The Labour party has given up its opposition to the purchase of the JSF fighter jet and will support the project, ‘well-informed sources’ in The Hague have told Nos television.
The cabinet is set to decide soon whether or not to press on with the order for 30 to 40 jets to replace the air force’s aging F16s. The original order was for 85 jets but this has been cut over the years.
One Dutch jet is currently undergoing test flights and a second test aircraft is due to be delivered this year.
The issue has divided parliament for years, because of the high cost of the new American-built aircraft. There has also been criticism in the US over the mounting costs and delays.
A report by the Clingendael foreign policy institute earlier this year said an armed forces which includes the controversial JSF jet fighter is the least attractive scenario for the future of the Dutch military.
Clingendael says the JSF will only be needed if the Netherlands wants to take part in the opening phase of military interventions.
But the high cost of the JSF will lead to ‘serious limitations’ to the country’s maritime operations – such as the role the Netherlands currently plays in protecting commercial shipping against pirates.
The Netherlands would also have less capacity to take part in human rights and humanitarian missions, the institute says.
The cabinet is expected to take a final decision this month, following the publication of a report on the costs by the general auditors office, Nos said.
However, even if the green light is given, the issue still has to be passed by parliament and it will still be some five years before the aircraft actually arrive in the Netherlands.