jueves, abril 23, 2009

Dutch coalition partners divided on JSF decision

A heavy debate took place at the Dutch parliament yesterday on whether to buy the first two Lockheed Martin-built F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) fighter aircraft. The debate started at 4pm but took until deep into the night since serious discordance on that decision between the three coalition partners becomes evident. These apparently irreconcilable divergences may have serious consequences for the Dutch cabinet, according to most national newspapers.
Labour, one of three parties in the coalition government, shocked the rest of the cabinet by stating they will not back the purchase of the JSF test aircraft worth €274 million.
A decision on whether to spend €6.1 billion to buy 85 such fighters does not have to be taken until 2010. However, according to the Labour party agreeing to buy the test aircraft will commit the country to further purchases. Labour's parliamentary leader Mariëtte Hamer said that she wants the Netherlands to remain involved in the development of the fighter but is opposed to binding the nation on such a huge programme at this stage.
“We want to make sure we don’t get sucked into a billion euro project which may later turn out to have been the wrong decision,” Hamer was reported as saying.
The Christian Democrats (Christian Democratic Appeal) and defence ministry want to sign the deal for the two aircraft by the end of this month. According to them the JSF is the right aircraft to replace the fleet of F-16s currently used by the Royal Netherlands Air Force.
Deputy Defence Minister Jack de Vries stated he remains committed to the proposed purchase. He said that a decision not to buy the fighters would cost the country at least €873 million. A large part of that, €760 million, comprises money the Netherlands has already invested in the programme. Beyond that, employment and research opportunities for Dutch companies would be lost as a result of the country leaving the programme. Mr de Vries further stressed that an agreement to buy the JSF test planes was part of the 2006 coalition accord, and underlined that the aircraft are urgently needed to train pilots.
The third party in the coalition government, the Christian Union wants to purchase at least one JSF aircraft.
Labour Party's decision not to vote in favour the purchase now means there is no majority support in parliament for the cabinet's plan. It remains unclear what consequences this will have.
Hamer said Labour's decision not to approve the purchase need not cause a coalition crisis. “We are not looking for a crisis,” she said. “We just want to make a good decision on behalf of the taxpayer.”
As regards the other major partners in the JSF programme, the UK has recently indicated that it will place an order for three test aircraft within this year, while Italy has cancelled the proposed buy of two aircraft due to financial difficulties.
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Related articles:
Netherlands Defence Minister Says Not Buying JSF Could Cost Millions http://www.defpro.com/news/details/6843/
Netherlands to postpone JSF Decision Until 2012http://www.defpro.com/news/details/6781/
Dutch Cabinet Feels the Heat Over JSFhttp://www.defpro.com/news/details/6050/
No Fixed Price for Joint Strike Fighterhttp://www.defpro.com/news/details/5999/
Netherlands Court of Audit founds financial risks in the JSF programmehttp://www.defpro.com/news/details/5299/
JSF Scores Best In Candidate Comparisonhttp://www.defpro.com/news/details/4537/

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