It was announced last week that Belgium, after a lengthy source selection process, would be purchasing Lockheed Martin’s F-35 fighter aircraft to replace its fleet of F-16 fighters.

In winning the 34-unit Belgian contract, the 5th Generation F-35 reportedly beat out competitors Airbus (offering the Eurofighter TYPHOON) and Dassault (which offered the RAFALE).

In announcing the decision, Belgian officials said that the F-35 beat its competitors in all seven areas of regard, and, at the end of the day, it was the lowest total cost offering.

Yesterday, on 26 October 2018, Airbus Defence and Space released the following statement on Belgium’s Decision on the Fighter Jet Replacement:

“With sincere regret Airbus Defence and Space has taken note of the decision by the government of Belgium to select the F-35 to replace its existing fleet of F-16 fighter aircraft. 

Airbus Defence and Space accepts this decision by Belgium and is aware of the strong links between Belgium and the United States on defence industrial matters. Therefore, yesterday’s decision does not come as a complete surprise.

However, Airbus Defence and Space remains firmly convinced that the offer submitted by Team Eurofighter, consisting of the industrial partners of United Kingdom, Germany, Italy and Spain, would have represented a superior choice for the country both in terms of operational capability and industrial opportunities. The Eurofighter solution would have resulted in more than € 19 billion direct contribution to the Belgian economy.

This partnership could have also laid the path for Belgium to join the Franco-German Future Combat Air System programme, which Airbus is currently defining with its strong industrial partner Dassault Aviation. 

Yesterday’s announcement by the government is a sovereign decision which all contenders have to respect. Yet, it is a lost opportunity to strengthen European industrial cooperation in times when the EU is called upon to increase its joint defence efforts.”  

Separately on Friday, French President Emmanuel Macron also regretted the news, noting that: “The decision was linked to a Belgian procedure and the country’s political constraints, but strategically it goes against European interests.”