The Netherlands has officially signed for its first eight operational Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) aircraft, the country's Ministry of Defence (MoD) announced on 26 March.
In signing for the Royal Netherlands Air Force's (RNLAF's) initial aircraft, which are to be delivered by 2019, Dutch Defence Minister Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert said that the country has now "passed the point of no return" in its commitment to the F-35 as a successor to the incumbent F-16.
The Netherlands has already invested USD800 million in the F-35's development phase, and has to date received two test aircraft, which are operated in the United States as part of a common international test and evaluation (T&E) fleet. Once T&E is complete in 2018, both of these aircraft will be utilised by the RNLAF for training and operations.
In all, the RNLAF plans to procure 37 conventional take-off and landing (CTOL) F-35A aircraft. These aircraft are due to be manufactured at the final assembly and check out (FACO) facility in Cameri in Italy, with deliveries set to run through to 2024.
Dutch MoD officials have previously stated that the total procurement contract is expected to remain within the EUR4.5 billion (USD4.9 billion) budget set for it.