On Friday the government approved the start of the procurement procedure to replace the F-16 fighter bombers with 34 new fighter planes, a symbol of government defence policy. We learned this from corroborative sources.
Appropriate cabinet ministers including the Prime Minister, Charles Michel, gave the Defence Minister, Steven Vandeput (of the New Flemish Alliance) the authority to send out invitations to tender. In government jargon these are known as “Requests for Governmental Proposals” – RfGPs).
These will be sent to five Government contractors, three European and two American. Each are offering to provide a different aircraft for this contract, with an initial total value of 3.59 billion euros.
It is thought that the total cost of the programme may come to some 15 billion euros throughout the future anticipated lifetime of the fighter, likely to be 40 years.
This invitation to tender, originally hoped by the military to be undertaken by the beginning of 2015, is eagerly awaited by the five manufacturers in contention. These are the American companies Boeing and Lockheed Martin, the French aircraft manufacturer Dassault, the Swedish Saab and British BAE Systems. They are respectively offering the F/A-18F Super Hornet, the F-35 Lightning II, the F/A-18 E/F Super Hornet, the Rafale F3R, the Saab JAS 39 Gripen E/F and the Eurofighter Typhoon.
Mr Vandeput recently mentioned that his intention and that of the government was still to sign the purchase contract “in the second half” of next year. This will be after the analysis of tenders which, to be successful, will need to contain an economic component.
The Military Procurement Committee had last week given the green light to starting the procurement procedure, but had done so within conditions which the opposition denounced as lacking transparency.