The Netherlands defense ministry has revealed plans to accelerate its purchase of an additional six F-35 fighter aircraft as well as four more unmanned MQ-9 Reaper aircraft.
While the increase in numbers was already announced in the country’s defense memorandum 2022, the defense ministry now said it wants to order the aircraft as soon as possible in connection with the overstrained defense market.
The defense ministry made a similar move in April this year, when it fast-forwarded €450 million of ammunition purchases to replenish its stocks.
The additional aircraft purchases will eventually bring the Royal Netherlands Air Force’s F-35 fleet to 52 airframes, while the Reaper fleet will grow to 8 systems.
For the delivery of the six additional F-35s to take place in 2025, the order will have to be placed before mid-July 2022.
“If this does not happen, there will be a gap in the delivery schedule of the devices. The completion of the third squadron and the additional operational benefits will then be delayed for at least 2 years. This is partly due to the worldwide increase in demand for F-35s,” the defense ministry said.
The additional MQ-9 Reapers are being bought due to operational needs, according to the defense ministry. As the production line of the current version (MQ-9A) is coming to an end, the United States has indicated that the order must therefore be submitted no later than August 31.
It should be noted that the weapons for both the F-35 and MQ-9 Reaper are not part of this purchase. These purchases will be discussed through regular procedures in 2023, the defense ministry noted.
The Royal Netherlands Air Force will be getting more of the fifth-generation fighters after achieving initial operational capability (IOC) for the aircraft in late 2021.
The declaration of IOC meant that the country’s air force can now deploy a squadron of four F-35s with personnel and equipment anywhere in the world for a short period of time. Earlier this year, the squadron deployed to Bulgaria in the aftermath of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, where they supported NATO’s air policing mission in the region.