Belgium’s tender to replace its F-16s ended on Sep. 7, 2017 and France did not submit its offer to sell the Rafale.
Instead according to Reuters the French government offered the jet to Belgium as part of a military partnership that goes beyond the supply of weapons.
The deal offers enhance military cooperation between the two NATO countries, more training, and industrial and technical cooperation between companies on both sides.
This would help strengthen European defence and its “strategic autonomy” at a time when it had never been more necessary, French defence ministry said.
In fact tensions with Russia, a more inward-looking U.S. and Britain’s decision to leave the EU have pushed European governments to confront years of division over military cooperation. They are also under pressure from U.S. President Donald Trump to shoulder more of the military and financial burden within NATO.
Belgium launched a tender in March to replace its aging fleet of Lockheed Martin F-16 jets with 34 new fighters, in a deal that could be worth more than 3.5 billion euros (3.21 billion pounds).
The Rafale, which is built by Dassault Aviation, is competing on the Belgian shortlist with the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II, the Boeing F/A-18 Super Hornet, the Eurofighter Typhoon and the Saab JAS-39 Gripen.
France struggled for years to secure its first foreign order for the Rafale but, since making a breakthrough with a 2015 deal to sell 24 of the planes to Egypt, it has notched up several other orders for the multi-role combat jet. It has since sold jets to Qatar and India, but has never been able to sell the plane in Europe.
Photo credit: Photographer’s Mate 3rd Class Dominique M. Lasco / U.S. Navy and Chief Master Sgt. Gary Emery / U.S. Air Force
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