The aircraft, the first of 34 on order, will be delivered next year and based at Luke Air Force Base for training.
Lockheed Martin rolled out of its production facilities in Fort Worth, Texas, the first F-35A of the Belgian Air Force. This first aircraft, out of a total order of 34 F-35s, will be delivered to the Belgian Air Force next year and based at Luke Air Force Base, Arizona, where F-35 international customers’ pilot and maintainer training takes place.
Senior government and military leaders from Belgium and the United States attended the ceremony, including Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo. “The introduction of the F-35 within the Belgian Air Force will enable us to continue to fulfil all our missions in the coming decades, in cooperation with our allies and partners in NATO, the EU and beyond,” said Chief of Defense for the Belgian Armed Forces, Admiral Michel Hofman.
Interestingly, the aircraft, designated AY-01 and with tail number FL001, sports a toned down version of Belgium’s colored roundel and national flag, following the example of the Royal Danish Air Force. In fact, the Danish F-35s were the first to feature a national roundel with a toned down version of the colored roundel and national flag, thanks to the addition of two new colors to the list of the approved ones. Belgium added a subdued red and yellow along with their black.
Our first 🇧🇪 #F35A ‘Lightning II’ fighter jet rolled out of the factory in #FortWorth, Tx 🇺🇸, after 1.5 years of production. The F-35A, a fifth generation fighter, marks a crucial advancement for the #BelgianAirForce and #NATO. pic.twitter.com/5gBENVaYeS
— Belgian Air Force🇧🇪 (@BeAirForce) December 10, 2023
“We congratulate Belgium on this significant achievement,” said Lt. Gen. Mike Schmidt, programme executive officer, F-35 Joint Program Office. “The growth of the F-35 in Europe strengthens international partnerships, interoperability, and warfighting capability; and emphasises the importance the aircraft provides as a deterrent against potential adversaries.”
Plus de 40 ans après la livraison du tout premier F-16, retour à Fort Worth 🇺🇸 @LockheedMartin, pour la présentation officielle du tout premier #F35A Lightning II 🇧🇪, un avion de combat de 5ème génération à la pointe de la technologie https://t.co/I8JURTQnxa pic.twitter.com/iBsSJZIliB
— Belgian Defence (@BelgiumDefence) December 11, 2023
Belgian media report that six economic agreements concerning Belgian companies were signed on the sidelines of the rollout ceremony. In fact, Lockheed Martin says in its press release that the company will bring cutting-edge manufacturing techniques and benefits through the Essential Security Interest (ESI) program, expanding Belgian industry’s skills and knowledge and providing high-tech jobs for Belgians for decades to come.
The reports also add that seven other Belgian F-35s are in various states of completion. Initially, the aircraft were expected to be built with the new Tech(nology) Refresh 3 (TR-3) upgrades, however these have been delayed and it is not confirmed if the first Belgian aircraft is in TR-2 or TR-3 configuration. As we already reported, TR-3 includes both software and hardware upgrades and is considered essential in order to deliver the Block 4 upgrade and the future ones, being described as the IT backbone for all future improvements. TR-3 will be installed in all new production aircraft and retrofitted on all the F-35s already in service back to Lot 10.