Boeing will not compete its F/A-18 Super Hornet to replace Belgium’s fleet of Lockheed Martin F-16s, the company informed the nation's government this week.
In a statement, the airframer says it will not participate in a 19 April bidders conference, nor respond to Brussels' request for proposals for the new fighter.
“We regret that after reviewing the request we do not see an opportunity to compete on a truly level playing field with the...F/A-18 Super Hornet,” Boeing says.
“This decision allows Boeing to concentrate its efforts and resources on supporting our global customers, securing new orders and investing in technology and systems required to meet the threats of today and tomorrow. Where there is a full and open competition we look forward to bringing the full depth and breadth of Boeing to our offer.”
Belgium’s recapitalisation effort is expected to replace its 59 F-16A/Bs with 34 new fighters, with a budget of up to €3.6 billion ($4 billion), FlightGlobal has previously reported.
Boeing’s American rival, Lockheed Martin, remains in the competition with its F-35. Other candidates include the Dassault Rafale, Eurofighter Typhoon and Saab Gripen E.
Over the past year, Boeing has chalked up a number of coups for its tactical fighter business, from a Canadian Super Hornet purchase to a renewed interest in the aircraft from US President Donald Trump, as well as orders from Kuwait and Qatar.
However, interest from Europe appears to be waning. After losing Denmark’s fighter competition in 2016 to the F-35A, Boeing issued a legal challenge against the Danish defence ministry arguing that the government executed a “flawed” evaluation process. On 15 September 2016, Boeing submitted a request for insight seeking documents and information on the fighter decision.
"Since then, the ministry has shared only a small fraction of the documents that Boeing is entitled to review, and has not provided a complete list of all its documents and information as required by law," Boeing says.
Boeing filed a legal challenge on 2 March, fighting the failure to release the documents; that court hearing is still pending.
Meanwhile, Boeing sees other opportunities from fighter contests being held by Finland and Switzerland.