ACCaP Program: Belgium to ask US for more time

The Belgian F-16s replacement project is moving forward “for sure”, the country's Ministers confirmed this morning to the Belgian french-speaking broadcat service RTBF. But they also recognized that the current schedule will not allow them to meet the deadlines. The Lockheed Martin F-35 offer is to expire on October 14, and the Belgian government is about to ask the giant U.S. company for some extra time.

ACCAp program Belgian government to ask for an extra delay 001 Two BAF F-16AM fighter jets taking off from Ämari Air Base, Estonia
(Credit: Christian Decloedt/Belgian Defense Ministry)

Two aircraft officially remains in the competition: the Lockheed F-35 and the BAE Systems Eurofighter Typhoon fighter jet. On Thursday, key Belgian ministers (dubbed the "Kern) reviewed an analysis of the two contenders made by defense experts. This first evaluation is solely based on military capabilities of the two platforms, and is not linked to potential offsets offered by the two companies. 

While the Belgian government is set to confirm a final decision before the next federal elections, in May 2019, they will not be able to meet the October 14 deadline imposed by Lockheed Martin. The fact is the government schedule will be over-booked in the coming days: Besides usual events attended by the Ministers in Belgium and abroad, the October 14 is also the day chosen for the communal and provincial elections. Because the government doesn’t want to take a rushed decision, it has been decided to ask the United States whether the deadline is firm or can be modified. 

But this delay could have important consequences. Last September, the US ambassador in Belgium, Ronald Gidwitz confirmed that if US agree to extend the offer, "it is likely that it would not bet on the same terms as the actual ones. Price could be different, delivery agenda could be different, warranties in term of training could be different..."

On February, Lockheed Martin and the Eurofighter consortium (for the Typhoon II) sent their best and final offer, their definitive proposals for the replacement of the BAF's 54 aging F-16s, a program worth € 3.6 billion.