Lockheed Martin’s offer to supply Belgium with 34 stealth bomber F-35 Lightning IIs, to replace the current F-16s, is “the best value proposition” for the country. The American manufacturer of this aeroplane asserted this during a briefing on the subject, which took place at the American embassy in Brussels on Wednesday. Jack Crisler, the company’s Vice President, asserted that these are the most capable aeroplanes at the most affordable price.
The Belgian Minister for Defence has fixed February 14th as the deadline date for final offers (“Best and Final Offers”, known as BAFO in the jargon) to the invitations to tender (or “Request for Government Proposal”, RfGP) issued last March.
The next stage is for the federal government to decide in principle, during mid-2018, between the two candidates that have responded in accordance with the rules of the invitation to tender; the American F-35 Lightning II and the Typhoon made by the European consortium Eurofighter. At the same time France is proposing the Rafale made by the aircraft manufacturer Dassault, as part of a broader and more vague “strategic partnership” for this market, costing an initial total of around €3.6 billion.
Lockheed Martin declares that the F-35 is the aeroplane providing the greatest number of advantages, compared to the competition.
The manufacturer says that the aeroplane is more modern than the other two, and will have a longer lifespan. Moreover it will be produced on a larger global scale, with Lockheed Martin’s ambition being to ultimately produce a total of 3,000 globally.
If it were to take up Lockheed Martin’s offer, Jack Crisler promises, “Belgium will be able to benefit from this large-scale programme. It is a great opportunity.” Moreover, agreements have been signed with Belgian industry, in particular ASCO Industries in Zaventem, in response to government concerns around obtaining a return on investment if Belgium were to purchase this aeroplane.
The Vice-President of Lockheed Martin further states that partnerships with Belgian companies existed even before Belgium made known its wish to replace its F-16s, within spheres such as handling, information systems and training. Moreover, the current fighter plane programme for the Belgian Ministry of Defence has enabled the development of significant collaboration between Belgium and the United States, for example Sonaca, Sabca and Sabena Aerospace.
The Ministry of Defence adds the country’s aeronautical expertise is renowned worldwide, thanks to the F-16, also built by the Amerian company. Jack Crisler further mentions, “We already have a half-century partnership, and we have the potential for a collaboration which will last a century.”
Jack Crisler concludes by arguing that the F-35 is a European solution, with 25% of the components produced on the continent and, in particular, having a manufacturing plant in Italy.