Belgium Announces $1.2B in Defense Acquisition Programs
Belgium’s Council of Ministers recently approved a series of defense investments worth approximately $1.2 billion, covering Iltis jeep replacements, Pandur armored reconnaissance vehicle upgrades, the acquisition of two second hand M-class frigates from The Netherlands, and an Armored Infantry Vehicle Program that is still up for bid.
In late 2003, the Government approved a defense blueprint that called for an in-depth modernization of the Belgian armed forces toward smaller, more flexible and better equipped forces capable of rapid deployment. These decisions mark the first stages of this modernization drive, which is estimated to involve a EUR 2 billion commitment. Recent operations carried out by the Belgian military in Afghanistan, Kosovo, Democratic Republic of Congo and, in recent months, again in Bosnia Herzegovina have also influenced these decisions.
Pandur Reconnaissance Vehicle Upgrade
Steyr’s Pandur armored vehicles (acquired in 1996) will be fitted with an observation platform comprising high-technology sensors and a battlefield management system (BMS). Steyr will cooperate on this 45-vehicle project with Thales and with several Belgian companies. This contract is valued at approximately EUR 25 million.
Light Armoured Tactical Vehicle (LATV)
It has been decided to replace the underpowered and unarmored Iltis jeeps with 620 new, lightweight 4×4 vehicles (LATV). The new vehicles will serve alongside 352 multi-mission vehicles (designated Multi-Purpose Protected Vehicles, or MPPV) of the Dingo 3 model produced by the German firm Krauss-Maffei Wegman. The Dingo purchase was approved in late 2004.
Iveco’s LMV was selected as the winning LATV bid, out of a total of seven bidders. The program was managed according to the new acquisition procedures enacted by the government in March 2005, and this contract is accompanied by a substantial offset package valued at more than 80% of contract value.
Variants of the LMV are in service with the Italian and British armies. The vehicle has had additional effort put into its protection suite, including a frame designed to accept armor inserts and a number of features and modifications designed to substantially improve the occupants’ survivability in mines and IED attacks. These measures go beyond deflection plates, and include provisions to have the vehicle structure absorb part of the blast without harm to the crew.
A contract will be awarded for a first batch of 440 vehicles and 120 armored protection kits, for a total cost of EUR 75 million. The first vehicles should be delivered to the forces during 2006. This is approximately 10% less than the price during a previous competition held in 2004. Additional batches (each consisting of 90 vehicles and 30 armor kits) will be awarded subsequently.
Armored Infantry Vehicle (AIF)
The AIF will replace tracked vehicles in service (Leopard tanks, and AIFV and M-113 infantry vehicles) with wheeled alternatives, and is valued at about EUR 800 million for 242 vehicles in 7 separate versions. Three batches are planned: an initial firm batch of 138 vehicles, with two conditional batches of 81 and 23 AIVs respectively.
Designed to be a family of vehicles along the lines of the USA’s Stryker system, some AIFs will be fitted with a heavy cannon (no caliber has yet been determined), and others with a 30mm cannon. In addition, other versions will be configured for troop transport, combat engineer, commando, ambulance and logistic support missions.
Several suppliers are being considered, including Mowag (Switzerland), Steyr (Austria), GIAT (France), IVECO (Italy) and Patria (Finland.) A contract was awarded in February 2006 to GD MOWAG for its Pandur IIIs.
After a series of failed attempts to acquire second-hand M-Class frigates from the Dutch Navy and Type 23 frigates from the UK (all of which ended up going to Chile), a second opportunity has opened up to acquire two M-Class multipurpose frigates from the Dutch government. The new frigates would replace the Wielingen and Westdiep now in service.
Negotiations have begun, and the next step is the signature of a Letter of Intent which will lead to the negotiation of detailed contractual terms. Note that the two navies already cooperate in terms of operations, training and logistic support. This acquisition is intended to cover the Belgian Navy’s escort capabilities until about 2025, with the first ship handed over in 2007 and the second in 2008. This cost of this project is valued at approximately EUR 200 million.
Additional Readings & Sources
- Belgian Government release (July 21/05 in Dutch and French) – unofficial translation
- eDefense Online (Feb 23/06) – “Belgian Army Converting to All-Wheeled Force.” Wayback Machine cache, so article is readable but pictures and links on page won’t work; eDefense Online is defunct.
- DID (Feb 10/06) – Belgium Selects Piranha IIIs for $850M APC Contract, Controversies Ensue.
- CASR DND 101 – Iltis [Light Utility Vehicle, Wheeled]
- CASR DND 101 – The Volkswagen Iltis In Afghanistan
- KMW Dingo Vehicle
- Army-Technology.com – Panther Command And Liaison Vehicle (CLV) Light Armoured 4×4, United Kingdom. MLV Derivative.
- Defense Update – Multi-Role Light Vehicle (MLV/FCLV)
- Defence Systems International (March 17/05) – Better Protection on the Move [PDF file]. Good description of MLV/LATV’s defensive design approaches.
- Army-Technology.com – Pandur Wheeled Armoured Vehicle, Austria (note that there is also a Pandur II follow-on variant)
- Naval-Technology.com – Karel Doorman Class Frigates, Netherlands (M-Class)