Belgium was supposed to receive its first four F-35As by the end of 2023. However, according to Belga, only two Lightning IIs will be delivered this year. The other two are scheduled for early 2024. This delay is explained by previous delays on other aircraft that have accumulated on the assembly lines following the COVID.
A slight delay
In 2018, Belgium decided to purchase 34 F-35A Lightning II fighter jets from Lockheed Martin to replace its venerable F-16 Fighting Falcon aircraft. The timetable called for four aircraft to be delivered annually between 2023 and 2030 (with the exception of five aircraft in 2028 and 2029). However, according to the Belga news agency, the first batch of four aircraft has reportedly been slightly delayed; while the first two aircraft will indeed be delivered at the end of 2023, the other two will be delivered during the first quarter of 2024. Belga, which cites anonymous military and industrial sources, explains this delay by the numerous delays of subcontractors caused by the COVID pandemic. These delays then accumulated on the assembly lines, eventually impacting the first Belgian F-35A.
The first aircraft on the assembly lines
On November 14, 2022, Belgian Defense announced that the first F-35 was now under construction on the assembly lines at Lockheed Martin's Forth Worth site (Texas, USA). The first part to be assembled was the outer wing box (lower wing structure). The first components of this part were built at the Leonardo plant in Cameri (Piedmont, Italy) during the summer of 2022. The Belgian Armed Forces release also states that the first eight F-35As will not see Belgian soil immediately. They will be deployed to Luke Air Force Base (Arizona, USA) to train future pilots and technicians in the handling of these 5th generation aircraft. It will be 2025 before a Lightning II lands at Florennes Air Base (2nd Tactical Wing) and 2027 for Kleine-Brogel Air Base (10th Tactical Wing). This schedule also allows the Belgian Air Force (Air Component) to modernize and build facilities at these two bases to accommodate these aircraft. By the way, the massive 30,000-square-meter construction site was launched on March 27 at Florennes Air Base.
Découvrez cet article sur Air&Cosmos