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Belgian F-35As to include nuclear capability.

| 2020

Belgian Defense minister Ludivine Dedonder has stated that the 34 F-35A Block 4 bought by Belgium will have dual capacity, that is to say conventional and nuclear, Belga news agency reports. The first four of the 34 F-35As (the classic take-off and landing version) ordered in October 2018, for an amount of around 3.8 billion euros, are expected from 2023. However the first eight aircraft will remain at Luke AFB where they will be used to train the Belgian pilots, a plan aiming at identifying the first F-16 pilots that will go through the conversion programme in mid 2022.

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Belgian F 35As to include nuclear capability The 34 Belgian F-35A Lightning II fighters will be built at the Block 4 standard (Picture source: The Aviation Geek Club)

On Wednesday 2 December, Belgian Defense Minister Ludivine Dedonder recalled for Parliament members that “The Belgian F-35As will have the same configuration as the aircraft which will be produced at the same time for other countries. The F-35 program provides for an identical configuration for all countries to ensure interoperability. The devices will therefore be delivered according to the Block 4 standard (with the benefit of the Technical Refresh-3 modernization program)”.

The Minister specified that the improvements made on Block 4 compared to the currently produced version of the F-35A will relate to more efficient computers, more sensitive sensors, more precise navigation devices, more modern means of communication, increased self-defense systems and dual capabilities (which means that planes can carry both conventional and nuclear payloads).

In this regard, the U.S. Air Force has successfully carried out compatibility tests of their future nuclear bomb, the B61-12 - destined to become the most common in the American nuclear arsenal - with the F-35A, in the perspective of being put into production in 2022. The Belgian air base of Kleine-Brogel, where F-16s (which will be replaced by F-35As by 2029) are currently based, is presumed to shelter around twenty American nuclear bombs of the B61 type within the framework of the “burden sharing” within NATO.

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