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First F-35 for Belgium enters assembly

The first parts of the first F-35A for Belgium were announced to have entered the assembly line in Texas on 14 November. (Lockheed Martin)

The first Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) aircraft for Belgium has entered the Fort Worth assembly line in Texas, the Belgian Ministry of Defence (MoD) announced on 14 November.

The outer wingbox of the first of 34 F-35As for the Belgian Air Component (BAC) entered the assembly line following delivery from Leonardo's F-35 production facility in Cameri, Italy.

As noted by the MoD, this first aircraft will be delivered by the end of 2023, and will remain in the United States along with seven other BAC aircraft to be used for international training at Luke Air Force Base (AFB) in Arizona.

Deliveries to Florennes Air Base in Belgium will commence in 2025, at which time the type will be phased into service as a replacement for the Lockheed Martin F-16AM/BM Fighting Falcon. Initial operating capability (IOC), which is linked to the ability to undertake limited expeditionary operations, is foreseen in mid-2027 and full operating capability (FOC) is planned for late 2030.

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