Gert Kromhout/RIJNSBURG

The Netherlands has launched a formal requirement study for a new fighter to replace its Lockheed Martin F-16MLUs between 2010 and 2025.

The study will take into account expected long-term developments in the use of air power, and assess the potential of cruise missiles, armed helicopters and unmanned reconnaissance and combat air vehicles. While a firm number of aircraft is not yet determined, it is generally understood to be between 120 and 140, costing at least Fl10 billion ($5 billion).

Although the government has requested detailed information on the Boeing F/A-18E/F, Dassault Rafale, Eurofighter Typhoon, Lockheed Martin F-16 Block 60 and the Saab/BAe JAS39 Gripen, it is widely accepted that the US-led Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) is the most likely candidate. Another major life extension of the F-16 is possible, although this may not be a cost-effective solution as one major midlife update has already been completed.

The Netherlands is taking part in the JSF concept demonstration phase as a "limited co-operative partner", and a government decision will be made next year on participation in engineering and manufacturing development.

The Netherlands defence secretary told parliament recently, however, that industrial participation in the JSF does not automatically mean that the aircraft will be selected as an F-16 replacement.

Source: Flight International