The Defence Minister, Steven Vandeput (New Flemish Alliance) confirmed, on Friday, that France had not formerly responded to the Invitation To Tender (ITT) to replace the F-16s. However the French government has indeed made a direct proposal to Belgium. The Minister, who was speaking on Radio 1, has not however indicated whether the French government’s offer will be taken into account. As alluded to earlier, he explained, “We must consider the legal status of this proposal.”
At the expiry date of the submission of competitive tenders to replace the ageing Belgian F-16, only two candidates have currently formally responded. These are the American group, Lockheed Martin, with its furtive 5th generation hunter, F-35 Lightning II, and the Eurofighter consortium with the Typhoon.
A few hours after this expiry – formally fixed for midnight on Thursday an unexpected turn of events arose. The French Army Minister, Florence Parly, shocked all involved. She announced that she had proposed to her Belgian counterpart “the implementation of a comprehensive partnership, in response to the need” expressed by the Belgian Air army component for new fighter-bombers.
On Friday morning, Mr Vandeput stated that there were indeed “two candidates engaged in the official procedure and the French proposal.” He did not, however, commit to potential account being taken of the latter.
Moreover, the Minister denied the assertion that France would be withdrawing from the official procedure as the ITT had been drawn up in such a way so as to favour the American F-35.
Mr Vandeput stressed, “France has not given its reasons.” He considered that neither did the previous withdrawals of two candidates – Sweden and the American Boeing – have any link to the ITT.