The Belgian Government intends to procure 34 units of the Lockheed Martin-built F-35A Lightning II conventional take-off and landing (CTOL) combat aircraft for €4.011bn.
In addition to purchasing the CTOL aircraft variant, the investment will also be used to procure two flight simulation centres, equipment, information and communications technology (ICT) systems, as well as high-technology helmet systems for F-35 pilots.
ICT systems will be purchased for operational and technical support of the fighter aircraft fleet while stationed on base and during deployments.
The investment includes the cost of upgrading the aircraft weapon system and the retraining of pilots and technical personnel between this year and 2030.
The first batch of new F-35A Lightning II fighter jets is expected to be delivered to the country by 2023.
According to media reports, Belgium intends to buy the US-manufactured F-35A fleet to replace its existing F-16 Fighting Falcon multirole combat jets.
The country has reportedly selected the F-35s over the Eurofighter Typhoon aircraft offered by the team comprising BAE Systems, Leonardo Aircraft Division, and Airbus Defence & Space, and the Rafale fighter jet offered by Dassault Aviation.
According to a statement by Airbus Defence and Space, the selection of the Eurofighter would have generated more than €19bn direct contribution to the Belgian economy and enabled the country to join the Franco-German Future Combat Air System programme, which is currently being defined by the company’s industrial partner Dassault.
The €4.011bn expenditure is part of an investment worth up to €9.2bn for the acquisition of modern and efficient defence equipment by Belgium.
Belgian Defense Minister Steven Vandeput has obtained parliamentary approval for a military planning law that would provide for the investments.
As part of it, the country will also buy 60 Jaguar-type medium combat vehicles and 382 Griffon light combat vehicles, in addition to communications and spare parts for use by the Belgian Land Component.