Belgium officially opts for Lockheed Martin F-35A fighter jet

The long-awaited final decision finally happened: the Belgian Air Force will turn to the 5th generation in the coming years. In a public announcement, the Prime Minister Charles Michel officially confirmed that the Lockheed Martin F-35A will replace the BAF (Air Component) ageing fleet of F-16 fighter jets.

Belgium officially opts for the Lockheed Martin F 35A Capt. Andrew “Dojo” Olson, F-35 Heritage Flight Team pilot and commander, performs a vertical climb in an F-35A Lightning II during the Bell Fort Worth Alliance Air Show Oct. 14, 2018, in Fort Worth, Texas
(Credit: U.S. Air Force/Senior Airman Alexander Cook)

This could have been another Belgian version of the Neverending story. Hopefully, it won’t. The last seven days were definitively critical for ACCaP. All started on October 17, when a restricted Council of Ministers (the "Kern") was briefed by the ACCaP experts team regarding potential offsets offered by each contender. Lockheed Martin's F-35A was then unofficially considered as winning on all criterias, according to the Belgian news agency Belga. 

Fierce criticism regarding F-35’s expected selection as winning bidder have directly arisen, both from opposites parties and from French newspapers. So much so that Charles Michel and the Belgian MoD decided to details the experts’ opinion regarding each aircraft.

After months of twists and turns, a second “Kern” yesterday again confirmed Lockheed Martin’s selection as preferred bidder. The official decision was confirmed today by the country’s government, putting an end to a long, harsh, disputed process.

The evaluation of the offers was unequivocal: the purchase of the F-35 is the best choice for our country financially, operationally and industrially speaking," said Belgian Defense Ministry Steven Vandeput today. “It is the most advanced fighter jet in the western world for the best price. And it is the chosen procedure that allowed to reduce the price."

According to local newspapers, the United States dramaticaly slashed the price, offering 34 new aircraft for 3.8Bn € or a discount of about 647M€ for Belgium compared to the investment scheduled by the MoD’s Strategic Vision. “For this amount, our country receives 34 F-35A block 4 aircraft, two flight simulation systems, equipment and ICT systems for the operational and technical ground support of aircraft and during their deployments, as well as high technology helmets for pilots”, Steven Vandeput added. According to him, this major “discount” will be used to participate in European procurement programs, such as a potential participation in the European Future Aerial Combat System program.

"The foundation of Belgium’s F-35 program is rooted in longstanding, reliable partnerships with the government and industry. The Belgian Air Force began flying the F-16 Fighting Falcon and C-130 Hercules in the 1970s. More than 40 years later, this strong partnership lives on in the Lightning II," Lockheed Martin said in an official statement.