December 3, 2003 (by Bjorn Claes) - Today, a formal consensus has been reached between al government parties to update the Belgian strategic plan for the armed forces. Major rumors existed the past months and weren't really opposed by the government before the plan was made public this afternoon.
The restructuration exists out of two major issues. The first is that the Belgian military will reduce the number of troops to 35,000, which is 5,000 less than at this moment. The second major issue is that the air component will loose 30 F-16s by 2015. Up to now, no details have been provided in which exact timeframe the reduction will take place.
This restructuration is aimed at reducing the departments working costs and by this manner, to augment the investments per soldier to an acceptable level. Belgium
has been known within NATO
to invest too few resources into its military. Also now, no extra financial resources have been made available and everything has to be managed within the current budget (approximately ï¿½ 2.5 billion).
The first phase will probably happen in the 2005-2007 timeframe with the reduction of the number of F-16s within the current 4 squadrons from 18 aircraft to 15, resulting in an overall reduction from 90 to 72 (with an eventual sale of these aircraft to the Czech republic). The second phase is probably due to happen between 2010 and 2015 with a further reduction of aircraft from 15 to 12 per squadron, resulting a total reduction from 72 to 60 with the total number of aircraft available for operations slipping from 72 at this moment with 18 in reserve and for training purposes to 48 in 2015 with 12 in reserve and as training assets.