Texas –presented the first F-35A Lightning II to the United States and Belgium, strengthening the alliance between the two countries.
This deployment marks an important milestone in the history of the Belgian Air Force, and the ceremony was attended by senior U.S. government officials and military leaders from both countries.
“The introduction of the F-35 into the Belgian Air Force will enable us to continue to fulfill all our missions in cooperation with NATO, the EU and other allies and partners for decades to come.” said. Admiral Michel Hoffmann, Belgian Armed Forces.
According to a Lockheed Martin release, the F-35 will provide the next generation of air power that will ensure the Belgian Air Force fulfills NATO missions and protects the alliance’s vital interests.
“With unparalleled capabilities, connectivity and interoperability, the fifth-generation F-35 will help the Belgian Air Force stay ahead of threats for decades to come.”Lockheed Martin Aeronautics said Greg Ulmer, executive vice president of the company. “Today’s milestone would not have been possible without the strong partnership and important contributions from the Belgian government and our close partners in industry.”
Belgium’s program of record calls for 34 F-35As. The first aircraft, designated AY-01, will be delivered to the Belgian Air Force next year and will be based at Luke Air Force Base, Arizona, where international F-35 pilots and maintainers are trained.
Added safety and protection to NATO interests are not the only benefits of adding F-35s to the Western European nation’s aircraft squadrons.
Lockheed Martin says the F-35 will also create long-term employment opportunities for Belgium.
The aerospace company said it will “bring cutting-edge manufacturing technology and benefits, expanding the skills and knowledge of Belgian industry and providing high-tech jobs for Belgians for decades to come.”
“We congratulate Belgium on this significant achievement,” said Lt. Gen. Mike Schmidt, F-35 Joint Program Director, program executive officer. “The growth of the F-35 in Europe strengthens international partnerships, interoperability and combat capabilities, and highlights the importance this aircraft provides as a deterrent against potential adversaries.”
The F-35 currently operates at 31 bases around the world.