Belgium will not accept the two F-35A combat aircraft which were to be delivered by the US manufacturer Lockheed Martin at the end of 2023.
VRT NWS first reported the news, citing information confirmed by the spokesperson for Minister of Defense Ludivine Dedonder. As a result, the Belgian defense authorities now anticipate a delay of at least six months in receiving the ordered aircraft. The United States has also reportedly refused to receive new F-35 planes.
In October 2018, Belgium selected the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II over the Eurofighter Typhoon and the Dassault Rafale. The country purchased a total of 34 F-35A aircraft to replace the Belgian Air Component fleet of F-16 fighters. The first of these fighters is currently in its final assembly line and is expected to be ready by December 2023.
However, the certification and qualification of the software and final delivery of the remaining aircraft are contingent on the results of a comprehensive test campaign, which is currently projected to conclude in the second quarter of 2024, the minister explained.
The delivery delay of the F-35s will also have a knock-on effect on the training of Belgian pilots, which was initially scheduled to take place in the United States. With the anticipated delays, the training of pilots will commence later than planned.
On the sidelines of the Paris Air Show in June 2023, Belgium announced its intention to join the Future Combat Air System, or FCAS program, initially as an observer country. The FCAS program is defined by its stakeholders as a ‘system of systems’ built around a sixth-generation fighter jet. It regroups companies from France, Germany, and Spain, with Dassault and Airbus leading the project.