A first Lockheed Martin F-35A stealth fighter built for European customer Belgium has been flown for the first time, with the airframer expecting to deliver the jet later this year.

One of 34 examples to be produced for the Belgian Air Component, the lead aircraft got airborne from Lockheed’s Fort Worth final assembly and test site in Texas in mid-May, with the registration FL-003.

Belgian F-35A debut

Source: Lockheed Martin

Aircraft FL-003 got airborne from Fort Worth site during its mid-May debut

“Belgium currently has eight jets at some stage of production,” Lockheed says.

“Delivery dates for Belgium will be determined based on the remaining TR-3 [Technical Refresh 3] test schedule,” it adds.

Lockheed chief executive James Taiclet said last month that the company expects to resume F-35 shipments in the third quarter of this year with a ‘combat training-capable’ version of the new operating standard, which has yet to conclude flight-testing.

Belgian pilots will later this year begin training on the nation’s F-35As at Luke AFB in Arizona, where its first eight examples will initially be located.

Belgian F-35A taxi

Source: Lockheed Martin

The Belgian Air Component will eventually operate 34 of the stealth fighters

The European NATO nation is acquiring the F-35A to replace its Lockheed F-16A/Bs, 51 of which are currently in use, Cirium fleets data shows.