The choice of the American F-35 fighter plane as a replacement for the aging F-16 has been made, but the government - and more specifically Prime Minister Charles Michel - has yet to see how the decision is interpreted, preferably as a European decision. That has been heard from several sources within the government today.
The federal government started in March 2017 the selection procedure for a new fighter plane. Initially it was a contract of 3.6 billion euros, with a value of 15 billion euros through the service life of the aircraft, that is estimated to last about forty years.
Two governments responded according to the rules of the tender: the American government with the F-35 Lightning II from the American group Lockheed Martin, and the United Kingdom with the Eurofighter from a consortium including Germany, Spain and Italy. (France offered a long-term strategic partnership based on the Dassault Aviation Rafale fighter outside of the competition—Ed.)
The American offer was formally valid until October 14, the same day when local elections took place in Belgium, but was extended by two weeks until the end of October, according to a reliable source. After two meetings of the “core” cabinet, on October 4 and last week, the most senior ministers had all the information to make a well-founded decision.
Several government sources indicate that the choice has already been made for the F-35. "The government is still looking for a formula to explain the American choice," they stated, without wanting to be cited by name.