A RAAF F-18 in flight (Image © Commonwealth of Australia, Department of Defence)

Boeing drops out of the Belgian race

Boeing has dropped out of the race to replace the F-16 in Belgian service. The aircaft manufacturer, which offered its F/A-18 Sper Hornet, claims the competition is unfair and the playing field ‘not even’. The move comes as nu surprise, since the odds in Belgium seem very much in favour of the Lockheed Martin F-35.

The Belgian government in Brussels has put aside 3.5 billion EUR to replace 54 F-16 with a total of 34 new jets. The first new fighter jet should enter service in 2023.

Still in competition are the Lockheed Martin F-35, Dassault Rafale, Saab Gripen and Eurofighter Typhoon.  A final decision is expected in 2018.

Belgium will use the F-16 until 2028. Of the original European Participating Air Forces (EPAF) in the seventies, Belgium will use the F-16 the longest. The other participating countries – the Netherlands, Norway and Denmark – all already selected the F-35 as their F-16 replacement. Norway is expected to loose its F-16 by 2021, with the Netherlands following in 2023. Denmark should not be far behind.