Belgium's purchase of US F-35 jets 'against European interests': Macron

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Belgium's decision to buy US-made F-35 fighter jets instead of a rival European aircraft "strategically goes against European interests," French President Emmanuel Macron said on Friday.

Belgium announced on Thursday it will purchase Lockheed Martin's stealth jets in a multi-billion-euro deal to replace its ageing fleet of F-16s in a blow to rival French aircraft maker Rafale.

"I regret this choice. This wasn't just the Rafale offer, it was also the Eurofighter, a real European offer," Macron told reporters in Bratislava.

"The decision is linked to a Belgian procedure, to the political constraints of the country, but strategically goes against European interests."

He said: "Europe must develop a real capacity for a European defence industry, in all the countries that believe in this venture."

The F-35 ran against a bid from the Eurofighter Typhoon, developed by a European consortium that also comprises Italy's Finmeccanica and Airbus.

The Belgian government said it would buy 34 radar-evading F-35s to replace its F-16 jets, from 2023.

Prime Minister Charles Michel had attempted to ward off criticism saying Belgium was looking to both Europe and the United States for its defence needs.

© 2018 AFP

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