The Dutch Parliament has approved participating in initial operational test and evaluation (IOT&E) of the Joint Strike Fighter, and making a 10% down payment on two Lockheed Martin F-35As.
As expected, the parliament's vote stops short of making a final commitment. The action approves an earlier decision by the Netherlands Council of Ministers to participate in IOT&E and buy two aircraft.
A final decision by Parliament to purchase two F-35As for IOT&E is not expected until early next year. Meanwhile, the parliament is reportedly conducting an analysis of alternatives before it makes a final commitment.
"Lockheed Martin welcomes the approval, and we look forward to the delivery of the first two F-35 Lightning II stealth fighters to the Royal Netherlands Air Force," Lockheed said in a statement.
The Netherlands is expected to become the third government to purchase the F-35, behind the US and the UK. The UK is also purchasing F-35B short take-off and vertical landing variants to participate in IOT&E.
The Royal Netherlands Air Force plans to buy 85 conventional take-off and landing F-35As to replace Lockheed F-16s, although the final number may shift if the price of the aircraft changes. The Dutch in 2002 pledged to invest $800 million to become Level 2 international partners in the JSF system development and demonstration phase.