Dutch defense chief opens door for more F-35s

COLOGNE, Germany – Dutch defense minister Ank Bijleveld has eliminated the country’s budget cap for F-35 purchases, opening the possibility of buying more planes in the future, a spokesman confirmed to Defense News.

The defense ministry spokesman described the move as “just a formality” that would not require parliamentary approval, as the Dutch objective of buying 37 copies of the Lockheed Martin-made jet for €4.7 billion remains in place. But it means “we leave the option open to buy new planes” beyond those already envisioned in the budget, the spokesman said.

The development was first reported by the Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf, which wrote that the air force was angling to eventually get 67 aircraft. That amount would be enough to field four squadrons in the Netherlands, according to the newspaper.

Dick Zandee, a defense analyst at the Dutch Clingendael foreign policy think tank, said the recently released 2019 budget still reflects the government’s target of buying 37 planes. But the budget cap elimination at this time could set the stage for additional contracts in a few years’ time, once deliveries of the batch already on order are nearing completion.