Pros and Cons of the 37 JSFs
In the middle of the commotion about the budget for the coming year towards Budget Day, minister Jeanine Hennis of Defense released the plans for the future of Defense. One of the decisions of the government is to buy 37 JSFs.
Decisions about the future of the Dutch defense are sensitive issues. For instance, the issue about the JSFs. While the VVD is in favor of the purchase of the new jet fighter, coalition partner is internally divided about buying the JSFs and in the House many parties are struggling with this issue. The decision of the government has yet to be agreed upon by the House and the Senate.
What is wisdom?
In 1996, the government under Prime Minister Wim Kok (PvdA), decided that the old jet fighter, the F16, had to be replaced. It was not yet decided by which type of plane. The F16 was in use by Defense since 1979.
The second government lead by Kok, a coalition of PvdA, D66 and VVD, decided to join the program to develop the new jet fighter in 2002. The US had started the program in 2001. The decision of the government was also based on the participation of Dutch industries in the development.
In the years to follow many cabinets have had problems deciding further steps. Four governments led by Jan-Peter Balkenende (CDA) came not further than to buy one test model, but no decision was made about the final purchase.
The first government of Mark Rutte (VVD) also only decided to by a second test model, but delayed the decision for a purchase, so the next government should have to do that.
In 2012 the House agreed on a motion to step out of the project. This decision was fed by the high costs and the economic situation in the Netherlands. Rutte II decided however to continue to talk further about the purchase of the new jet fighter.
Minister Hennis made it officially public, on Tuesday, that the government has decided to purchase 35 JSFs, making it a total of 37 jet fighters. The purchase is budgeted for 4.5 billion euro and every year the maintenance will cost several hundreds of millions.
The official name of the JSF is 'F-35 Lightning II', but it is also called the Joint Strike Fighter.
It is built to replace fighter, strike and ground attack aircrafts for the US, the UK, Italy, Canada, Turkey, Australia, Norway, Denmark and The Netherlands.
The jet fighter is built by Lockheed Martin. Over the last eleven years many problems with the project have risen and budget overruns were plenty, leading to discussions in the Dutch politics.
“Lockheed Martin is very happy with the decision of The Netherlands and it is an important step for the program,” says Lorraine Martin, F35 program manager.
Happy with the decision
The Dutch aviation industry is very happy with the decision of the government. More than 2200 employees in the aviation industry will have work through this project for the coming decades. Besides that there will be new jobs at suppliers.
Sjoerd Vollebregt, CEO of Fokker Technologies, says, “ By choosing the JSF the government secures for decades quality employment in production and maintenance.”
At present, among other places, work for the JSF is already performed in Woensdrecht. Mayor Marcel Fränzel of the Brabant town responded enthusiastically to the planned purchase. “ All work for the JSF has proven effective. Chances are that the knowledge and work on the JSF in Woensdrecht will be continued and expanded. That means a boost to employment.''
Michiel van der Maat, president of NIFARP, a platform for builders of parts for the JSF, says to be very pleased with the government's decision to purchase 37 JSF aircrafts. “International this is seen as playing in the Champions League of the aviation industry.”
Not so happy with the decision
First of all, the coalition partner of the VVD, the PvdA, has a problem. Although the group in the House seems to have already agreed on the purchase of the JSFs, the majority of the grassroots of the party are against the purchase and the whole project. This will be a tough cookie for PvdA leader Diederik Samsom.
The military bases in Volkel and Leeuwarden will be the most possible places where the JSFs will be stationed. Although it is good for the employment, they don’t know yet what impact the noise will have on the communities.
Mayor Henk Hellebregts of Uden, the municipality where Volkel belongs to, says that the employment is of very much importance to his municipality, but he would like to have more knowledge about the impact on the normal life in his municipality.
Spokesman of the citizens of Volkel, Marius Wijdeven, says that the people in Volkel are happy with the decision but that they are afraid what is to come. “So far there are only reports about noise. Shouldn’t it be time to actually let one of these planes come here? We are of course used to the flying jet fighters but there is a limit to everything.”
The vision of the government on the future of Defense is now clear. The level of ambition is lowered. Minister Jeanine Hennis states in the report that it is in the interest of the Netherlands that Defense will be able to, besides smaller missions and tasks, do one bigger operation at sea, on the land and in the air. “It is an important choice that we made, to keep the Defense operational as well as financially under control. We hope that by making this decision, the years-long discussions will end.”
Defense is hit hard by the cuts of this governments and the previous government. On top of the about 10,000 lost jobs by Rutte I, Defense will now lose another 2300 jobs. This involves the forced resignation of 700 to 900 employees.
Besides the cuts, Defense also announces investments. One of the investments will be on digital warfare, because the government thinks that this becomes a more and more important issue for the national security. Another investment is the purchase of the JSFs.