PARIS — Belgium has shown interest in the Rafale fighter jet for maritime use, said Jean-Jacques Bridey, chairman of the French Defence Committee of the lower house National Assembly.
“The Belgians are interested in the Rafale,” he told The Defense Journalists Association. “Why? If they buy the Rafale, it will be the naval Rafale.”
Belgium is interested in the aircraft’s ability to land on the French aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle, which would boost Belgium’s deployment capacity, Bridey said. “This is a seaborne airbase, after all,” he added.
France has pitched the Rafale in an offer of broad bilateral military cooperation with Belgium, opting out of a competition that has attracted British and American offers of the Eurofighter Typhoon and F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, respectively.
Laurence Mortier, the spokeswoman for Belgium’s defense minister, said she could not confirm the interest in a carrier-based aircraft.
The French government letter offering the Rafale is undergoing a legal review in Belgium, she said.
That review seeks to determine whether the French proposal can be considered despite being made outside a tender.
The Belgian Defence Ministry has posted a request for government proposal for public consultation, setting out the tender for 34 multirole combat aircraft and support equipment. An aircraft carrier capability is not among the requirements listed in the air combat capability program.
A fighter jet with carrier capacity reflects European and international cooperation in which France, one of the largest European forces, could “federate” its “discriminating capabilities,” Bridey said.
There are nations that lack equipment, and cooperation would allow their forces to take part in operations.
French cooperation could include a naval task force, cybersecurity, intelligence gathering in the exo-atmosphere, military intelligence, special forces, and command and control of large operations, he said. Frigates from Britain, Germany and Spain have sailed in a French naval task force, he noted.
Dassault Aviation, prime contractor on the Rafale, was not immediately available for comment.
Dassault last week signed 13 cooperative agreements with Belgian companies as part of the French offer of the Rafale.