06:00 GMT +324 September 2017
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    Politics First: Why Belgian Defense Tenders Favor the US F-35s

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    According to French business magazine Challenges, Paris decided to pull out from a Belgian tender to replace the country’s fleet of F-16 fighter planes and withdrew its initial offer of Rafale jets because the terms of the competition actually favored America’s F-35s.

    The fifth-generation US fighter is being considered even though it costs more than the Rafale and despite the Belgian Defense Ministry’s firm belief that the F-35 is too expensive and the country should look for more affordable options.

    “As a fourth-generation plane, the Rafale is cheaper, is more available and is easier to fly. However, contracts like this are more about military strategic and political cooperation between countries than the technical characteristics of a given plane,” Alexandre Vautravers, an expert with the Institute for European Prospective and Security (IPSE), told Sputnik.

    He added that new Belgian government is under pressure from its NATO allies to go for the F-35s, which have already been supplied to Denmark, the Netherlands and some other countries.

    ”However, the F-35 should not cost more than $30 million, but right now the price tag is between $150 million and 160 million,” he noted.
    Vautravers added that many countries which once staked on the F-35 are no longer able to pay the bill.

    ”The Dutch have realized the difference between their desire to buy an excellent plane and its exorbitant price for a country like theirs. Still, together with the Italians and the British, they are  trying to force Belgium to buy the F-35s they themselves can no longer afford, ” he noted.

    ”The Americans are go-getters. Their F-35 program envisaged the sale of US warplanes during the 1960s and 1970. They needed to secure a list of potential [European] buyers to make up for the losses they incurred under the Marshall Plan. This dependence has been around since the 1960s, so it’s nothing new,” Alexandre Vautravers concluded.

    Lockheed Martin, the F-35’s maker, argues that increasing the number of global F-35 shipments will help reduce the cost of the fifth-generation fighter for all parties involved, due to economies of scale.

    In March, the company’s F-35 program director Jeff Babione called for the US and its allies to step up their yearly purchases to help Lockheed make their goal of an $80 million jet by 2020 a reality.

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    Tags:
    political considerations, withdrawal, French bid, Belgian tender, Rafale fighter jets, F-35, Dessault, Lockheed Martin, Euroepan Prospective and Security (IPSE), Alexandre Vautravers, Europe
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