Apparently, some senior officials in the Belgian army had received a report from builders Lockheed Martin saying the lifespan of the jets could be expanded for at least another six years. Colonel Harold Van Pee, who is in charge of the dossier on the replacement of the F-16's, however failed to inform Defence Minister Steven Vandeput.
Belgium has been preparing a bid to buy new aircraft for months. The deal involves up to 15 billion euros and is a sensitive political issue. Today, Charles Michel was questioned in parliament on the topic. Belgium was planning to make a final decision on a new model by July's NATO summit, but this could take longer.
"Given the new information we received, there will not be a decision without full transparency on a decision process and only after a thorough analysis of the different options." An audit will be staged to find out what went wrong. The news has also become a political issue in the run-up to October's local elections. The Flemish socialists had put the cat among the pigeons by leaking an e-mail.