The Netherlands will be adding nine more F-35s to its existing order of 37 fighters, per a letter to the Dutch House of Representatives from State Secretary for Defense Barbara Visser delivered on October 8.
The order provides a foundation for the stand-up of a third Royal Netherlands Air Force (RNLAF) F-35 squadron down the line and will bring the total figure of incoming F-35s up to 46. The estimated costs associated with this add-on order amount to EUR1.016 billion ($1.11 billion), per Visser’s letter. Estimated operational costs for the nine additional F-35s are placed at EUR43 million in 2023, EUR93 million in 2024, and EUR97 million per year from 2025.
— Defensienieuws (@Defensie) October 8, 2019
The top-up order will be confirmed by year-end at the Joint Program Office. It reportedly has received broad political support in the Dutch Parliament. The order allows the RNLAF to meet its objective of having four jets on standby for NATO missions while also undertaking defense of national airspace duties, plus necessary training and maintenance requirements.
Following some 15-plus years of political wrangling, the Netherlands government green-lighted what had long been considered a foregone conclusion when, on September 17, 2013, it announced the purchase of 37 F-35s via a EUR4.5 billion ($6 billion) special budget earmarked for the project (the total estimate was revised upward to $5.2 billion in September 2015).
The F-35 was tapped as the replacement for the RNLAF’s fleet of F-16s, of which 61 remain in service. The 37 F-35s originally on order will be progressively brought into service through 2023 as the F-16s simultaneously undergo a phased retirement.