The first parts of Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) aircraft for Belgian Air Component (BAC, Luchtcomponent, Composante air) has entered the Fort Worth assembly line in Texas. The outer wingbox of the first of 34 F-35As for the Belgian Air Component entered the assembly line following delivery from Leonardo’s F-35 production facility in Cameri, Italy. This first F-35 Lightning II will be delivered by the end of 2023, and will remain in the United States along with seven other BAC aircraft to be used for international training at Luke Air Force Base (AFB) in Arizona.
The first four F-35As of the 34 aircraft ordered to be registered FL-01 to FL-34 – will remain stationed in the United States, at Luke Air Force Base, near Phoenix, Arizona, for initial pilot and mechanic training. This will also be the case for the next four F-35As, in 2024. The first four are not expected to arrive at Florennes Air Force Base in Belgium until 2025, at which time the type will be phased into service as a replacement for the Lockheed Martin F-16AM/BM Fighting Falcon. The Initial operating capability (IOC) is foreseen in mid-2027 and full operating capability (FOC) is planned for late 2030.
The F-35A Lightning II will meet Belgium’s national security, industrial and economic needs for decades to come. The foundation of Belgium’s F-35A program is rooted in longstanding, reliable partnerships between Lockheed Martin and Belgian government and industry. The Belgian Air Component began flying the F-16 Fighting Falcon and C-130 Hercules in the 1970s. More than 40 years later, this strong partnership continues with the Lightning II. Just like the F-16 has for more than four decades, the F-35 program is poised to generate high-quality, long-term jobs for Belgium long into the future.
Through the Essential Security Interest (ESI) program, Lockheed Martin will provide industrial opportunities for multiple Belgian companies in all three geographic regions. The projects secured through the ESI program 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. Some of the companies that have secured projects through the ESI program include ASCO, Feronyl, ILIAS Solutions, SABCA, Sonaca, and AMI Metals. The Belgian Air Component will operate F-35s from Kleine-Brogel Air Base in the Flanders region and Florennes Air Base in the Walloon region.