Fighter plane price increase dismays Dutch defence minister

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Dutch Defence Minister Hans Hillen has expressed his dismay at a price increase for the purchase of the Joint Strike Fighter JSF plane. He told the US ambassador, he has "great difficulty" with the increase.

Last week, the minister told parliament that the US fighter planes would be costing 1.4 billion euros more than estimated. That is 20 percent of the 6.2 billion the Netherlands has already budgeted for the purchase of 85 JSF planes.

Minister Hillen told the US ambassador that a situation could develop which would make it impossible for him to make a normal military decision. He wants to form a "consumer power" with other European countries involved in the project, such as Great Britain and Norway, to show their displeasure.

The minority VVD and Christian Democrat government wants to buy a second test plane and has the support of the Freedom Party to do so. Although the anti-Islam party does not know whether it will ultimately choose the JSF to succeed the army's F-16s. The three parties have agreed to leave that decision to the next cabinet.

The minister was unable to say how much the second test plane will cost, although negotiations for the plane have been concluded, discussions over the engines have not. He does not expect large increases.

Minister Hillen will announce the affect of the huge defence cuts on the JSF project in the spring. He says a responsible decision will be made on how many planes will be bought.




© Radio Netherlands Worldwide

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