Lockheed Martin Corp. (LMT:US) said it still regards the Netherlands as a likely customer for its F-35 Joint Strike Fighter after a majority of legislators there voted to exit a program in which the country is an industrial partner.
Dutch parliamentarians voted 77 to 71 on July 5 to halt the purchase of the JSF, and the government is now assessing the cost and industrial implications of withdrawal. Results will be presented after a general election due to be held on Sept. 12.
“There are no binding resolutions,” Tom Burbage, Lockheed Martin’s executive vice president for the F-35 program, said yesterday in London, adding that the Bethesda, Maryland-based company is “confident” the Dutch will buy.
The Netherlands has been looking at acquiring more than 80 F-35s, with the final number in flux as the government reviews spending. The country has already bought two test aircraft, with the first due for delivery in September, and has received more than $900 million in contracts from the program to build about 3,100 planes worldwide, according to Lockheed Martin.
“We expect the amount of these contracts to continue to increase as the program progresses,” Burbage said at a Lockheed Martin briefing tied to the Farnborough air show, adding that Dutch industry has critical responsibilities on the F-35 including the sole supply of electrical wiring.
The U.S.-led F-35 Joint Program Office said in a statement that it will continue to support the Netherlands by providing fact-based information about the project.
A Dutch withdrawal would be a setback for Finmeccanica SpA (FNC), with the Rome-based company’s Alenia Aermacchi unit building an F-35 final-assembly facility where Italian and Dutch fighters would be built. The defense contractor is in talks with other countries to assemble their F-35s.
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