Belgian Ministry of Defence to invest €1.8 billion in R&D

Belgian Ministry of Defence to invest €1.8 billion in R&D
Defence minister Ludivine Dedonder, State Secretary for scientific policy Thomas Dermine and Walloon vice-minister president Christie Morreale pictured during a visit at the John Cockerill Defence site in Loncin, Wednesday 08 June 2022. BELGA PHOTO ERIC LALMAND

The Belgian Ministry of Defence is set to invest €1.8 billion into research and development, Defence Minister Ludivine Dedonder announced on 8 June during a visit to Walloon weapons systems manufacturer John Cockerill Defence.

Accompanied by the Minister of Economy Pierre-Yves Dermange and Walloon Minister for Employment Christine Morreale, the Defence Minister announced the budget as part of the Federal Government’s STAR (Security, Technology, Ambition, Resilience) plans.

Under the new plans, criticised by members of the Belgian Ecologist party, the government hopes to revitalise the Belgian army through new investments after years of budget cuts and neglect. The plan calls for equipping the army with new, high-tech equipment to make it capable of “dealing with current and future threats.”

“This budget of €1.8 billion is historic. After years of disinvestment, my ambition is to rebuild this Department of Defence. I want a Defence that opens up to society, I want to work hand in hand with companies and allow them to develop their capacity and create jobs. There are opportunities for defence and security companies,” Dedonder said.

Belgian defence industry

Belgium’s defence industry is primarily based in French-speaking Wallonia. The region has a long and often chequered history of weapons manufacturing and military contracts.

The largest military producer in Wallonia is FN Herstal, manufacturer of the Minimi machine gun and SCAR platforms, which are used by armies across the world. FN weapons have repeatedly ended up in the hands of Saudi forces in their war in Yemen. The minister is planning a trip to the FN Herstal factory at the end of the month.

Dedonder states that investments from the R&D budget will go towards military, dual-use, and civilian technologies.

“We wanted to show the minister that John Cokerill is first and foremost an innovation company. We are developing projects that make us a player and a candidate for innovation funding promoted by the Belgian Ministry of Defence,” CEO Thierry Renaudin told ministers at the event.

Liège-based John Cockerill is expected to provide weapons systems for use on European military projects, such as the Armoured Engagement Assistance Vehicle (VBAE) programme.

Many major arms manufacturers in Wallonia are part-owned by the Wallon region. Flemish peace organisation Vredesactie has previously criticised the Walloon government for a lack of transparency in the regional government’s involvement in international weapons supply.

"The Walloon government is allergic to transparency on its arms export policies. There is a severe lack of information on arms export licences and the information which is available often comes two years after the fact,” researcher Bram Vranken said.


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