Pentagon wins big on F-35 deal with the Netherlands

The first F-35 fighters configured for Dutch military will begin entering service in 2019, according to the government statement.  

That will coincide with final retirements of the country's F-16 fleet, which is expected to be complete by mid-2020. 

Monday's selection comes after two separate reviews of potential fighter jet options by Dutch military leaders in 2001 and 2008. 

After those reviews, Amsterdam found the F-35 to be the "best able to deal with the proliferation of mobile air defence systems and offers vastly improved observation capabilities, which are of great value in any type of mission." 

Finalizing the Netherlands deal comes at a critical time for the F-35 program, which has suffered multiple setbacks on the domestic and international side. 

Last May, Australia opted to delay its planned F-35 purchases by two years, citing increased costs and schedule delays in the jet's development. 

The decision to hold off on the anticipated 70-plane purchase will save Canberra $1.6 billion over the next four years, according to reports at the time. 

In December of that year, Canada announced plans to restart its fighter competition, after a government investigation found military leaders in the country had misled decision makers in Ottawa on the jet's costs and capabilities. 

Canada and Australia were part of the nine-country coalition who planned to buy mass quantities of the futuristic fighter jet. 

The U.S. portion of the F-35 program has recently run into significant hurdles as well. 

Pentagon officials in March ordered the Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps versions of the plane grounded, after the turbine cracks were uncovered aboard an Air Force version of the jet stationed at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif. 

While the issues were resolved by JSF contractor Pratt & Whitney and the jet was put back on flight status, the warplane's extreme cost and schedule delays have made it a target for fiscal hawks on Capitol Hill. 

Defense analysts argue cancelling the F-35, along with the Navy's Littoral Combat Ship and Marine Corps V-22 Osprey, could help the Pentagon cope with severe budget cuts under the White House's sequestration plan. 

The Defense Department is facing $500 billion in spending cuts mandated by the sequester over the next decade. The cuts began in March, and would reduce Pentagon spending by $52 billion next year.