New fighter jet probably won’t be French

In early September the Americans and the British let it be known that they are candidates to build and supply the 34 fighter jets the Belgian armed services want to buy to replace the F-16 planes that are currently in service. The French also want to land the billion euro contract, but their tender was incomplete didn’t. The Belgian Defence Minister Steven Vandeput (Flemish nationalist) says that this means that he won’t be considering the French proposal.

The Federal Government issued a call to tender for the successor to the F-16. A small group of government agencies acted on behalf of plane builders in their respective countries.

They answered 164 questions in the Request for Government Proposal. The US Government provided extensive answers about Lockheed’s F-35 and the UK Government did the same for the Eurofighter Typhoon.

However, rather than answering the questions, the French wrote a three-page letter instead. The letter was handed over by the French Defence Minister Francoise Parly to her Belgian counterpart Vandeput.

The letter proposes the Dassault’s Rafale fighter jet (photo above). Mr Vandeput enlisted the services of an external team of solicitors and army chiefs of staff to check the legal validity of the letter. Today Mr Vandeput said that the French had not given a price estimate nor had they answered any of the question posed in the call to tender.

Mr Vandeput says that further negotiations with the French about the tender could leave Belgium open to legal proceeding from the other interested parties. The Federal Cabinet with make a final decision on the tender on Thursday.