry is currently involved in designing and manufacturing the F-35 and this program provides high technology jobs and long-term technology benefits to the Netherlands.”
“Pratt & Whitney is honored to be part of the Dutch government’s selection of the F135-powered F-35 Lightning II, and we look forward to supporting the Royal Netherlands Air Force and Dutch aerospace industry,” said Tyler Evans, director of international business development at Pratt & Whitney Military Engines.
“The Dutch are longtime partners in the program and we look forward to working with them in the future as we continue to deliver F-35s to the Royal Air Force,” Joe DellaVedova, spokesman for the F-35 Joint Program Office, said.
The Dutch government selected the fifth-generation fighter Sept. 17, releasing a statement calling the plane “a well-considered choice for a high-tech, future-oriented air force.’
The purchase will be for 37 of the F-35A conventional-take-off-and-landing variants, which will be the most widely produced model of the jet. The US Air Force intends to purchase more than 1,700 F-35As.
The Dutch have budgeted €4.5 billion (US $6 billion) for the F-35, which they believe will cover the 37 planes — a number the government’s statement says could grow.
“If, within the given financial parameters, there is room to purchase more aircraft in the coming years, the Netherlands will do so,” the statement read.
The Netherlands has already purchased two F-35A variants, while the first Dutch pilot is currently in training school at Eglin Air Force Base.
Nine countries are partner nations on the F-35 program, including the Netherlands. But countries that sign on as partners are not automatically guaranteed to purchase the planes. Other partner nations that have yet to commit to the jet include Denmark, which hopes to select a fighter by mid-2015, and Canada, whose decision to purchase the F-35 has been frozen due to a political scandal.