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Belgium opts for American F-35 as successor to F-16

© Belga
The F-35
© Belga

The Belgian government has chosen the American fighter F-35A Lightning II of Lockheed Martin as successor to the F-16. The American fighter jet was chosen over the European Eurofighter.

Belgium will purchase 34 aircraft, worth about 4 billion euro. This price tag is 600 million euro below the government’s target. According to Prime Minister Charles Michel (MR), this additional money can be used for future European military investment. The F-35s will be delivered as of 2023.

“We have tried to be as transparent as possible,” said Michel (MR) at the press conference on Thursday at which he announced the choice for the F-35. We want to remain a strong partner. Our defence expenditure now amounts to 0.9% of GDP. This makes us one of the countries with the lowest defence expenditures.”

Michel: “The procedure for the purchase of new fighter planes was scrupulously followed. A number of potential candidates did not submit a tender. That was their choice. In the end, two candidates did submit proposals. On Wednesday evening, all the information on the subject was passed on to Parliament.”

The government chose the “most advanced aircraft for the best price,” said Minister of Defence Steven Vandeput (N-VA) Thursday. “The Americans’ offer was the best according to all seven evaluation criteria,” Vandeput emphasised. The Netherlands, Italy, Denmark, Norway and the United Kingdom are already working with the F-35 today,” he added.

According to Vandeput, Belgium is also about to sign contracts with the French. These are for the purchase of 442 vehicles for the army, plus all kinds of systems to enhance cooperation among the different military forces.

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Economy Kris Peeters (CD&V)  said that a large part of the money the government will invest in the purchase of the F-35s will flow back to the Belgian economy. He explained: “Thirty percent of the components of the F-35 are of European origin. In total, the choice for the F-35 gives us 3.7 billion euro in economic compensation.”

There were two candidates in the running to replace the F-16: the F-35 of Lockheed Martin and the Eurofighter of the British-German-Spanish-Italian consortium. In addition, the French had made an offer for a partnership regarding the French Rafale of Dassault. This proposal was made outside the tendering procedure

Prime Minister Charles Michel had left the door open for the French for a long time. However, he closed it last summer.

Arthur Rubinstein
The Brussels Times