The Belgian government approved on Friday the launch of the procedure for the replacement of F-16 fighter bombers by 34 new combat aircraft, an emblematic file of the defence policy of the government.
The ministerial council gave the Minister of Defence Steven Vandeput permission to send the call for tenders (in jargon a “Request for Governmental Proposal“, RfGP) to five state agencies (three in Europe and two in the U.S.), each representing a different type of candidate aircraft for this contract, with an initial estimated amount of EUR 3.59 billion, while the total cost of the programme is expected to reach EUR 15 billion over the expected life cycle of the future fighter, 40 years.
Five manufacturers hope to win the contract
This invitation to tender, initially expected in early 2015 by the military, is eagerly awaited by the five competing manufacturers: the American groups Boeing and Lockheed Martin, the French manufacturer Dassault, the Swedish Saab and a European consortium headed by the British BAE Systems, which are proposing respectively the F/A-18 E/F Super Hornet, the F-35 Lightning II, the Rafale F3R, the Saab JAS 39 Gripen E/F and the Eurofighter Typhoon.
Contract signed next year?
Mr. Vandeput recently recalled that his intention and that of the government was still to sign the purchase contract “in the second half” of next year, after analysis of the tenders which will have to contain an economic component.
The procurement committee last week gave its green light to the launch of the procedure, but in conditions of opacity denounced by the opposition.