The maintenance of American F-16 fighter jets will continue to take place in Charleroi, Wallonia, by the Orizio group, a new holding company supervising Belgian aerospace companies Sabca and Sabena Aerospace, which was announced in a press release on 1 June.
Since 2001, Sabca has been in charge of the maintenance of the U.S Air Force’s European fleet of F-16 fighter jets. In March 2021, the company announced the renewal of the maintenance contract, which was subsequently challenged and won by a rival company.
Sabca later lodged an appeal against the decision and won the contract back under a different corporate structure with the inclusion of the rival, an American operator which maintains jets for the U.S in Poland. “A solution has finally been found,” said Stéphane Burton, CEO of the newly created Orizio Group, during a press conference.
The U.S Air Force has maintained a presence in Europe since World War Two. During the height of the Cold War, the U.S Air Force conducted the Berlin Airlift and protected against the violation of NATO member airspace by Soviet jets and bomber aircraft.
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The contact is worth an estimated €350 million, up from 250 for the previous agreement. Charleroi will continue to service the jets for at least the next ten years.
The U.S F-16 fighter jet was first introduced into service in 1978 and is used by 26 different nations as an air superiority all-weather multirole jet. 4,600 aircraft have been built in the model’s 43 year history.
The jets are now in their End of Life Type (ELOT) phase-out plan and will be used for another two years before being replaced with the F-35. Large scale repairs will take place in Belgium as part of the eventual phase-out and transfer of these aircraft to other nations.
Sabca will now undertake all repairs under the name of Sabena Engineering, the Orizio Group has indicated.