The foundation stone has been laid for the F-35 Complex in Kleine-Brogel

Defense invests. Due to the arrival of the new F-35 fighter aircraft, the works of the F-35 infrastructure are already in full swing in Florennes. Now it is the turn of Kleine-Brogel, where Defense together with the company Jan De Nul symbolically laid the “foundation stone” today. Defense assigned the project to Jan De Nul as a Design, Build and Maintenance project.

Jan De Nul, in cooperation with the design firms Arcadis and Burns&McDonnel, will build the new infrastructure for the F-35A. Defense expects delivery of the first F-35A fighters in 2025 for the 2W Tac at Florennes and in 2027 for the 10W Tac at Kleine-Brogel. New infrastructure is needed to house and maintain the new weapon system. The current installations date back to the 1950s and 1960s. However, they are not adapted to the requirements of a modern fighter aircraft. Each F-35 complex is realized under the Design, Build & Maintain (DBM) formula. In Florennes, the works are already in full swing. Now it is Kleine-Brogel’s turn.

Defence has chosen to build a quasi-identical centralised F-35 complex on each base. This complex will consist of four major parts:  

  • The administrative part contains, apart from the necessary office- and meeting spaces, all needed infrastructure for the contemporary comfort of the personnel: dressing rooms with showers, a cafeteria, coffee corners, etc.
  • The logistic part contains a storage area for spare parts and infrastructure for the maintenance of the F-35A with six maintenance docks and houses the necessary workshops such as those for the maintenance of the engines.
  • The High-Secured Area (HSA) is the most secure part of the F-35 complex. This is where training and operations are planned, and where the flight simulators will be located, four per base. This part of the infrastructure requires specific attention and a coordinated approach with US partners. After all, the installations involved in it must meet the high US safety standards. Moreover, on a purely technical level (including the flight simulators), these installations require an environment that meets very specific HVAC (Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning) requirements.
  • The flightline of the F-35 complex will be equipped with sixteen Flightline Aircraft Shelters (FAS) where the jets will be placed in a secure environment and where front-line servicing can also take place. Four of these sixteen shelters will serve specifically for the QRA (Quick Reaction Alert) mission: the QRA-FAS. Close to the QRA-FAS will be a Ready Storage Building (RSB) to store the armament for the QRA. The whole will be connected to the base's existing infrastructure via an Apron and Taxiway.

The mentioned new-build infrastructure will be planned in a close and logical relationship with the existing infrastructure. This will result in a coherent and secure F-35 complex that will function as an enclosed entity within the base.

Design, build and maintain (DBM)

For the realisation of this project, a public-private partnership was put in place under the form of a Design, Build & Maintain (DBM). A negotiated procedure with publication was conducted with three consortia of contractors in 2020 and 2021. The winning consortium submitted the best price-quality bid. 

This consortium is not only responsible for the design and realisation, but also for the technical maintenance of the infrastructure for 10 years after provisional delivery (optionally extendable by an additional 10 years). A first partial provisional handover of the buildings in Florennes is scheduled for summer 2024.

The project is also contributing to combat climate change: for example, this new building complex will be very well thermally insulated and heat will be generated via geothermal heat pumps. 

In 2018, the Council of Ministers decided to purchase an air combat capability based on the F-35 weapon system to replace the existing F-16. This decision includes the order of 34 F-35A jets, eight flight simulators and associated 'support equipment'. The Belgian government can deploy the advanced multi-role fighter jets for the full spectrum of missions.  The planes themselves are of type F-35A; this is different from the F-35B (type F-35 for Short Take-Off and Landing - STOL) and from the F-35C (type F-35 suitable for an aircraft carrier). The aircraft and equipment will be shared equally between the two bases.