The first Belgian F-35 (finally) went into the air (Photo)

The first Belgian F-35 (finally) went into the air (Photo)
The first Belgian F-35 (finally) went into the air (Photo)

FL003, the third Belgian F-35 to leave the Lockheed Martin production line in Texas, is the first aircraft of the order to have completed its first minutes of flight this Tuesday, May 14. This inaugural flight was notably captured by spotters present in Forth Worth, around the Lockheed Martin factory in Texas. One of these plane enthusiasts also subtitled his capture with “it finally happened” while zooming in on the Belgian flag flanked on the tail of the plane. In December 2023, the Prime Minister traveled to the United States to participate in the roll-out ceremony of the first plane leaving the Texan factories and registered FL001. But the little celebration was just window dressing since Belgium has still not received a single plane. A question remains about this flight of FL003: why did it beat the first two planes of an order of 34 F-35s? “The flight test schedule fluctuates depending on various factors, Lockheed Martin answers us. We are currently carrying out test flights of the aircraft as they come off the production line. The first four Belgian F-35s will be delivered at short intervals and then transferred to Luke Air Base where training will begin later this year.”

This photo of the first Belgian plane was taken last August in the Lockheed Martin assembly plant. ©Copyright 2023 Lockheed Martin Corporation

In the case of this Tuesday’s flight, it was a test organized by the American manufacturer and which does not bode well for an imminent delivery to the Belgian army. For the first fighter planes intended to replace the F-16 to be delivered to Belgium, they must pass acceptance flights validated by American pilots since they are the ones managing the F-35 program. .

The industrial F-35 construction program is multiplying delays since the first certifications were expected for April 2023. The latest news is that delivery of the first aircraft is planned for the third quarter of this year and has been confirmed to us by Lockheed Martin. It is the validation of new equipment and technologies that poses serious problems. In the case of Belgian aircraft, this is the TR-3 evolution of the software and block 4 for the equipment.

No delivery of Belgian F-35s before the 3rd quarter of 2024

Not in Belgium before 2025

When these planes are finally delivered, they will not return to the Florennes base immediately. The first eight F-35s will first pass through the Luke base (Arizona) where pilots and technicians are trained. In the United States, even the Pentagon is struggling to hide its impatience with the failures of the F-35 program. It is threatening to reduce its orders for fiscal 2025 from 68 to 58 planes if certification issues are not resolved. This $1 billion saving could be injected into the F-35 program to speed up their certifications.

Our report in the F-35 assembly plant in Texas

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