Calls for extra defense billions to invest in our own arms industry: ‘We must not be too dependent on foreign countries’

Exciting days for the Dutch defense industry: will they benefit from the billions for the Dutch army? The maritime sector hopes for significant investment, for the preservation of the manufacturing industry and for strategic independence.

It is a historic moment: after decades of severe cuts, the Armed Forces could spend five billion euros annually in the coming period. Initially, the money will be used to solve problems such as equipment shortages and leaky barracks. After this, investments will be made in new (weapons) systems.

Independence is important

The House of Representatives is calling for investment in our own arms industry. CDA MP Derk Boswijk: “Strategic autonomy is important to us. In the corona pandemic, we have noticed how dependent we are on foreign countries, for example with mouth caps and respirators. It all came from China.”

It is not desirable when it comes to Armed Forces equipment, he believes. “We also have a manufacturing industry, especially in the maritime sector, that can make things. It’s important that we keep it. Besides know-how and employment, there is also a whole infrastructure of supply and education around it. Forever.”

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Knowledge and expertise in the Netherlands

The ghost of that sector is the bankruptcy of the aircraft manufacturer Fokker in the 1990s. Not only did this company disappear, but so did the manufacturing industry around it. Our country lost all knowledge and skills related to building aircraft in one fell swoop.

The maritime manufacturing industry is now part of the shipbuilder Royal IHC with branches in Krimpen aan den IJssel and Kinderdijk. Director Louwrens op de Beek says competition in shipbuilding with countries such as China and South Korea is fierce, but that the government has a choice. “Look at the UK. They are investing 4 billion in their own industry to build their own ships. It is a strategic choice.”

If the manufacturing industry disappears, it will be forever. You can not just rebuild it.

Derk Boswijk, House of Representatives CDA

International cooperation inevitable

Defense specialist Dick Zandee (Institute Clingendael) sees the danger of lack of investment. “We built the Walrus submarines in the 1980s. We had that know-how at the time. But there is a big gap between the construction and the replacement of equipment: the construction of the replacement is only in the 1930s. Knowledge about the construction of submarines is in the meantime disappeared. “

According to Zandee, Dutch industry has a lot to offer. “We are good at advanced techniques: sensors and radar systems for example. And also at developing materials and communication technology.”

Small vision

However, he does not believe that a call for investment in national industry is entirely topical. “It’s an understandable attitude, but it shows a little vision and forward thinking.”

“We will inevitably have to work together internationally. Take, for example, the Franco-German initiative for the construction of new armored vehicles. The Dutch industry has to get involved in such projects.”

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More employment

Op de Beek from shipbuilder IHC emphasizes that there is a close connection between military and commercial shipbuilding. The big Dutch shipbuilders like Damen and IHC build both military and civilian ships.

“Investment leads to more employment, but also to more efficient production. And that in turn has direct consequences for the rest of the industry: in the construction of dredgers, offshore and also yachts.

‘Do not let it go to waste’

In addition to the builders, the maritime sector also represents around 600 suppliers with a total of 70,000 jobs. It’s a cluster you should not let go. “

How the Defense will spend the billions will be announced on June 1, when Defense Minister Kajsa Ollongren presents the defense note.

Watch the TV report on the investments in the Dutch army here

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