July 5, 2012 / 5:18 PM / 7 years ago

Dutch plans to buy F-35 fighter jets in doubt

AMSTERDAM, July 5 (Reuters) - The Netherlands should scrap plans to buy F-35 Joint Strike Fighter jets because it cannot afford the project’s ballooning costs as the country attempts to cut spending, a majority of parliament said on Thursday.

One leading party, Labour, will submit a proposal to the 150-seat legislature on the last session before Sept. 12 elections calling for an end to Dutch participation in the Lockheed Martin Corp warplanes project.

Whether the Netherlands, which has already ordered two F-35 test planes, will quit the project depends on the outcome of the elections, and the new government that takes office afterwards.

The Dutch government collapsed over painful austerity measures in April, but the state has to cut costs by billions of euros to meet EU guidelines. About 4.5 billion euros has been set aside for the F-35 jets.

During a debate with Dutch Defence Minister Hans Hillen, lawmakers complained about the project’s escalating costs and said there were no guarantees over Dutch jobs or future costs.

“Due to all the uncertainties we will ask the cabinet to pull out of the project,” Labour member of parliament Angelien Eijsink said.

“Year after year the costs rise, there are delays and there is certainty about very little else,” Eijsink said.

Japan and a U.S. Air Force official have warned they may order fewer planes if costs go up further.

Labour, the Socialist Party, Freedom Party, GreenLeft and Party for the Animals, which jointly control 78 seats of the 150 in the Dutch lower house, said they wanted to drop out of the project. The planes are the successor to F-16 fighters.

If the Netherlands does go ahead to buy F-35s, it will buy less than the 85 planes originally planned, Hillen said in April.

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