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Belgian Air Force 2004-2007 investment plan

January 13, 2004 (by Bjorn Claes) - After the news, in October and December of last year, that the Belgian military would again see some major drawbacks, the Belgian government has decided on January 9th on the investment plan for the next 4 years.
Untill now it was only known that the air component would lose 30 F-16's between now and 2015 and that most investments would be made in the land component.

So what's in it for the air component and specifically for the F-16 force?

First of all, the ongoing "F16 Commonality and Interoperability Consolidation Program" will be concluded. This means that Belgian F-16's will get a new microwave landing system, new software upgrades covering current hardware like the IFF system, ECM system and get the so-called "Link 16" communication interface.

Further investments include the purchase of new sensors to convert existing Mk 84 bombs into precision guided munitions (most possibly GBU-31). Furthermore, an extra 6 LANTIRN targeting pods will be purchased. These will supplement the 8 pods that were already acquired in 2000. Finally all pilots will have a Helmet Mounted Cueing System (HMCS) installed on their helmets.

In total the following budgets have been cleared for these programs. The F-16 CICP gets a total of ? 30.7 million devided in four tranches of ? 3.5 mil, ? 12.2 mil, ? 10.3 mil and ? 4.7 mil for the years 2004 till 2007. For the Mk 84 sensors a budget of ? 6 million is foreseen, existing out of two tranches of ? 3.5 mil and ? 2.5 mil covering the years 2004 and 2005.

For the acquisition of the extra targeting pods a budget of ? 17.1 million is foreseen in the year 2006 and for the purchase of the HMCS, costs will account ? 9.5 million devided into two tranches of ? 4.7 mil and ? 4.8 mil covering the years 2006 and 2007.

Editors note: In one of the earlier posts I mentioned the following: "In my humble opinion, the Belgian Air Component can do with less F-16's. Currently Belgium provides 72 aircraft to NATO. This can be lowered to 60 (4 sqn of 15 aircraft each). On the other hand this operation should be executed with an increase in operational capabilities of the fleet to keep the same output of the F-16's. This means integration of HMCS and a new short-range A/A weapon. The purchase of more ALQ-131 systems (currently 36, has to go up to 60), of JDAM weapons, of standoff weapons and of more Sharpshooter pods (currently 8, has to go up to at least 15). Only than the decrease of the number of aircraft is acceptable."

As we can see now, at least a number of these proposed improvements have been accepted, although the acquisition of a new A/A weapon, more ALQ-131 ECM pods and a stand-off weapon still are not on the acquisition list.