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First F-35 for Belgium enters final assembly

The first of 34 conventional take-off and landing Block 4 F-35As for Belgium is now in the final stages of assembly at the Fort Worth production facility in Texas. (Lockheed Martin)

Lockheed Martin has begun final assembly of the first F-35A Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) for Belgium at its Fort Worth facility in Texas. The Belgian Air Component (BAC) announced the milestone on 2 August, saying aircraft AY-01 is on course for delivery before the end of 2023.

The BAC is to receive 34 conventional take-off and landing (CTOL) Block 4 F-35As, the first of which is being built in lots 15–17 of the production programme. Belgium selected the F-35A as its Lockheed Martin F-16 Fighting Falcon replacement in October 2018. Belgian pilots and operational support personnel began training on the F-35A in the US in 2022, with technicians following earlier in 2023.

As noted by Janes World Air Forces , the BAC's F‐35As should attain basic operational capability, performing quick reaction alert (QRA), in 2025. This is the same year during which the first four F-35As are scheduled to arrive at Florennes Air Base. Initial operational capability, which is linked to the ability to undertake limited expeditionary operations, is foreseen in mid‐2027 and full operational capability in late 2030 when deliveries are complete.

Besides Belgium, the F-35 is in service with or on order for or selected by European countries such as Denmark, Finland, Italy, Germany, Greece, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom, while in addition to these, Lockheed Martin has touted opportunities in the Czech Republic, Romania, and Spain.

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