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Dutch Defense Minister Hans Hillen has reaffirmed that the country is going to buy fewer F-35 Joint Strike Fighters than first planned.Hillen made those comments in a Dutch television interview on Sunday, without giving a new procurement objective. The Netherlands will be one of the first countries to receive an F-35, with the first of two test aircraft due for handover this year.How big a shift in the Dutch position does Hillen's acknowledgement represent?The Dutch have signaled for about two years that the number of F-35s to be eventually bought would be below the 85 initially stated. In 2010, Hillen already told parliament that costs of the program would go up 20% because of unit cost increases if the size of the Dutch buy did not change and, at the time, he warned a cost assessment was underway at the Pentagon. Since then, costs have further increased. Since Hillen notified parliament of the higher costs, it has been assumed the total procurement would likely shrink. What remains unclear is how big the reduction will be. The size of the eventual procurement will be determined by a later government. The Dutch have also been cutting their F-16 fleet, with fewer than 70 now in operation.
ar99, JSF, tacair
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