Belgium might acquire 34 of the new stealth combat aircraft. Leeuwarden Air Base in the Netherlands hosted Monday evening (23 May) the first two F-35 Lightning II to land on European soil. Nearly a thousand onlookers had gathered around the site to see the planes.
The Dutch air base is the first outside the United States to receive combat aircraft from the Joint Strike Fighter program (JSF).
The two F-35, developed by Lockheed Martin in collaboration with Northrop Grumman and BAE Systems, will conduct three weeks of tests around the bases of Leeuwarden and Vokel, in particular to evaluate their sound impact.
The JSF is the most expensive weapons program ever undertaken by the Pentagon. A budget of 398 billion dollars (355 billion euros) has been provided for the construction of 2 443 fighter jets.
A dozen countries participated in the JSF program. The United Kingdom, which must acquire 138 aircraft, is the most important partner of the United States in this project.
Belgium plans to acquire 34 F-35s that will replace its F-16 that entered service from early 1980. Dassault Rafale, McDonnell Douglas, Saab Gripen and the Eurofighter Typhoon are also competing for the tender. The government has budgeted 3,573 billion euros for the project.