Belgium is set to formally join the international F-35 Lightning II enterprise after the main contractor Lockheed Martin received a $22.9 million contract to integrate the European country into the program.
The integration contract that the US defense department awarded to Lockheed Martin follows Belgium’s decision to acquire the F-35A in October 2018.
The fifth-generation stealth fighter will replace the country’s fleet of F-16 aircraft. Belgium intends to buy 34 of the aircraft under a contract that will be worth an estimated $5.1 billion.
With its decision in 2018, Belgium became the 13th nation to join the program. In addition to the F-35s, Belgium also purchased four General Atomics MQ-9B unmanned aircraft at the time.
Belgium will start receiving both the F-35 and the MQ-9B systems in 2023, with initial operational capability set for 2025. All 34 F-35As are expected to be delivered by 2030.