Lockheed Martin presented to Belgian government officials Belgium’s first F-35A Lightning II jet fighter during an official rollout ceremony on Sunday. Belgium is buying a total of 34 Lockheed F-35As, with the first aircraft dubbed AY-01 for delivery to the Belgian Air Force in 2024.
The first fighter plane will be initially kept at Luke Air Force Base in Arizona, which hosts training for F-35 international customers’ pilots and maintenance crew.
The Belgian warplane purchase is part of a $30 billion deal Lockheed Martin has finalized with the F-35 Joint Program Office, which calls for the supply of 398 jetfighters. Besides Belgium, the deal also includes Finland and Poland F-35 purchases.
According to Lockheed Martin, the F-35’s next-generation air power capability will enable the Belgian Air Force to accomplish its NATO missions to protect the alliance’s interests. Lt. Gen. Mike Schmidt, the F-35 Joint Program Office’s executive officer, said the warplane’s growth in Europe strengthens international partnerships, interoperability and warfighting capability.
Belgium’s F-35 purchase also brings job opportunities to the country through Lockheed’s Essential Security Interest program, which imparts manufacturing techniques and expands Belgian skills in high-tech jobs.