The first F-35A Lightning IIs will arrive in Belgium in 2025.
As we have reported, on Oct. 25, 2018 the Belgian Government decided to replace the country ageing F-16 fleet with the F-35A Lightning II of which it bought 34 examples in a contract worth $ 3,4 billion.
The transition from the F-16 to the F-35 will take place between 2023 and 2030.
Luke Air Force Base (AFB), AZ, will receive the first Belgian Air Force (BAF) F-35s in 2023. These aircraft will be used for training. On Apr. 18, 2019 the Belgian minister of Defense, Didier Reynders and Gregory Bogaerts, commander of the air force, announced that the first Lightning IIs will arrive in Belgium in 2025 and they will be base at Florennes Air Base. 1sq “Chardon” and 350sq “Ambiorix”, both assigned to 2 Wing and operating the F-16AM/BM are currently base in Florennes.
Seventeen aircraft will be based at Florennes, while the remaining seventeen F-35s will replace 31sq “Tiger” and 349sq “Goedendag” F-16AM/BMs at Kleine Brogel which currently hosts 10 Wing.
This news means that most probably two of the aforementioned F-16 squadrons will be disbanded although it is not known yet which squadrons will be affected.
According to Bogaerts, since Florennes will soon receive new infrastructures the base was chosen as the first location to host the F-35. Instead Kleine Brogel features better infrastructure compared to Florennes. However the Belgian government has allocated $ 337 million to build new infrastructures on both bases.
BAF Major General Aviator Frederik Vansina said that the F-35 has an estimated life of 8000 flying hours and that “The aircraft is ‘like an iPhone’ with all the goodies and technologies that today’s millennial generation and youth would expect. F-35 Aircraft is the state of the art technology fully supporting the pilots in their mission. Aircraft is not invisible but does have furtive capabilities, making it harder to be detected. It is already in service in 14 countries, including 6 European allies countries of ours. We see a standardization around the aircraft as aircraft is used in joined operations already today.”
Noteworthy Dassault Aviation said on Oct. 26, 2018 that Belgium choice to buy the F-35 “is a bad signal for the construction of a European defence. Once again, we can see an American preference prevailing in Europe.
Dassault Aviation participated in France’s global strategic partnership offer to the Belgian Government with the Rafale fighter and an economic and societal package in high-tech sectors worth €20 billion over 20 years. This unique partnership by France to Belgium, outside the call for tenders, has not been examined.”
Director, Joint Strike Fighter Program, Vice Admiral Mathias W. “Mat” Winter, recently told U.S. lawmakers that “future potential Foreign Military Sales customers for the F-35 include Singapore, Greece, Romania, Spain and Poland.”
Photo credit: screenshot from YouTube video
Artwork courtesy of AircraftProfilePrints.com