Belgium has formally launched its effort to procure a new fighter aircraft type, with the announcement on 17 March that requests for proposals (RFP) have been issued.
The announcement was made on the website of defence minister Steven Vandeput, as he approved the programme to replace the Belgian Air Component's (BAC's) 54 Lockheed Martin F-16 Fighting Falcon aircraft with 34 new multirole platforms.
With the effort being launched under the strapline of 'fewer planes, same ambitions', 34 aircraft is the number defined in the country's strategic defence doctrine as that being required to have six on permanent standby for operations and two on quick reaction alert (QRA) duties over Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg (BENELUX).
"There are fewer planes needed than before because the new generation of aircraft can fly more and because there may be more training on simulators," the minister said, although it should be noted that the Belgian Ministry of Defence has previously said that a minimum of 40 new combat aircraft is deemed necessary. However, funding limitations will restrict the procurement to just 34.
The BAC's current 44 single-seat F-16AM and 10 twin-seat F-16BM aircraft will need replacing in the 2023-28 timeframe, and RFPs have been issued to the French Direction Générale de l'Armement (DGA) for the Dassault Rafale; the Swedish Defence Material Administration (FMV) for the Saab Gripen E; the Joint Program Office (JPO) for the Lockheed Martin F-35A Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter (JSF); the UK Ministry of Defence for the Eurofighter Typhoon; and to the US Navy Program Manager Air (PMA) 265 for the Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet.
According to the Belgian government, the specifics of the RFP will be publically released once all of the responses have been received. A decision on which platform to select will be made in 2018.
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