BRUSSELS --- The Council of Ministers today approved the proposal submitted by Minister of Defence Steven Vandeput to launch a program for the purchase of new combat vehicles for the Belgian land forces, in cooperation with France. Costing 1.1 billion euros, it is the largest investment program for the land forces, announced in the minister’s “Strategic Vision” document.
This acquisition, in line with the principles set out in the “Strategic Vision,” goes hand in hand with a revolution in defense cooperation for our Land Component. The objective is to establish a partnership based on identical French and Belgian combat vehicles. The objective is for Belgium and France to have a common organization, and that training and logistical support be organized jointly. As announced in the “Strategic Vision,” the operational capabilities and the effectiveness of the Belgian Land Forces will thus be reinforced while, at the same time, building a more European defense (bottom up).
These new combat vehicles are currently being developed in the French Scorpion program and will replace the Piranha and Dingo combat vehicles now in service.
60 “Jaguar” medium combat vehicles and 417 “Griffon” light combat vehicles will be purchased, together with communications equipment and spare parts. These vehicles will form the basic Belgian Defense joint motorized capability, and will also be purchased in medical and reconnaissance variants. They will constitute a huge qualitative step forward, and will create a more secure and more effective operational capability.
The second of the French army’s new armored vehicles, the Griffon, is a 6x6 armored personnel carrier intended to replace the VABs now in service. (FR army image)
The new vehicles are expected to enter service in the period 2025-2030, but it is planned to already begin the development of the close partnership with France in the short term.
Steven Vandeput, the Minister of Defense, said:
"With this investment, the government explicitly chooses to modernize the land forces’ motorized component so that they can continue to spearhead Belgium’s engagement in the context of collective security. New combat vehicles are needed to continue to play an operational role, and to ensure the individual security of our military."
(EDITOR’S NOTE: With this order, and the strategic partnership, Belgium is extending its close military ties with its neighbors.
The Belgian navy has been virtually merged with the Dutch Navy for the past 20 years, and the two countries are sharing the production of a new generation of frigates and minesweepers that will equip both their navies.
The Belgian Land Component will now be closely aligned with that of its southern neighbor, France, leaving the air force for the time being without a strategic partner.
In fact, the air force’s partner will depend on which new-generation fighter Belgium finally chooses: the F-35, already being procured by the Netherlands, the Rafale, in service with the French air force, or the Eurofighter Typhoon, operated by Britain’s Royal Air Force, just across the English Channel.
A close partnership will be more difficult if Belgium chooses the Saab Gripen or the Boeing F-18E Super Hornet.
Government-to-government bids for the next-generation fighter are due by September 8.
The French army’s new-generation vehicles are being developed by an industry group comprising Nexter, Renault Trucks Defense and Thales. Plans call for the eventual procurement of 1,668 Griffons and 248 Jaguar combat vehicles, with initial deliveries due in 2018 and 2020 respectively.
An initial production contract, awarded in April, covers the production of an initial batch of 319 Griffons and 20 Jaguars.
Griffon is a multi-role armored vehicle designed to replace the French army’s Véhicules de l’Avant Blindé (VAB). It is a 6x6 weighing approximately 25 tonnes and equipped with a remotely-controlled weapons station. It will exist in several versions (troop transport, command post, artillery spotter and medical evacuation).
Jaguar is a 6x6 armored reconnaissance and combat vehicle also weighing around 25 tonnes intended to replace the AMX10RC and Sagaie wheeled light tanks as well as the VAB anti-tank variant armed with HOT missiles. It will be armed with the CTA International 40mm automatic cannon with cased telescopic ammunition jointly developed by France and the UK, the MMP medium-range missile being developed by MBDA and a remotely-controlled weapon station.)