F-35 edges out Eurofighter Typhoon in Belgium competition
Belgium has announced that Lockheed Martin’s F-35A Lightning II will replace its existing complement of F-16 fighter aircraft, having edged out Airbus’ Eurofighter Typhoon.
In light of the decision, Belgium has become the 13th nation to join the F-35 programme, and manufacturer Lockheed Martin will now look to build relationships with both the Belgian government and the European supply chain over the coming months and years.
For its part, Airbus has expressed some disappointment. Belgium has strong ties to the United States on matters of defence, making the decision something of a dull surprise. Indeed, ahead of the decision, Harry Breach – London-based analyst for Raymond James – told Reuters the competition was the “F-35’s to lose”. Lockheed Martin has a longstanding relationship with Belgium, which has flown the F-16 Fighting Falcon since the 1970’s.
Airbus feels it is a missed opportunity however – one which would have resulted in a direct contribution of more than €19 billion to the Belgian economy – and a heavy blow for Team Eurofighter, which consists of industrial partners Germany, Italy, Spain and the United Kingdom.
According to an Airbus spokesperson: “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.
“The 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.”
A spokesperson from Dassault Aviation added: “The choice of the F-35 is a bad signal for the construction of a European defence. Once again, we can see an American preference prevailing in Europe.”
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