The F-35 Fighter Jets have been officially selected over Eurofighter Typhoon for Belgium’s next-generation aircraft, becoming the 13th country to join the program, the Belgian government announced Thursday.
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With that decision, F-35 Fighter Jets developed by Lockheed Martin has defeated a bid by the governments of Spain, Italy, Germany and the United Kingdom for the Eurofighter Typhoon, as well as an informal offer by France for the Dassault Rafale and an option for Belgium to upgrade its existing F-16s.
Belgium plans to buy 34 F-35As to replace ageing F-16 aircraft, about fifty-four in the inventory. The U.S. State Department has already approved the deal, which has an estimated value of $6.5 billion.
Lockheed’s victory was widely predicted, but won’t be welcome news for Eurofighter or Dassault. According to Reuters, Belgian Defence Minister Steven Vandeput told reporters on Oct. 25 that the F-35 beat the other contenders in all seven selection criteria.
Vice Adm. Mat Winter, head of the F-35 joint program executive officer, said the decision to join the program will strengthen the U.S.-Belgian relationship. “We look forward to working closely with our Belgian teammates as they mature plans for purchasing their F-35s,” he said in a statement.
The U.S. Embassy in Brussels tweeted a response to Vandeput, stressing how Belgium’s F-35 selection would add to NATO interoperability. “Belgium will fly @thef35 alongside some of its closest @NATO allies & longtime partners in air defence. The US is extremely proud of our enduring air partnership w/ Belgium,” it said.