September 17, 2013 / 2:02 PM / 4 years ago

Exclusive: Belgium considers Lockheed F-35 to replace F-16s - source

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. government officials have briefed the Belgian government about the capabilities of the Lockheed Martin Corp (LMT.N) F-35 fighter jet, as Brussels prepares to replace its aging fleet of 60 F-16s, a source familiar with the matter told Reuters.

The source, who was not authorized to speak publicly, said Belgium was considering buying 35 to 55 of the new radar-evading F-35 jets. No decisions are expected until late 2014 at the earliest.

    Belgium was one of the original NATO partners to buy the F-16 fighter jet, also built by Lockheed; but unlike Denmark, Norway and the Netherlands, it did not join the international consortium that funded development of the F-35.

    U.S. government officials have visited Belgium to discuss the F-35, which is being built to replace the F-16 and a dozen other warplanes in use around the world, according to the source.

    Neither Lockheed nor a spokesman for the Pentagon’s F-35 program office had any immediate comment.

    Reporting by Andrea Shalal-Esa, editing by Ros Krasny and Gerald E. McCormick

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