Lockheed Martin presented Belgium’s inaugural F-35A Lightning II stealth fighter jet in a rollout ceremony at the company’s production facility.
Admiral Michel Hofman, Chief of Defence for the Belgian Armed Forces, expressed confidence in the F-35’s integration within their air force. “The introduction of the F-35 within the Belgian Air Force will enable us to continue to fulfil all our missions in the coming decades, in cooperation with our allies and partners in NATO, the EU and beyond,” remarked Admiral Hofman.
Evolving from the esteemed legacy of the F-16, the F-35 assumes a critical role in fortifying the Belgian Air Force’s capabilities for NATO missions and safeguarding the core interests of the alliance. Positioned as a cutting-edge 21st-century security solution, the F-35 facilitates seamless asset integration across domains, augmenting Belgium’s and its key European partners’ situational awareness.
Moreover, the F-35 program offers substantial economic prospects for Belgium. Under the Essential Security Interest (ESI) initiative, Lockheed Martin brings advanced manufacturing methodologies, fostering skill expansion and knowledge enhancement within the Belgian industry. This initiative promises sustained high-tech employment opportunities for Belgians, ensuring continued growth for decades.
Our first 🇧🇪 #F35A ‘Lightning II’ fighter jet rolled out of the factory in #FortWorth, Tx 🇺🇸, after 1.5 years of production. The F-35A, a fifth generation fighter, marks a crucial advancement for the #BelgianAirForce and #NATO. pic.twitter.com/5gBENVaYeS
— Belgian Air Force🇧🇪 (@BeAirForce) December 10, 2023
Belgium’s procurement plan outlines the acquisition of 34 F-35As, with the first aircraft, designated AY-01, slated for delivery to the Belgian Air Force in the upcoming year. In the interim, it will undergo operations at Luke Air Force Base, Arizona, where international customers’ pilot and maintainer training for the F-35 is conducted.
The rollout ceremony attracted senior government and military figures from both Belgium and the United States, signifying the significance of this collaborative endeavor.