- Defence Materiel Organisation
- F-16 replacement
Two candidate comparisons were carried out, one in 2001 and the other in 2008. There were six initial candidates: the Rafale F4, the Eurofighter Typhoon Tranche 3, the F-35 (JSF), the Advanced F-16, the Saab Gripen C/D and the F/A-18 E/F Super Hornet.
The first candidate comparison took place in 2001, after which the Saab Gripen C/D and the F-18 E/F were rejected. In both cases, this was due to their limited military-operational qualities, such as their range, self-protection capabilities and sensor package. Out of the four remaining aircraft, the F-35 emerged as the best aircraft for the best price. In 2002, the decision was made to participate in the System Development and Demonstration (SDD) phase of the F-35. No definitive decision was made at the time to purchase the F-35, however. The National Aerospace Laboratory has continued to monitor the other remaining candidates through study of open-source documents.
The most recent coalition agreement of the Dutch Government stipulated that the various candidates would be compared again in 2008. Although the F-18 E/F and the Saab Gripen C/D had been rejected after the candidate evaluation in 2001, the general meeting of the House of Representatives of 27 May 2008 requested that those aircraft be included in the list of candidates once again. On 3 July 2008, however, a general meeting was held on the F-18 E/F. As a result of that meeting, three motions were tabled which were all rejected. In concrete terms, that meant that as of then the F-18 E/F was officially no longer a contender to replace the F-16. The reasons were:
- two engines, and therefore higher maintenance costs
- the aircraft is too large for the current shelters
- outdated basic concept (design dating from the early 1980s)
After 2002, Saab developed the Gripen further and it intends to market a new version of the Gripen, the Saab Gripen Next Generation (NG).
The remaining five candidates were sent a questionnaire in 2008. They were asked what the current status of their aircraft design was. The questions focused on price, quality and delivery time, as stipulated in the coalition agreement.
Dassault (Rafale) and Eurofighter decided not to cooperate in the updating of the candidate comparison, and withdrew their bids. That meant that as of late July 2008, the only remaining candidates were the F-35, the Saab Gripen NG and the Advanced F-16.
On 18 December, 2008 the results of the second candidate comparison were presented to the Dutch House of Representatives. The three candidates (Advanced F 16, Saab Gripen NG and F-35) were compared with respect to price, quality and delivery time. The F-35 scored the highest on all three counts.
“The F-35 is the best multi-role combat aircraft and by around 2015 will certainly be able to carry out all six candidate-comparison missions successfully. The F-35 also has the greatest operational availability. In addition, the investment costs of the F-35 are the lowest and it is anticipated that the total life-cycle costs will also be the lowest.”
The comparison with respect to quality focused on the concept of operations for the following six generic multi-role missions:
Offensive Counter-Air missions are aimed at gaining air superiority by attacking enemy air bases and attacking enemy aircraft over enemy territory. This type of operation is mainly conducted in the initial phase of a conflict. An example of such a mission is the air operation in the Balkans in 1999 during Operation Allied Force.
Defensive Counter-Air missions gain air superiority by attacking incoming enemy aircraft (air defence), as well as defence against incoming cruise missiles. It also includes safeguarding the sovereignty of the national airspace and protecting the area of operations.
SEAD/DEAD involves the suppression/destruction of enemy air defences and the related command and fire-control systems, such as radar, on the ground. In the future, this threat will continue to increase due to the proliferation of advanced air-defence systems in combination with a substantial increase in range. A number of years ago, SEAD/DEAD was solely related to initial-entry operations, in which the enemy air defences had to be eliminated first. It has since become clear that this type of operation is conceivable in any stage of a conflict, because highly mobile air-defence systems and radar can remain hidden more easily and are therefore less vulnerable in the initial phase of a conflict. SEAD/DEAD capability is a recognised shortfall within both NATO and the EU.
This refers to attacking enemy logistic supply lines and lines of communication, deep inside enemy territory. These are long-distance missions, so a long range and good self-protection are essential.
Close Air Support (CAS) missions support the ground troops who are engaged with enemy ground units. CAS missions are the core of the daily deployment of combat aircraft in Afghanistan. Besides extensive options for carrying several weapon types and their effective deployment, a high level of precision in eliminating targets is also crucial, for instance in order to prevent collateral damage. Effective Close Air Support also means that the missions can be conducted either by day or by night, and in all weather conditions. In both NATO and the EU, there is a great shortfall in high-precision weapons employment capability.
The airborne gathering of intelligence, the airborne protection of an area and the conducting of reconnaissance missions by making optimum use of the aircraft’s sensor package are collectively known as ISR. This also involves sharing information and intelligence with friendly troops on the ground (Network-Enabled Capabilities). There is a considerable need for these capabilities in NATO and the EU, but little capability available. ‘Non-traditional’ ISR refers to a situation in which, during ‘normal’ missions, information on the area of operations is updated continuously, after which it can be made available immediately to friendly ground and airborne units. For this purpose, the aircraft requires a large data-storage and processing capability on board.