US puts pressure on Belgium for a decision on F-35 fighter jets
The American Ambassador to Belgium Ronald J. Gidwitz has said that Belgium’s Federal Government must make a decision on the tender for 34 new fighter jets by 14 October if the quote it received from Lockheed Martin is still to be valid.
In February of this year the Federal Government received two quotes for the construction and delivery of 34 fighter jets. One was for the Eurofighter Typhoon that is built by a European consortium. The other was for Lockheed Martin’s F-35. However, the favourite Lockheed Martin’s offer is only valid until 14 October.
Speaking in an interview on Monday the US Ambassador said "The fact that this is same days a municipal elections in your country is pure chance”.
It had been assumed that a decision would be made quickly on the fighter jet that is to replace the Belgian Airforce’s current fleet of F-16s. However, the fuss surrounding the possible bias towards one of the candidates within the upper echelons of the Air Force served to bring progress on a decision to a standstill. .
Now the Americans are turning up the heat.
"Extending the offer under the same conditions isn’t an option, the American Ambassador to Belgium Ronald Gidwitz said. "That wouldn’t be fair to other countries that have already ordered F-35s because they want clarity regarding delivery deadlines. Moreover, the offer is depended on dozen of sub-tenders so extending it just like that isn’t possible.
Mr Gidwitz says that it is even possible that the Americans would offer a new updated version of the F-35 if the Federal Government were to procrastinate for too long.
"But we would of cause very much like to supply Belgium with these planes in the future.
The purchase of a new fleet of fighter jets to replace the F-16s is currently on the desk of the Prime Minister Charles Michel Francophone liberal. In a response to the Ambassador’s words, the Defence Minister Steven Vandeput said that he has taken not of Mr Gitwitz’s words.