Missile Systems, Patrol Ships on Belgium’s ‘Urgent’ List
Belgium Defence Minister Pieter De Crem has put on his list of “urgent new programs” the purchase of AFAB-MR (anti-fortification and anti-armored vehicle) medium-range missile systems (up to 2,500 meters) to replace its Milan weapon system and two coastal patrol ships.
Other urgent priorities include buying 111 short-range (up to a few hundred meters) anti-fortification and anti-armored vehicle missile systems with night vision and 238 projectiles; a personal defense weapon to replace the 9mm GP pistol that dates to the 1950s; and replacing fire service vehicles for the Air Force. In the medium term, De Crem wants to replace non-armored jeeps used by paratroopers with rapid-reaction vehicles. In a vision statement released in January, De Crem stresses that a number of projects need to be achievable in the short term. These are:
• Taking part in the Multinational Space-based Imaging System project with France and Spain.
• Buying and installing 70 overhead weapon systems for the Light Multipurpose Vehicle.
• Looking for international partners to be involved in the maintenance and operation of NH90 helicopters (likely to include the Netherlands. Belgium has a frigate, the Leopold, adapted to accept Dutch NH90s.)
• Buying armored infantry vehicles and 61 Multipurpose Protected Vehicles (the Dingo, the same vehicle used by Belgium’s main partner, Germany, in northern Afghanistan).
Long-term plans include replacing the F-16s, the country’s anti-mine capacity and M-Frigates. In an interview with Belgian newspaper Le Soir in late January, De Crem noted that countries such as Denmark, the Netherlands, Sweden and Norway have a similar timetable for replacing their fighter planes.
“Do we still need [in Belgium] 60 machines? Shouldn’t we buy together, for example with the Dutch and the Danes? I am convinced — almost certain — that the purchase of the successor to the F-16 will be a pooled purchase,” he said.
In his vision statement, De Crem also said the Belgian-Dutch cooperation agreement is a “reference par excellence” for multinational cooperation and that the Ministry of Defence will move toward standardizing equipment.
“In this context, it will prioritize multinational cooperation for the implementation, management, configuration and evolution of equipment, especially for the NH90 and A400M programmes,” he wrote.
As for concrete pooling and sharing plans with other EU countries, Kurt Verwilligen, De Crem’s spokesman, said Belgium “is waiting for the results of European Defence Agency proposals in 11 areas.”
The overall budget for defense spending is about 2.8 million euros ($3.7 million), 60 percent of which tends to be related to personnel costs. Verwilligen said he did not know the amount allocated specifically to defense investment.
Source: By JULIAN HALE, BRUSSELS, 08 February 2012 - Gannett Government Media / DefenceNews (www.defensenews.com)
Photo: The Belgian Air Force F-16A Fighting Falcon (Photo by © xairforces.net 2012)