First Belgian F-35 Enters Final Assembly Stage

  • Bureau
  • 05:46 AM, August 3, 2023
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First Belgian F-35 Enters Final Assembly Stage
Belgian F-35 @F35 JPO

The first F-35 being built for Belgium has entered the final stage of assembly at Lockheed Martin’s production facility in Fort Worth, Texas.

Belgium decided in October 2018 to procure F-35A Lightning II combat aircraft to replace the Belgian Air Component’s fleet of 54 F-16 Fighting Falcon jets, whose phase-out was expected between 2023 and 2028.

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.

VRT NWS reported citing Ludivine Dedonder, spokesperson for Minister of Defense, that Belgium will not accept two F-35As that Lockheed Martin originally planned to deliver this year, without specifying the reason.

Belgian defense authorities are reportedly anticipating a delay of at least six months in receiving the ordered aircraft.

The U.S. is also refusing to receive new F-35 planes outfitted with Tech Refresh 3 (TR-3) hardware.

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