13:44 GMT +321 November 2018
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    Belgium's Purchase of US F-35 Jets 'Against European Interests' - Macron

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    Earlier in the day, Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel said that buying F-35 Lightning II fifth-generation fighters from the US was a more commercially viable option, as Paris had not yet decided the final price for its Rafale F3R aircraft.

    "It's a decision that was the result of a process which I greatly respect and which was linked to political constraints specific to Belgium, which are not for me to comment upon, but strategically it goes against European interests," said Macron at a news conference held with Slovak President Andrej Kiska, adding that he regretted "the choice that was made."

    The French president addressed Belgium’s decision to buy the Lockheed Martin planes for 4 billion euros ($4.5 billion) in order to boost the kingdom’s air force.

    READ MORE: Pentagon Declares F-35 Deployment in Europe Successful After 76 Sorties

    In February, the F-35's maker, Lockheed Martin, and British BAE Systems (Eurofighter Typhoon fighter) were the only bidders in a 3.6 billion euro ($4.1 billion) tender for 34 fighter jets to replace Belgium's aging fleet of F-16s, as Boeing and the Swedish Saab had previously pulled out of the competition.

    France, however, offered Brussels its own Rafale F3R fighter in exchange for "an in-depth and structural partnership" together with France and Germany, to develop a new generation of combat aircraft by 2040 as part of a European defense initiative.

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    Tags:
    Dassault Rafale, Rafale, fighter jet, f-35, Lockheed Martin, Charles Michel, Emmanuel Macron, United States, Belgium, France
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