April 12, 2012 (by Asif Shamim) - A reports from The Netherlands Court of Audit indicates the Dutch Ministry of Defense made a decision on April 8, 2011 to reduce its number of F-16s from 87 to 68 aircraft while the Rutte-Verhagen government has deferred a decision on purchasing the F-35 until after elections planned to be held in 2015.
Could this be one of the remaining few Dutch F-16's?
Several options are being considered regarding the 19 F-16s airframes. These include selling part or all of them and or breaking some up as spares to extend the life of the 87 still in the airforce inventory.
has also cut the number of active F-16 pilots down to 68 with fewer flying hours per annum, which should provide a saving of €41.4 million ($53 million) per year.
The F-16s original lifespan was 20 years, but in the back in the 1990s the Ministry decided to upgrade the F-16s with a Mid-Life Update (MLU
) to extend the lifespan of the aircraft. Around 2015, the oldest MLU F-16s will have reached the end of their useful lifespan.
The phase-out of the F-16 will continue until 2023, at which point the oldest remaining jets will be about 40 years old. It is estimated to prolong the life of of the existing airframes another 3 years to 2026 would cost the ministry an additional €300 million.
As for the replacement, the F-35A. Dutch planning expects to have a inventory of 85. However the ministry has currently set aside €4.5 billion for the purchase. This is 60% of the required budget they cited back in 2010.
The first Dutch F-35, AN-1 was rolled out by Lockheed Martin on April 1st, 2012. Along with a second example these will be used by the RNLAF as the initial test and evaluation aircraft.