The Belgian Ministry of Defence (MOD) revealed that the manufacturing process of the country’s first F-35A Lightning II has begun at Lockheed Martin’s production facility in Fort Worth, Texas, on November 14.
At present, work is being carried out to complete this initial aircraft’s basic wing structure, using components that were received from the Leonardo-run F-35 Final Assembly and Check Out (FACO) facility in Cameri, Italy. Once work on this first wing is completed, the aircraft will subsequently move on to the next stage of the production process at Fort Worth.
Belgium is expected to receive its first of 34 F-35As in late 2023, with the initial eight examples set to remain at Luke Air Force Base (AFB) in Arizona for pilot and ground crew training purposes. The first F-35As are scheduled to arrive at Florennes Air Base in Belgium in 2025. When operational, the fifth-generation fighter will replace the Belgian Air Force’s ageing fleet of Lockheed Martin F-16AM/BM (MLU) Fighting Falcons, which initially entered service in March 1979.