The Belgian defense ministry has announced that it will officially join the European Future Combat Air System (FCAS) next-generation fighter program by June 2025.
Defense minister Ludivine Dedonder said in a LinkedIn post that her country will become the fourth partner nation for the project after Germany, France, and Spain.
The announcement comes after Brussels signified its intention earlier this year to join the FCAS project, but only as an observer nation.
According to Dedonder, joining the three-nation partnership is a crucial step towards achieving peace, stability, global security, and innovation in defense.
She also described the opportunity as a prime route for a European nation to build a secure and prosperous future amid growing threats in the region.
Details about Belgium’s future role in the FCAS program as a full-time partner have not been disclosed. However, several reports claim the country will enter during the second phase of the project since it is now in Phase 1B.
Belgium’s decision to join the FCAS program was firmly opposed by France’s Dassault because of the country’s decision to procure US-made F-35s over French Rafale jets.
Company chief executive Eric Trappier previously stated that he would fight against any future decision about letting Brussels join the program and giving Belgian firms FCAS-related contracts.
“I hear about the Belgians’ [interest in FCAS]. That’s all very well,” he said, as quoted by Breaking Defense. “I don’t really see the point in putting more F-35 countries into the program. Why would I make room in my factory, in my design office, for people who have chosen the F-35?”
Despite his opposition, Trappier said he would permit European countries to join the program as observers.
About the FCAS
Europe’s FCAS program aims to build a sixth-generation fighter aircraft to keep up with the US Air Force’s Next Generation Air Dominance (NGAD) and the UK/Italy/Japan’s Global Combat Aircraft Program (GCAP) advanced combat jets.
It will be designed to counter threats by employing autonomous air platforms and utilizing a cloud-based data link to coordinate with land, sea, and space assets.
Earlier this month, a French official announced that the program is now weighing four different fighter designs for the FCAS.
A decision is expected to be made by early 2025