Military Capabilities

Belgium chooses F-35, invests in armoured vehicles and MALE UAS

25 October 2018

Belgium has selected the F-35 as its new combat aircraft to replace its F-16s. Source: IHS Markit/Patrick Allen

Key Points

  • Belgium has selected the F-35A combat aircraft over the Eurofighter Typhoon to replace its F-16s
  • It also plans to procure 60 Jaguar and 382 Griffon armoured vehicles and two RQ-9B MALE UASs

Belgium's Council of Ministers decided on 25 October in favour of the F-35A Joint Strike Fighter as the country's new combat aircraft to replace its F-16s. It also confirmed selection of the MQ-9B SkyGuardian as its first medium-altitude long-endurance (MALE) unmanned aerial system (UAS).

Defence Minister Steven Vandeput said that 80%, or more than EUR7 billion (USD8 billion), of the investment programmes identified in Belgium's June 2016 'Strategic Vision for Defence' had now been launched or completed. He identified the new combat aircraft as "one of the most important investments of the strategic vision", adding, "we want to be a reliable partner supporting the EU, UN, and NATO."

Vandeput said that the F-35 emerged from the competition with the Eurofighter Typhoon as "the best choice for our country in financial, operational, and industrial terms", while regretting that France had not presented an offer with the Rafale. Belgium will pay EUR3.8 billion for 34 F-35A block 4 aircraft, two flight simulation centres, equipment and information and communications technology for operational and technical support, and pilot helmets. This amount will cover training of pilots and technicians and technological development until 2030, and makes provision for an additional EUR200 million in case of currency fluctuations. The EUR4 billion are EUR647 million less than foreseen by the 'Strategic Vision' document. The first aircraft are expected to be delivered by 2023.

The Council of Ministers also approved the procurement of 60 Jaguar medium and 382 Griffon light armoured combat vehicles for EUR1.6 billion, entering service in 2025-30.

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