The first Belgian pilots and technicians will be trained in F-35 training in 2024.
The transition from the F-16 to the F-35 is developing within the air component, and the first aircraft is expected to be delivered this year in the United States.
The Florennes base announced on March 17 that 31 technicians had been selected to follow an F-35 technical conversion course in the United States in 2024 after completing the required preliminary training.
According to the Defense Ministry’s press service, they will be part of a larger group of 120 technicians coming from Wing 2 at Florennes and from Wing 10 at Kleine-Brogel.
Their training will include a theoretical part at the Eglin base in Florida and a practical part at the Luke base in Arizona. The training will last from 3 to 6 months, depending on the specialization of the technician.
In 2024, training the first six F-16 pilots to start their conversion to the F-35 will also begin at the Luke base, designated for Belgian pilot training in November 2019. These first pilots will be trained as F-35 instructors. They will train the other Belgian pilots with the American instructors.
Also, according to Defense, after the first six instructors, a mix of pilots will be trained, new, but also F-16 pilots. Therefore, many future F-35 pilots will immediately be F-16 pilots who will retrain in the coming years.
Some of the future F-35 pilots will receive initial F-35 training after obtaining their fighter pilot license under the Euro-NATO Joint Jet Pilot Training Program (ENJJPT), where Belgian pilots have been trained since the beginning of 2019.
The first Belgian F-35s will arrive at the Florennes base in 2025. Fighter jet deliveries will take place from 2023 to 2030 at a rate of four aircraft per year, except in 2028 and 2029, when five aircraft will be delivered.
New infrastructure is needed to accommodate and maintain the new weapons system. The current infrastructure dates from the 1950s and 1960s and is not up to the requirements of a modern fighter jet.
Each F-35A complex uses the “Design, Build & Maintain” (DBM) formula. A provisional first +partial delivery of the buildings in East Florennes is scheduled for summer 2024.