Belgian Defence is selling twenty-five Alpha Jet training aircraft based in France, but will only be available from December 2019 onwards, according to military sources.
The deadline to participate in this tender, which covers the 25 aircraft as well as various equipment -- including engines -- the technical documentation and a simulator, has been set for 7 November, according to a notice published by the Defence staff’s Directorate-General of Matériel Resources (DG-MR).
These small twin-jet training aircraft, 33 of which were originally acquired in 1973, entered service between 1978 and 1980, and are now approaching the end of their service life despite an upgrade carried out beginning in 2000.
They are currently based in Cazaux, in south-western France, where they are operated by the Franco Belgian Fighter Pilot School, known as Advanced Jet Training School (AJeTS) established in 2004. This school will formally cease to exist in December after having trained about 150 Belgian military pilots.
The Belgian Air Force, in anticipation of the government's choice of a new fighter to succeed its F 16s, decided to transfer pilot training, beginning in 2019 for an “interim period,” to a tested establishment.
It chose the Euro-NATO Joint Jet Pilot Training (ENJJPT School, operating from Sheppard Air Force Base near Wichita Falls, in Northern Texas, to train its future fighter pilots.
They will then be sold off by Defense, possibly in several batches, according to the disposal notice published by DG-MR. They will be available from December 2019.
(EDITOR’S NOTE: By moving its fighter pilot training from France in the lead-up to its choice of a new fighter, the Belgian Air Force will reinforce the perception that it has already selected the Lockheed F-35.
By preparing, even as an interim measure, to transfer its pilot training to the United States, it ensures its future pilots will be trained on a syllabus that is compatible with the F-35.
Having decided to leave France, the Belgian Air Force has also ruled out Eurofighter member countries which provide jet pilot training -- in Italy and the UK. – with their own jet trainers. The UK is leading the effort to sell the Eurofighter to Belgium.
This is particularly unfortunate for the credibility of its denials that it had already selected the F-35 as far back as 2013.)