Sunday, March 3, 2024

Belgium presents first F-35 Joint Strike Fighter

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The first F-35A was presented to Belgium during a ceremony in Texas on December 10, 2023. (Lockheed Martin)

WASHINGTON — The Belgian Air Force officially unveiled its first F-35A at an event in Texas on Sunday, in what the service called a “significant advancement” for America’s NATO ally.

“The introduction of the F-35 into the Belgian Air Force will enable us to continue to fulfill all our missions for decades to come, in cooperation with NATO, the EU and other allies and partners.” Michel from the Armed Forces. Admiral Hoffman said in a release from F-35 manufacturer Lockheed Martin.

The plane was unveiled in an elaborate ceremony in Fort Worth after the aircraft, designated AY-01, took off from Lockheed’s production line in Fort Worth.

Lockheed said the AY-01 would be formally delivered to the Belgian military “next year,” but the Belgian Ministry of Defense said the first eight aircraft were actually delivered to a joint U.S.-Belgian base at Luke Air Force Base in Arizona. He said it will be deployed to the squadron. The plane will be used to train Belgian pilots and technicians.

Belgium expects to receive a total of 34 F-35s. In 2018, the U.S. State Department estimated contracts for jets and related equipment to be worth $6.3 billion, but that number may have changed since then.

The F-35 is being jointly developed or purchased by 16 U.S. partners and allies around the world and will be used by the Belgian Air Force to replace the aging F-16 until sixth-generation fighters become operational. It is expected to fly. As for what that will be, earlier this year Brussels announced that it would become an “observer” and then a full partner of the German-French-Spanish project “Future Combat Air System”, which includes a next-generation fighter jet and fleet. did. A wingman of a drone.

“Developing next-generation air combat capabilities is a unique opportunity for Europe. In doing so, Belgium is committed to peace, stability and defense innovation, and together we build a secure and prosperous future for our country and our partners.” Defense Minister Ludivine Dedonder said in a LinkedIn post last month.

Eric Trappier, CEO of French fighter jet maker Dassault, previously criticized Belgium’s FCAS for Brussels’ decision to acquire F-35s rather than Dassault’s rival Rafale jets. He said he was against participating in the He also reportedly vowed to campaign against Belgian suppliers receiving FCAS work, as part of a tough stance on Belgium becoming an FCAS partner, which is expected to be formalized in 2025. There is.

Breaking Defense’s Tim Martin contributed to this report.

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