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08:23 AM, September 18, 2013
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The Netherlands has officially selected the F-35 joint strike fighter as the replacement for its fleet of F-16s, a major international sale for the fifth-generation fighter.

“The F-35 is a well-considered choice for a high-tech, future-oriented air force,” a Dutch government official was quoted in a statement by Defense News. “From a military operational perspective, the F-35 offers the greatest number of options. It is also the most future-proof option.”

The purchase will be for 37 of the F-35A conventional-take-off-and-landing variants, which will be the most widely produced model of the jet. The U.S. Air Force intends to purchase more than 1,700 F-35As.

The Dutch have budgeted €4.5 billion (US $6 billion) for the F-35. Because operating costs for the F-35 are still undecided, the country is putting in a contingency reserve of “10 percent for the investments and the operating costs.”

The Netherlands statement indicates that the F-35 will be introduced into its military in 2019, with decommission of the F-16s completing by the mid-202s.

Nine countries are partner nations on the F-35 program, including the Netherlands. But countries that sign on as partners are not automatically guaranteed to purchase the planes, leaving supporters of the jet to sweat out competitions around the world.

Other partner nations that have yet to commit to the jet include Denmark, which hopes to select a fighter by mid-2015, and Canada, whose decision to purchase the F-35 has been frozen due to a political scandal.

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