The American defence industry giant Lockheed Martin, builder of F-35 fighters, the American company Esterline, and four Belgian companies - Esterline Belgium (formerly Barco), Sonaca, Sabca, and Ilias Solutions - signed a memorandum of understanding this Thursday in Brussels.
It assumes the founding of “industrial partnerships” with a market share of several billion euros with the stated goal of replacing Belgium’s ageing F-16, although the Belgian government has not as yet requested any offset agreements which could be linked to this new “contract of the century.”
According to the American aircraft manufacturer, “this Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) demonstrates Lockheed Martin's interest to explore every opportunity for industrial cooperation in the areas of advanced defence technologies, aerospace industry, IT, and security.” “This MoU encompasses all the industrial partnership possibilities that Lockheed Martin might pursue in Belgium” should the F-35 “Lightning” be chosen by the federal government, the group added in a statement.
Jack Crisler, the Lockheed Vice President for “strategic development” of the F-35, has stressed in his speech to the Belgian press that at this stage the Belgian government has not yet expressed the need to formulate the economic consequences of the expected purchase of “thirty to forty” - according to informed sources - new fighter-bombers. "But this is very likely” as the time to make a decision gets closer, he predicted.
(EDITOR’S NOTE: Contrary to what some observers are concluding, the signature of the above agreements does not provide an indication of Belgium’s future fighter choice.
Officials of Sonaca and Sabca have stated in interviews with local radio and television stations that they have signed similar agreements with Boeing, Dassault Aviation and Saab several months ago.
Eurofighter was not specifically named, but is presumably also included.
However, none of these agreements are binding or exclusive, and they will only come into effect when, and if, the Belgian government selects and contracts for a new fighter.)