WASHINGTON – The recent cutback of a Dutch order for the fifth generation U.S. stealth fighter, the F-35, could suggest other countries also will cut back on their orders – due to cost overruns and delays in deliveries, perhaps even affecting the program itself, according to report from Joseph Farah’s G2 Bulletin.
A considerable amount of covering the funding for the Lockheed-Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighter was based on orders for the jet fighter.
The Netherlands originally had ordered 85 of the F-35s but cut 17 aircraft from its initial order, according to sources who did not want to be identified. Now, the Dutch are looking to invest in 52 to 68 of the aircraft.
With a budget of only $5.8 billion to replace the F-16s, the Dutch can realistically only afford some 35 F-35s.
The concern is that other countries may follow suit due to economic conditions, especially in Europe, the high cost for each warplane and delays in delivery. Pentagon officials now are concerned about what was described as a potential “death spiral” to the program altogether, but that appears unlikely given the major investment already made and the need for the U.S. to show leadership in fifth generation aircraft development.
The Russians and Chinese similarly are working on their own versions of a 5th generation aircraft which will have differing requirements but will have in common the ability to be stealthy. The F-35 still is considered superior to the Russian versions of 5th generation jet fighters.
For its part, Washington also has cut back on 410 orders out of an original 2,443 F-35s beyond 2017.
The Joint Strike Fighter, said to be a new generation of aircraft, is supposed to be used for decades to come by the U.S. Air Force, Navy and Marines, as well as U.S. allies in Asia and Europe.
The program costs some $400 billion and is supposed to replace the F-16 fighter and nearly a dozen other warplanes. It has been plagued by technical problems and is seven years behind schedule, with cost overruns up 70 percent.
Not only The Netherlands, but Britain and Italy as well as Turkey and other members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization have made major investments already in the program.
To date, the allies have invested some $1.6 billion in the program. However, any effort to get out of the program would further raise the cost of the plane, making the price of any future off-the-shelf purchase beyond reach.
The Dutch and other European countries are facing serious economic problems and are having to come up with billions of Euros in spending cuts to preserve the currency. As a consequence, investment in the F-35 program by a number of these countries which already have placed orders is coming under increased scrutiny by the politicians in the affected countries.
According to sources, the original price of each F-35 was supposed to be $69 million, but the cost now has virtually doubled to $137 million a copy.
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