Three Belgian companies incorporated in the joint BeLightning project are permitted to build parts for the tail of the F-35 fighters that will succeed the F-16. They announced that today.
The joint venture consists of Asco Industries, based in Zaventem, Sabca of Brussels and Sonaca of Gosselies. They want to manufacture at least 400 aircraft or horizontal rear stabilizers (“horizontal tail airplanes”, HTP) – which resemble the small wings in the rear of the plane – for the F-35 Lightning II of the US company Lockheed Martin. This jet fighter will also be the successor to the F-16 in Belgium.
This output represents a turnover of nearly $ 400 million (€ 327 million), it seems, and represents an additional 200 full-time jobs.
Each of the three firms is involved in the production. Metal products will be manufactured at Asco at Zaventem and composites will be produced at Lummen’s site in Sabca. Final assembly will take place at Sonaca in Gosselies. The necessary machines will soon be installed.
“The intention is to support the supply of spare parts, among other things, for Belgian aircraft and full production from 2025, with the aim of expediting this date,” a press release said. The joint venture could count on € 135 million in investment support from the federal government.
Production is carried out in cooperation with Lockheed Martin and the British group BAE Systems. The latter has a contract to manufacture the F-35’s horizontal tail surfaces, and has entered into an outsourcing agreement with BeLightning. Tail decks produced in Belgium will be delivered to BAE.
In October 2018, Belgium ordered 34 copies of the F-35, worth nearly 3.6 billion euros, to replace the F-16s. The first deliveries are planned from 2023. In return, Lockheed Martin promised “industrial opportunities” to the Belgian companies.
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