First Belgian Air Component F-35 A Fighter Enters Final Assembly Stage
First Belgian Air Component F-35 A Fighter Enters Final Assembly Stage

First Belgian Air Component F-35 A Fighter Enters Final Assembly Stage in Fort Worth, Texas

The first F-35 A fighter for the Belgian Air Component has entered the final stage of assembly at Lockheed Martin’s production facility in Fort Worth, Texas. The jet, known as AY-01, was moved out of the electronic mate and alignment system, where its four major components were joined together by an advanced system of lasers and sensors. In final assembly, the jet’s canopy will be fitted, electronic systems will be tested, and the engine will be installed. From there, it will enter the final finishes facility to receive its stealth coating. AY-01 is due to roll out of the factory later this year and will initially be based at Luke Air Force Base, Arizona, where Belgian Air Force pilots will conduct initial training in the U.S. The first in-country arrival of an F-35 is planned for 2025 at Florennes Air Base. F-35s will also be based out of Kleine-Brogel beginning in 2027.

The F-35 Lightning II will meet Belgium’s national security, industrial and economic needs for decades to come. The foundation of Belgium’s F-35 program is rooted in longstanding, reliable partnerships between Lockheed Martin and Belgian government and industry. The F-35 ensures Belgium continues to operate with the latest aircraft and technology to protect its border and to operate seamlessly with its allies in support of NATO missions. The Belgian Air Component will operate the F-35 A variant. Belgium’s program of record is for 34 F-35 aircraft. 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.

Shown is a F-35 A fighter artist rendering graphic with belgium roundels.
Shown is a F-35 A fighter artist rendering graphic with belgium roundels. (Photo by Lockheed Martin)

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 Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II is an American family of single-seat, single-engine, all-weather stealth multirole combat aircraft that is intended to perform both air superiority and strike missions. It is also able to provide electronic warfare and intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance capabilities. Lockheed Martin is the prime F-35 contractor, with principal partners Northrop Grumman and BAE Systems. The aircraft has three main variants: the conventional takeoff and landing (CTOL) F-35A, the short take-off and vertical-landing (STOVL) F-35B, and the carrier-based (CV/CATOBAR) F-35C. Its development is principally funded by the U.S., with additional funding from program partner countries from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and close U.S. allies, including the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, Italy, Norway, Denmark, the Netherlands, and formerly Turkey.

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