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Belgium Air Component 2016 to 2030
 
Published: February 2016
 
At the end of 2015 the Belgian minister of defense published the long awaited Belgian armed forces strategic review 2030. The overall budget for the Land, Air and Sea Components will raise to roughly EUR 9.2 billion in 2030. Although more money will be spend on defence the budget will not reach the NATO target of 2% Gross Domestic Product (GDP). However this applies to almost all NATO allies. The strategic review contained two programs for the Belgian Air Component.

F-16 replacement program:

The DoD announced that 34 new fighters will be bought to replace the aging F-16s. Belgium purchased 160 F-16s (136 F-16A and 24 F-16B). 60 of them remain active and are operated by 2 Wing (1 and 350 squadron) based at Florennes and 10 Wing (31, 349 and the Operational Conversion Unit) based at Kleine-Brogel. The F-16s which were not converted to the MLU (F-16AM/BM) have been withdrawn from use while 25 aircraft have been sold to Jordan (18 F-16AM and 7 F-16BM).

Five aircraft companies are competing for the new fighter contract: Boeing F/A-18E Super Hornet, Dassault Rafale, Eurofighter Typhoon consortium EF-2000, Lockheed Martin F-35A Lightning II and Saab JAS-39.

Drones:

The Belgian Air Component 80 UAVS operates 14 B-Hunters. Six new drones will be bought in two batches. The first batch will consist of 2 UAVs and be bought in 2021 while the remaining four will be bought in 2030. The review didn't state which company will deliver these unmanned air vehicles.

Other programs not related to the strategic review:

Belgian bought eight NH90s from NHI divided in 4 each of the NH90-TTH and NH90-NFH. The four Naval Frigate Helicopters will enter a modification program to install the latest SAR systems. As a result the MoD dedided to keep its three remaining Sea King Mk40s in service. They will replace NH90s inducted in the modification program in the SAR role.
Of the original five helicopter one is preserved in a museum in Brussels and the other withdrawn from service. The Sea Kings will now be withdrawn from service at the end of 2018. In order to keep this fleet running the Belgian MoD purchased a Sea King HAR3 from the Royal Air Force. This helicopter will not enter service but will be used for spare parts to keep the others operational. The purchase of the RAF helicopter proved to be a cheaper solution than buying spare parts or perform expensive maintenance.

The Belgian Air Component will take delivery of its first Airbus D&S A400M in 2018 based on the original delivery planning. Seven aircraft have been purchased while an eight A400M has been bought together with neighbor Luxembourg (50/50). The Luxembourg aircraft will join the Belgian squadron.

Belgian Air Component international missions in 2016.

The Belgian Air Component deployed F-16s from Kleine-Brogel Air base early January to man the Baltic Air Policing mission. The BAP mission is rotated between NATO countries and normally last three months.
From July F-16s will replace the Royal Netherlands Air Force based in Jordan participating in task force Middle East fighting ISIS with coalition partners.

For more information (order and delivered aircraft, squadrons and photo gallery) please visit Belgium.
 
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M. Jaarsma - Phantomaviation.nl