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Belgium has received its first F-35A Lightning II combat jets, marking a significant upgrade in its military capabilities. The jets, manufactured by Lockheed Martin, were showcased at the company’s facility in Fort Worth on Sunday.

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As a member of NATO and the European Union, Belgium ordered 34 of these advanced fifth-generation fighter aircraft. Adm. Michel Hofman, Chief of Defense for the Belgian Armed Forces, emphasized the importance of the F-35 in enabling Belgium to fulfill its military responsibilities within NATO, the EU, and beyond.

The F-35, designed to replace the F-16 and Fairchild Aircraft A-10, will enhance Belgium’s role in cooperative missions with allies. The first aircraft, designated AY-01, was rolled out at the ceremony but will be delivered to Luke Air Force Base in Arizona in 2024. From there, pilots from Belgium will train at the Air Force Base.


Lt. Gen. Michael Schmidt from the F-35 Joint Program Office praised the purchase of 34 aircraft as a “significant achievement,” highlighting its role in strengthening international partnerships and warfighting capability. Lockheed Martin also anticipates that the purchase will create new jobs in Belgium by introducing some of its technologies to the country’s industry.

Greg Ulmer, Lockheed Martin’s Executive Vice President, praised the F-35’s unmatched capabilities and technology, which he said would enable the Belgian Air Force to stay ahead of threats for decades. The F-35A Lightning II, known for its speed, stealth, and long-range capabilities, plays a crucial role in air superiority for the United States and its allies. It is designed to replace several older models and is part of a broader US plan to acquire almost 2,500 jets, with an estimated lifetime program cost of $1.7 trillion.


Belgium joins a group of 17 other American ally countries that have either ordered or introduced the F-35 to their operations.


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