September 30, 2006 (by ) - The Dutch cabinet decided Friday to sign a memorandum of understanding with the US shortly on the production phase of the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF).
Despite the opposition of Labour (PvdA), the government plans to sign the contract with the Americans before the 22 November general elections.
is already involved in the development phase of the JSF
, successor to the F-16. It was agreed that a decision would be taken before 2007 on participation in the production phase. After the government fell last June, the Christian democrat (CDA)-conservative (VVD) continued in a minority government that decided that controversial matters would be left to the next administration. But which projects were controversial was not actually specified.
The cabinet decision is politically controversial because the PvdA has made it clear that the Netherlands will not purchase a single JSF if the party comes into government. The PvdA is afraid the development will turn out more expensive than projected. If the cabinet signs up for the production phase, it will be a good deal more difficult for a subsequent administration, and the PvdA, to withdraw from the JSF project.
The agreement to be signed in November is "a logical next step in the Netherlands long-lasting involvement in the JSF" but "not a decision to purchase JSF aircraft" and "not an irreversible step" either, said the Government Information Service (RVD). "The eventual decision for possible purchase of the JSF will be taken in 2009" by the next cabinet".
Dutch companies have received orders worth 700 million dollars during the development phase. If the Netherlands joins the production phase, the number of contracts will increase strongly. If it decides later to withdraw, orders may likely be cancelled.