Belgian howitzers sent to Ukrainian frontlines from the UK

Belgian howitzers sent to Ukrainian frontlines from the UK
M109 howitzer. Credit: Wikipedia

Belgian howitzers have been sent to the Ukrainian frontlines thanks to the UK, who bought the weapons at a higher price after Belgium refused to pay for them, according to reports by VRT on Wednesday.

In 2015, Belgium sold 25 heavy-wheeled guns at €15,000 each to private companies but wanted to repurchase the weapons to send them to Ukraine. By then, the market price of the weapons had reached €150,000, which made the whole shipment cost €5 million.

The Belgian government hesitated and refused to pay the increased price, pushing the UK to buy them instead to send them to the Ukrainian Armed Forces.

"A missed opportunity for Belgium to support Ukraine militarily. Our government could have shopped in its own country, for a market-based price," said a source, according to VRT.

Too slow or refusal to pay

The market price increased was stressed by the companies who had bought the M109s were renewed inside, had a semi-automatic charging system built in and that the years of storage also had raised the price.

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A direct arms source told VRT that the market price for M198 howitzers is now higher than it was 5 years ago.

"But the market for second-hand military equipment looks completely different with the war in Ukraine. Everyone now wants to buy usable, well-preserved second-hand military equipment. The demand for howitzers is now much higher, and the supply is limited," said the source.

"Whoever thinks that Flemish companies on the second-hand market of military equipment could demand spectacularly more than what the market is willing to pay, knows little about these types of specific sales," said the source. "This is a small market, but here too the laws of supply and demand apply."

A separate source well versed in exporting military equipment added: "The export license of the howitzers to Ukraine could also have been arranged quickly, as the regionalisation of the export license provides an exception for exports by Defence and the police."

Empty stocks

In March 2022, Deputy Chief of Staff Marc Thys warned that Belgium's Defence stocks were suffering from years of underinvestment.

The military managed to find bulletproof vest, helmets, anti-tank weapons and machine guns to send Ukraine, even as Ukraine mainly was seeking weapon systems such as tanks, armoured vehicles and howitzers to stop the Russian invaders. Other European countries including Austria, the Netherlands and Germany provided M109 howitzers.

A spokesperson for Defence Minister Ludivine Dedonder told VRT that Belgium will instead send Toyota Land Cruiser ambulances to Ukraine next year.


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