UPDATE 1-Belgium picks Lockheed's F-35 over Eurofighter on price

(Updates with quotes, cost savings, details)

BRUSSELS, Oct 25 (Reuters) - Belgium said on Thursday it had chosen Lockheed Martin's F-35 stealth jets over the Eurofighter Typhoon to replace its ageing F-16s, in a widely-anticipated decision, saying the pick came down to price.

After months of deliberation, the decision was announced at a government news conference and makes Belgium the latest European country to take up the U.S.-made war plane, alongside NATO allies including the Netherlands, Italy and Turkey.

"We have landed! This government is investing heavily in defence. With the purchase of F-35A fighter planes ... we ensure your safety and that of our military," Belgian Defence Minister Steven Vandeput said on Twitter during the news conference.

"The offer from the Americans was the best in all our seven evaluation criteria," he later told reporters.

The decision is a setback for Britain, Germany, Italy and Spain, who are behind the Eurofighter programme, and also means the rejection of an informal French offer to sell Belgium the Rafale fighter built by Dassault Aviation.

Prime Minister Charles Michel's government said despite a strong desire to support European allies, the F-35 was cheaper for Belgium over the long term, coming in 600 million euros ($684.54 million) under what the government budgeted for.

($1 = 0.8765 euros) (Additional reporting by Alastair Macdonald)