Belgium may ‘replace its F-16s with F-35s’

Belgium may ‘replace its F-16s with F-35s’

Belgium may ‘replace its F-16s with F-35s’

This Dec 10, 2011 file photo shows three F-35 Joint Strike Fighters (rear to front) AF-2, AF-3 and AF-4, flying over Edwards Air Force Base. REUTERS Photo

U.S. government officials have briefed the Belgian government about the capabilities of the Lockheed Martin Corp F-35 fighter jet, as Brussels prepares to replace its aging fleet of 60 F-16s, a source familiar with the matter has told.

The source, who was not authorized to speak publicly, said Belgium was considering buying 35 to 55 of the new radar-evading F-35 jets. No decisions are expected until late 2014 at the earliest after next year’s elections in Belgium.

Belgium was one of the original NATO partners to buy the F-16 fighter jet, also built by Lockheed; but unlike Denmark, Norway and the Netherlands, it did not join the international consortium that funded development of the F-35.

U.S. government officials have visited Belgium to discuss the F-35, which is being built to replace the F-16 and a dozen other warplanes in use around the world, according to the source.

U.S. defense officials had no immediate comment.

Lockheed is building three variants of the F-35 for the U.S. military, and eight countries that helped fund its development: Britain, Australia, Canada, Norway, the Netherlands, Italy, Turkey and Denmark. Israel and Japan have also placed orders.