The Dutch F-16s have been due for replacement for some time. The discussion about which plane should replace it took its course for over a decade and several different Dutch administrations, from the first comparison of the options in 2001 to the final decision to buy the F-35 in 2013.

Among the contenders were the Saab AB Gripen and the EADS Eurofighter, but they were dismissed in favour of the F-35.

An article in Dutch magazine Vrij Nederland claims that the decisive factor in choosing the F-35 was the fact that, as a US-built fighter jet, it was the only one that could carry and deliver US nuclear weapons such as the ones stored at the Volkel airbase.

As the article reads, in Dutch:

Volgens verschillende bronnen, ook binnen de krijgsmacht, speelt de nucleaire capaciteit van de JSF op de achtergrond wel degelijk een rol in de sterke voorkeur van Defensie voor de Joint Strike Fighter. 'De luchtmacht wil maar één ding,' zegt Harry van Bommel, defensiespecialist in de Kamerfractie van de SP: 'meedoen met de grote jongens, met het meeste geavanceerde toestel. Defensie wil alle opties openhouden, ook de nucleaire.'

"Het verzwegen argument voor de JSF: onze kernbommen", Vrij Nederland, 14 October 2013

Translated to English, this reads:

According to several sources, within the army as well, the nuclear capability of the JSF does play a background role in the DoD preference for the Joint Strike Fighter. "The air force wants one thing only," says Harry van Bommel, defense specialist in the SP fraction: "play with the big boys, with the most advanced jet. The DoD wants to keep all options open, including the nuclear one."

If this was the case, it has never been admitted publicly, although a motion by the Dutch House of Representatives to have the F-35 explicitly not outfitted for nuclear tasks was rejected by the Dutch Cabinet in early 2014.

Were the nuclear capabilities of the JSF / F-35 the deciding factor in the choice by the Dutch government of it being the replacement for the F-16?

  • 7
    I fear that any concrete "proof" of a sovereign governments procurement procedure will be somewhat hard to come by. – Jamiec Jan 31 '17 at 14:47
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    @Jamiec Yes, I'm afraid so too. Still, information can be leaked. And circumstantial evidence may point in one direction or another as well. – SQB Jan 31 '17 at 14:55
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    @warren technical vs. political. – SQB Feb 3 '17 at 20:35
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    The Dutch don't have their own nuclear weapons. So their pilots would be delivering American weapons. Why would the Americans need other pilots to do that? And, why do we need planes to drop nukes: cruise missiles or other delivery mechanisms would be better. The whole thing sounds irrelevant. – matt_black Oct 5 '17 at 11:04
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    @matt_black according to the question, the Dutch currently have a set of nuclear devices, possibly already integrated into their deployment devices. While it's true that nukes can be delivered by missiles or submarines or whatever, these particular nukes are kitted out to be delivered by planes. I know nothing of the details of ownership and control and who is allowed to do what with the nukes in question. – Ben Barden Oct 5 '17 at 14:54

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