Belgian army sets sights on more F-35 fighter jets

Belgian army sets sights on more F-35 fighter jets
F-35s. Credit: Belga

The Belgian Government has started boosting the Belgian army through increased investments. Yet Belgium's Alexander De Croo made it clear that the military won't get its combat F-35 aircraft before 2025, chief of staff Frank Hofman told De Tijd.

Thursday's military parade to celebrate Belgium's National Day won't portray the government's investments in the army – the first 34 of the F-35 fighter jets ordered won't be delivered until 2025.

Despite the delivery time, the army is hungry for military equipment. De Croo's government increased army budgets by another €10 billion to account for 1.54% of GDP by 2030. For now, acquiring additional F-35s isn't on the government's agenda, but "that will remain on the radar," according to Hofman.

"Anxious for too long"

Minister of Defence Ludivine Dedonder (PS) hopes to unveil her Defence Industry Research Strategy in the autumn, which has a budget of €1.6 billion. The strategy focuses on strengthening cooperation between industry and the army so that a defense industry can be developed in Belgium.

"We have been too anxious for too long," said Hofman, who supports the industrial policy aspect of the military's  investment program. "We need to look at defence-industry collaboration in a less complicated way."

Belgian industry, including SMEs, must be able to develop major European army programmes, Hofman urges.

Following Russia's invasion of Ukraine, many European countries have increased their defence budgets and have scaled up military investments. Although Belgium has followed this trend, it has yet to meet NATO's requirement of spending 2% of its GDP on its defence.

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