Netherlands considers shelving cruise missile purchase

The Netherlands' defense ministry is considering postponing the controversial purchase of American Tomahawk cruise missiles for the navy as part of defense cuts, Dutch newspaper Trouw reported Monday.

Defense Minister Eimert van Middelkoop will hold talks with his officials this week about a new plan for a focus shift in spending from weapons to personnel, who are under severe pressure due to international missions, the report said.

Other options include scrapping a squadron of 18 F16s and selling more tanks and panzer howitzers, it said.

A ministry spokesman said Sunday that the armed forces must find alternatives since the extra money promised during the government formation talks earlier this year will not be enough.

The defense minister is also facing a shortfall since Finance Minister Wouter Bos is refusing to pay for the replacement of some helicopters.

Van Middelkoop's predecessor Henk Kamp strongly urged the purchase of Tomahawk cruise missiles for navy frigates. Kamp wanted a "long arm" for the navy vessels to protect troops on land, which would also allow the Netherlands to fight at the highest level of combat with the Americans and British.

But there was never much enthusiasm in parliament for the proposal, with the Labor Party in particular, one of the three coalition parties, objecting in recent years.

The coalition of the Christian Democrats, Labor and the Christian Union will soon have to reach a compromise on the purchase of a new fighter aircraft, the American Joint Strike Fighter (JSF).

The Labor Party was always opposed to buying it, but the air force already expects to buy 85 JSFs when the F16s go out of service after 2012.

Source: Xinhua



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