The Socialist Party Differently (sp.a) fears that buying 34 Joint Fight Strikers (F-35s) to replace the current F-16s would cost about two billion euros more than expected, based on a U.S. State Department press release that estimates the sale of the F-35s to Belgium at 5.3 billion euros. The Belgian Government had estimated the buying price of the new fighter planes at 3.6 billion euros.
Two state agencies responded favourably to a Request for Government Proposal (RfGP) issued by Belgium’s Defence Department for replacing the F-16s. One of them proposed the F-35 Lightning II, produced by the U.S. builder Lockheed Martin. The other proposed the Eurofighter, made by the consortium by the same name. The Eurofighter Consortium comprises the British defence and security company BAE Systems, Airbus Defense & Space, and Leonardo, an Italian company.
Additionally, instead of submitting a bid within the framework of the RfGP, the French Minister of the Armies, Florence Parly, proposed to Belgian Defence Minister Steven Vandeput “a deep and structuring partnership” based on the Rafale jet and Belgian involvement in developing a new-generation fighter plane that France and Germany plan to manufacture by 2040 as part of a relaunch of European defence.
While the legal review of the French proposal continues, the Federal Government has given itself up to the 14th of February to identify “the best and final offer” among those formulated in response to the RfGP.
Just before the shutdown of the U.S. Government following a failure to reach agreement on the budget, the State Department approved the possibility of selling the 34 F-35s at a price estimated at US$6.53 billion (5.35 billion euros).
According to sp.a parliamentarian Alain Top, Minister Vandeput only has two options if he wants to buy the F-35s. “Either he has to review Belgium’s level of military ambition and buy fewer planes than the 34 F-35s scheduled, which means Belgium’s airspace will be less well protected, or he will have to include additional resources in the budget,” Top said. “However, the appropriation for the fighter planes is already high and is weighing on future generations. It would be completely irresponsible to make the bill even heavier.”