The Netherlands will buy 37 new F-35 Joint Strike Fighters (JSF) from US-based Lockheed Martin in a deal worth 4.5 billion euros ($6 billion) to replace its ageing fleet of F-16s by 2019, the country's defence minister said Tuesday.
Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert announced the long-debated purchase in a letter to parliament at the presentation of the government's 2014 budget at the Lower House's official opening in The Hague.
"In view of our current planning, the F-35 (also known as the Joint Strike Fighter) will go into service by 2019," operating from two Dutch air force bases, the minister said.
"After evaluating competitors in 2001 and 2008 and with updated relevant data in 2013, the cabinet has decided, based on operational and financial considerations, to choose the F-35 as the new fighter plane for the Dutch armed forces," she said.
The choice had been widely expected, with the Netherlands closely involved as one of the contributing countries to the JSF's development.
As early as 1997, the JSF has been flagged as the preferential candidate to replace the Dutch fleet of F-16s because of its stealth features, which make it almost invisible to radar.
In 2002, the Netherlands and eight other countries joined the fighter's development phase.
But a finalised Dutch purchase had been rejected in parliament, mainly by the centre-left Labour Party (PvdA) while in opposition.
However, that decision changed after Labour formed a majority coalition in the Lower House with Prime Minister Mark Rutte's Liberal party (VVD) after last September's elections.