Belgium had already opted for the USA and its F-35 planes before launching a public tender for replacing its F-16 planes, Eric Trappier, CEO of Dassault Aviation, charged on Tuesday at a conference in Paris. Belgium’s links with the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) could be part of the reason for this, according to the French businessman. Moreover, Europe’s defence industry often shows a preference for American products, he said.
The F-35s’ competitor, the Rafale, developed by Dassault Aviation, had been proposed to Belgium as part of a French offer made outside the official bidding procedure.
Dassault reacted quickly after the Belgian Government announced that the U.S. fighter had been selected. It said the choice of the F-35 was a bad sign for the construction of Europe’s defence, and was further evidence of a preference for the United States in Europe.
Belgium launched the tender in March 2017 for the supply of 34 fighter planes to replace its ageing fleet of 54 F-16’s, a purchase estimated at 3.6 billion euros.