Forces: June 8, 2000


BELGIUM ANNOUNCES DEFENSE REORGANIZATION: The Belgian cabinet has approved a sweeping reorganization of the armed forces, reconfiguring them for the new century. The defense budget will remain steady at about $2.25 billion, but the percentage devoted to manpower will drop from 55% to 45% while the amount devoted to buying new weapons will climb from 4% to 11%. The Belgians need to spend about $6 billion over the next decade to complete their reorganization. Specifics of the new structure include:

@ Military manpower will drop from 44,500 to 39,500.

@ Tracked vehicles (1,039 armored fighting vehicles, 132 Leopard-1A5 tanks, and 113 M109 self-propelled 155mm howitzers) will be discarded by 2010, to be replaced by new wheeled vehicles (700 wheeled armored personnel carriers, 100 mobile gun systems, and 75 mobile mortar systems, all using the same chassis, plus 400 armored utility vehicles).

@ The single division headquarters will be merged with the operational forces headquarters.

@ The three mechanized brigades (now maintained at 67% strength) will be merged into two mobile brigades each maintained at 100% strength. These units will be more suitable for peacekeeping missions and easier to deploy as they won't have to call up reservists.

@ The Paracommando brigade will be reorganized into an airmobile brigade and kept at full strength. It will get 100 of the new armored utility vehicles.

@ The Aviation Group will get 10-15 new transport helicopters sometime after 2005.

@ The 11 old C-130 transports will be replaced by seven A400M transports in 2007. (If the A400M program collapses, the buy will be switched to C-130Js or C-17s).

@ The Navy will start building a roll-on/roll-off ship in 2006 and put it into service in 2009. This will help move one of the brigades to a distant mission.

@ Ninety of the old F-16A/Bs will get the mid-life upgrade. These will be replaced by 48 multi-role fighters (probably the Joint Strike Fighter) in 2015.

@ The three anti-submarine frigates will be replaced by two multi-role frigates in 2010 and 2011.

@ Six of the seven Flower-class minehunters will receive upgrades. The planned purchase of four new coastal minehunters has been canceled.--Stephen V Cole


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