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The Dutch parliament passed a majority resolution yesterday calling on the coalition government to withdraw from the Joint Strike Fighter program. What does it mean and what does it not mean?
It will not lead to action in the immediate future. The government said before the vote - led by the PvdA (Labor) party - that it would not act on it, mainly because it is a stop-gap coalition pending elections on September 12.
Also, even if the PvdA comes out on top in the elections and leads a new coalition, it's not certain how the votes would actually fall on the F-35. Thursday's action was something of a protest vote by a broad coalition including left-wingers who would rather not buy fighters at all, and Geert Wilders' right-wing Freedom Party. Collectively, this is a group that would have trouble ordering a pizza, much less establishing and executing policy.
But the fact remains that a parliamentary majority in a JSF founder nation has voted to ditch the project. This has happened without any major campaigning by rivals: Saab outlined a Gripen offer in 2009 but Eurofighter, Dassault and Boeing have been absent.
The shared objection that unites the diverse parties is the program's increasing costs and sliding schedule. Defense minister Hans Hillen, in office since October 2010, has been forced to convey successive slips and cost increases to Parliament, and to acknowledge that the program will be delayed and that the fighter force will likely shrink. The cost increases worry the left, in an era of austerity, while the shrinking number of aircraft is a concern on the right.
ar99, jsf, netherlands
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