Belgium Upgrading its F-16s
Belgium is embarking on minor but useful modernization of its remaining F-16 fleet, which is expected to serve until at least 2022, and could easily end up serving past 2030. Under Belgium’s 2000-2015 Modernization plan, the Belgian Defense Forces plan to keep just 60 F-16s in the fleet, creating a total of 48 operational aircraft (46 for NATO duties and 2 for domestic air defense).
The F-16.net database shows a current active fleet of 49 F-16As and 10 F-16B trainers/ fighters, with likely delivery dates from 1982-1991. A Mid-Life Upgrade modernization was ordered in 1997 – 1998, which included a full Aircraft Structural Integrity Program.
This upgrade will help the F-16s remain useful for deployments like Kandahar, Afghanistan and Baltic air policing, but it won’t substantially change the fighter’s core capabilities. The AN/APG-66(V)2 radar remains, for instance, instead of being replaced with the APG-68(V)9 or something equally modern. Belgium’s addition of JHMCS helmet-mounted displays in recent years was more consequential.
On the other hand, the M6 OFP adds the Universal Armament Interface, which will make it much easier and cheaper for the Belgian Air Force to add new weapons to their F-16s. This upgrade may be one that becomes consequential with the passing of time.
January 13/16: The Belgian government has approved a plan to modernize its airforce by 2030, but at a cost of a reduction in personnel. $10 billion will be made available for upgrades to equipment and machinery, however it will necessitate a decrease in the military and civilian workforce from 32,000 to 25,000. While no preferences have been made as to what will be bought, the investment will see thirty-four fighter bombers bought to replace the fifty-six aging F-16s in service. This will go alongside two new frigates, six minesweepers and two new UAVs. Brussels is also considering participation in the Tanker Aircraft Program.
May 12/14: The US DSCA announces Belgium’s official export request for upgrades to its F-16A/B Block 15 Mid Life Upgrade (MLU) aircraft with:
- Operational Flight Program (OFP, core mission software) tapes S1, M5 and M6.
- 69 LN-260 Embedded Global Positioning System-Inertial Navigation Systems (GPS-INS).
- 8 Remote Operated Video Enhanced Receivers IV (ROVER IV) terminals, which greatly improve coordination with ground forces.
- 62 BAE AN/APX-125 Transceivers (AN/APX-125 Air Identification Friend of Foe Radios), with the latest NATO Mode 5/ Mode S capabilities so they can operate with other NATO countries. IFF Mode 5 needs the M6 OFP software to work.
- 43 AN/ARC-210(V) RT-1990(C) Ultra High Frequency/Very High Frequency (UHF/VHF) radios. They need the M5 OFP tape to work.
- 32 KIV-78 encryption devices.
- 1 Joint Mission Planning System (JMPS).
- 4 BRU-61/A Carriage Systems, used for the GPS-guided GBU-39 Small Diamater Bomb I. SDB-I needs the M6 OFP software to work.
- Plus spare and repair parts, support equipment, repair and return services, software development/ integration, test and equipment, personnel training and training equipment, publications and technical data, and other forms of US Government and contractor support. The estimated cost is up to $113 million.
The principal contractor will be Lockheed Martin Missile and Fire Control in Orlando, FL, and implementation of any negotiated sale won’t require any additional US government or contractor personnel in Belgium. Sources: US DSCA #14-13, “Belgium – F-16A/B Block 15 Aircraft Mid-Life Upgrade”.
DSCA request: Belgium