Lockheed Martin has strengthened the alliance between the United States and Belgium by presenting the country with its first F-35A Lightning II.
The rollout marks a significant milestone in the Belgian Air Force’s history with the U.S. Senior government and military leaders from both countries attended the ceremony.
“The introduction of the F-35 within the Belgian Air Force will enable us to continue to fulfill 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.
The F-35 will provide the next generation of air power ensuring the Belgian Air Force can execute its NATO missions and protect the alliance’s key interests, according to a release from Lockheed Martin.
“With its unmatched capability, connectivity and interoperability, the 5th Generation F-35 will enable the Belgian Air Force to stay ahead of threats for decades to come,” said Greg Ulmer, executive vice president, Lockheed Martin Aeronautics. “Today’s milestone would not have been possible without the strong partnership and key contributions from our close partners in Belgian government and industry.”
Belgium’s program of record calls for 34 F-35As. The first aircraft, designated AY-01, is set for delivery to the Belgian Air Force next year and will be based at Luke Air Force Base, Arizona, where international F-35 pilot and maintainer training happens.
Added security and protection to NATO’s interests aren’t the only benefit of adding the F-35 to the Western European country’s squadrons of aircraft.
The F-35 also creates long-term employment opportunities for Belgium, according to Lockheed Martin.
The aerospace company said it will bring “cutting-edge manufacturing techniques and benefits, expanding Belgian industry’s skills and knowledge and providing high-tech jobs for Belgians for decades to come.”
“We congratulate Belgium on this significant achievement,” said Lt. Gen. Mike Schmidt, program executive officer, F-35 Joint Program Office. “The growth of the F-35 in Europe strengthens international partnerships, interoperability, and warfighting capability; and emphasizes the importance the aircraft provides as a deterrent against potential adversaries.”
F-35s are now operating from 31 bases worldwide.