We don’t need the Joint Strike Fighter

15 September 2013

We don’t need the Joint Strike Fighter

The PvdA (Labour Party), the junior partner in the Netherlands’ centre-right/centre-left governing coalition, is threatening to give its agreement to its partner’s proposal to go ahead with the purchase of the US-made warplane the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF). Yet the Netherlands has absolutely no need for this highly expensive jet fighter-bomber. Agreement would, furthermore, represent an unthinkable turnaround from the PvdA, which for years fought side by side with the SP against the purchase of the JSF.

SP Member of Parliament Jasper van Dijk

Jasper van DijkSupporters of the JSF employ paper-thin arguments in favour of the purchase. Principally, they are pleased with the new technologies and the state of the art sensors.

Quite apart from all of the cost increases resulting from vulnerable engineering, these supporters don’t go into the question of why the Netherlands actually needs this fighter-bomber at this time. To show the United States that the Netherlands can fight alongside them in the ‘highest intensity spectrum’? So that we can join in with bombing campaigns in countries like Iran or Syria? Given the disastrous consequences of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, in my opinion the Netherlands must keep well out of such things, so buying the JSF to be able to take part in new, controversial wars is extremely undesirable.

As a result of the enormous cuts in defence spending, any such ambition also seems increasingly unrealistic. A major step backwards in relation to military matters by the Netherlands is unavoidable. A reduction of €1.3 billion as well as 12,000 redundancies have put the armed forces under heavy pressure, yet Prime Minister Mark Rutte and PvdA leader Diederik Samsom want to spend €4.5 billion on the JSF, which will also bring a bill of €10 billion in operating costs. The result is that the army and navy are being ‘devoured’ by the new fighter-bomber. It would be much more realistic to adjust the level of ambition downwards. In the first place that would mean cancelling the JSF. To support this view we present the following arguments:

1. The Netherlands has no need to get involved in the ‘highest intensity spectrum’ of violence and could manage with small armed forces directed towards stabilisation and peace-keeping. Research by the Clingendael Institute – a high-level Dutch think-tank concerned with international relations – has demonstrated that for such purposes the JSF is not necessary.

2. The JSF has already proved a headache for ten years as a result of technical deficiencies, delays and cost increases. It recently emerged that this plane is unable to fly in rain and storms. There are cracks in the aircraft and major problems with the software.

3. It is completely unclear why the Netherlands should need an ultra-modern fighter-bomber. Increasingly, drones are preferred and there are cheaper alternatives available when it comes to the protection of ground troops.

4. We should continue with the F16 and decide later whether a new and cheaper aircraft should be bought off the peg. The money thus saved could be spent on things affected by spending cuts, such as health care and education.

It’s still not too late. Parliament can still reject this ill-fated decision. Last year a motion from both the PvdA and the SP in favour of cancelling the JSF was adopted by majority vote. Diederik Samsom would deserve a big pat on the back if he were to maintain this position, instead of bowing before the his centre-right partners in government, the VVD, and their hobby horse, a decision for which hardly anyone can see the need.

This article first appeared in the original Dutch on 13th September 2013 in a number of regional newspapers.

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