Investments in Belgium’s defence will increase in the coming years, with more funding allocated towards helicopters, personnel and digital protection.
The federal government has reached an agreement on additional resources for the army, reports De Standaard.
Next week, the plans will be discussed at the Council of Ministers, but Defence Minister Ludivine Dedonder (PS) already received the green light from the core cabinet this morning for the adjustment of the Strategic Vision. By 2030, defence expenditure will rise to 1.54% of the country’s GDP.
Previous plans included expenditure of €9.2 billion for, among other things, hundreds of new land vehicles, frigates, drones and new F-35 fighter planes. That will now be topped up by an additional €3 billion.
The promised pay raise for military personnel will be phased in from March. By 2024, this should make a monthly difference of €300 to €500.
Eighteen new helicopters
Belgium’s four NH90 helicopters will be grounded after hardly six years of operation, to be replaced with 18 new ones. The previous ones have often been described within Defence as “top equipment … when they fly,” which apparently wasn’t always the case.
Their use is simply too expensive, Defence says, and there are numerous problems with maintenance and spare parts.
The four NH90s equipped for the navy, now responsible for search and rescue missions over the North Sea, will continue to be used on the frigates after the replacements arrive.
Plans involve the purchase of 14 lighter helicopters and four heavier aircraft for troop transport. The wish list, which according to an insider is ‘99% approved’, also includes investments in new drones and anti-aircraft guns.
Stronger cyberdefense, more personnel
Significant investment will also go towards the newly established cyber command, intended to offer better protection against all possible digital attacks.
Funding will additionally be put towards personnel recruitment. Due to a wave of retirements, the army was in danger of falling below a previously-set 24,000-strong minimum.
A new goal is 29,000 personnel, with a larger share of civilians and a focus on eliminating a current shortage of instructors.