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Netherlands sells off aircraft
by Staff Writers
The Hague, Netherlands (UPI) Aug 30, 2011

disclaimer: image is for illustration purposes only

Five F-16 fighters from the Netherlands are on their way to Chile as the government continues to cut expenditures.

The planes, which departed Monday from Volkel Air Base, are part of a 2009 sales agreement between the two countries.

The Dutch Ministry of Defense said the first two batches of F-16s -- totaling 12 aircraft in all -- were delivered in November 2010 and in April of this year.

Six F-16s, manufactured by General Dynamics of the United States, were to have departed for Chile Monday, but one could not leave on time and will follow later this week.

The 18 fighter planes sold to Chile are one result of the defense policy measures decided in 2007 to free up additional money for defense in the form of proceeds from the sale of defense equipment.

In addition to aircraft, the Netherlands is also selling some of its artillery pieces and combat tanks.

With these sales, the number of combat aircraft in the Air Force's fleet decreased from 105 to 87 with 14 aircraft used for training.

In 2006, Chile had already purchased 18 F-16s following Dutch military cuts stemming from the government's 2003 Budget Letter.

The Defense Ministry said another 18 F-16s, which are to be retired under the latest round of defense cuts, will also be divested.

The Netherlands, like most West European nations, is struggling to maintain economic health in the face of the world economic crisis.

Former U.S. Defense Secretary Bob Gates, prior to his departure from the post earlier this year, chastised NATO member states for not investing enough in defense.

Few NATO members, he said, were meeting the alliance's requirement of spending 2 percent of gross domestic product on defense.

The result was that few members had the wherewithal to fully participate in NATO missions.

"In almost all European states, as in the United States, the defense budget is being used as a convenient quarry for saving money, exactly because the adverse effects of cutting defense are (hopefully) long-term and quite abstract--and therefore also hidden," the American Enterprise Institute, a Washington think tank, wrote in a later report. "As a consequence, many European states are on the verge of losing even basic defense capabilities, despite painful reform efforts to make their militaries more efficient.

"Unfortunately, this is happening at a time in global politics when the traditional guarantor of European security, the United States, is struggling with its own budget crisis and problems of military overstretch, and it is therefore urging Europeans to take on a greater share of the burden of their own defense."

According to the Stockholm Peace International Peace Research Institute, the Netherlands spent about 1.5 percent of its GDP in 2009 on defense.

Although it is divesting itself of F-16s, the Netherlands still plans on purchasing Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighters once they are in production.

Meanwhile, Britain's Ministry of Defense -- also struggling with ways to save pounds and pence -- said it wrote off more than $180 million last year, including about $16.7 million notated as "fruitless payments."

The 2010-2011 write-offs include a nearly $2.8 million out-of-court settlement with a furniture company at the end of a contract. A crash involving a warhead at the U.S. Naval Air Warfare Center in China Lake, Calif., cost more than $1.6 million.

The gifting of fiberglass helmets and body armor to the Ugandan government carried a price tag of nearly $2.8 million.

Just over $93 million was written off as "constructive losses" -- mainly canceled projects.

"As we acknowledged in our response to the NAO's (National Audit Office) report in June, the Ministry of Defense has not managed its resources well for many years," a ministry spokeswoman said. "That said, the NAO has now rightly acknowledged that improvements have been made to the MOD's inventory processes.

"We take the issue of write-offs seriously and while it is not possible to plan for every eventuality, a full investigation is carried out whenever write-off action is taken to ensure relevant lessons are identified and learned."

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