Netherlands parliament will weigh up requests for added strategic airlift, helicopters and long-endurance UAVs

The Netherlands defence ministry has outlined its latest spending priorities, including the planned acquisition of a Boeing C-17 strategic transport, medium-altitude, long-endurance (MALE) unmanned air vehicles and additional CH-47 Chinook transport helicopters.

The Netherlands plans to purchase one C-17 to strengthen its current airlift fleet of Lockheed Martin C-130s. The proposed deal will cost €300 million ($385 million), plus a further €20 million a year in operating costs, but hinges on continued production of the type beyond 2008.

Expected to lead to a contract award next year, the MALE UAV project will cost €185 million and follows the purchase of five Aladin mini reconnaissance systems from Germany's EMT earlier this year.

A previously announced plan to acquire an additional five Chinooks is expected to overrun its original budget, with the defence ministry now planning to buy another three helicopters under an increased rotorcraft spend worth €195 million. It also plans to order two more NH Industries NH90 transport helicopters under the new plan.

The ministry has also sent its first request to parliament to approve the purchase of an initial 108 infrared-guided air-to-air missiles to replace the air force's Raytheon AIM-9 Sidewinders between 2007 and 2011. Lead candidates to arm the service's current Lockheed F-16s and future F-35 Joint Strike Fighters are BGT's IRIS-T and Raytheon's AIM-9X missile, with both companies already having submitted proposals.

A plan to return to service six of the air force's Boeing AH-64 Apache attack helicopters, which had been earmarked for disposal, will cost an initial €75 million, plus another €50 million to upgrade the aircraft to operational standard. One of the aircraft has already been modified to compensate for the loss of a Dutch Apache in Afghanistan last year.

Source: Flight International