NATO Is the F-35 Stealth Fighter Alliance

F-35 Stealth Fighter for NATO
December 11, 2023 Topic: military Region: Europe Blog Brand: The Buzz Tags: F-35F-35 Joint Strike FighterNATOBelgium

NATO Is the F-35 Stealth Fighter Alliance

According to Lockheed Martin, by the mid-2030s, more than 600 F-35s will be stationed on the European continent, across NATO member-state bases, and in Switzerland.

The number of Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II fifth-generation stealth aircraft in service with NATO allies continues to steadily increase. The aerospace giant announced that it presented the first F-35A to the Belgian government on Sunday, December 10, during a rollout ceremony at its F-35 production facility.

That event was seen as a significant milestone in the Belgian Air Force's history as it further strengthened the alliance between the United States and Belgium, a key NATO ally.  

"The introduction of the F-35 within the Belgian Air Force will enable us to continue to fulfill all our missions in the coming decades, in cooperation with our allies and partners in NATO, the EU and beyond," said the Chief of Defense for the Belgian Armed Forces, Admiral Michel Hofman.

Senior government and military leaders from Belgium and the United States attended the ceremony.

Belgium's program of record calls for a total of thirty-four F-35As, while the first aircraft, designated AY-01, will be delivered to the Belgian Air Force next year and will be based at Luke Air Force Base (AFB), Arizona, where international F-35 pilot and maintainer training takes place. 

The roll-out of Belgium's first F-35 came just days after a second frontline squadron in the UK – the 809 Naval Air Squadron (NAS) – was stood up to fly the Lightning II.

The Latest NATO F-35 Operator

The F-35 will provide the next generation of air power to ensure the Belgian Air Force and allow it to fulfill its NATO missions and protect the alliance's key interests.

"We congratulate Belgium on this significant achievement," said Lt. Gen. Mike Schmidt, program executive officer, F-35 Joint Program Office. "The growth of the F-35 in Europe strengthens international partnerships, interoperability, and warfighting capability; and emphasizes the importance the aircraft provides as a deterrent against potential adversaries." 

By serving as the most advanced 21st Century Security solution, the F-35 will connect assets across domains to increase situational awareness for Belgium and its key European partners, the defense contractor announced.  

 "With its unmatched capability, connectivity and interoperability, the 5th Generation F-35 will enable the Belgian Air Force to stay ahead of threats for decades to come," said Greg Ulmer, executive vice president of Lockheed Martin Aeronautics. "Today's milestone would not have been possible without the strong partnership and key contributions from our close partners in Belgian government and industry."  

A Key F-35 Partner

The fifth-generation Lockheed Martin stealth fighter further creates high-quality, long-term employment opportunities for Belgium.

Through the Essential Security Interest (ESI) program, the aerospace firm will bring cutting-edge manufacturing techniques and benefits, expanding the Belgian industry's skills and knowledge and providing high-tech jobs for Belgians for decades to come. 

F-35: The NATO Warbird of Choice

F-35 Lightning IIs are now operating from 31 bases worldwide, and to date, Lockheed Martin has delivered more than 980 F-35s, trained more than 2,250 pilots and 15,125 maintainers, and the F-35 fleet has surpassed 768,000 cumulative flight hours.

The defense contractor continues to work side-by-side with F-35 operators to ensure allies remain ahead of the evolving threat. 

In September 2023, Lockheed Martin officially handed over the certificate of ownership of Denmark's four F-35s to the Danish Ministry of Defense Acquisition and Logistics Organization, during a ceremony that saw more than 450 Danish and allied government, military, and industry leaders turn out.

The F-35s that arrived at Skrydstrup Air Base earlier this year were part of the ten Lightning IIs that Denmark had purchased,  The remaining six stealth fighters are currently stationed at Luke Air Force Base (AFB), Arizona, where Danish pilots and maintainers are training. Copenhagen has announced plans to purchase twenty-seven F-35 aircraft in total. Denmark became the tenth country and the fifth European NATO member-state to operate the F-35 from its home soil.


Denmark's and Belgium's F-35 fleets will play a pivotal role in bolstering NATO's collective resilience in the Baltics and strengthening the alliance's ability to deter and defend against all threats across all domains.


The Czech Republic and Romania have further respectively announced plans to acquire a significant number of F-35 Lightning II aircraft.

According to Lockheed Martin, by the mid-2030s more than 600 F-35s will be stationed on the European continent, across NATO member-state bases, and in Switzerland. NATO members in the F-35 program already include Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, the United States, and the United Kingdom.

Author Experience and Expertise

Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer. He has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers, and websites with over 3,200 published pieces over a twenty-year career in journalism. He regularly writes about military hardware, firearms history, cybersecurity, politics, and international affairs. Peter is also a Contributing Writer for Forbes and Clearance Jobs. You can follow him on Twitter: @PeterSuciu.