the Belgian government will release a large budget to help the Ukrainian army
“For nearly a year, aid to Ukraine has been one of our main concerns,” said Defense Minister Ludivine Dedonder (PS) during the New Year’s reception given Wednesday evening in Brussels by the “boss” of the army, Admiral Michel Hofman.
“And again this week, the government is expected to decide on the most significant aid given to the Ukrainian armed forces since the beginning of the conflict,” she added, without giving further details. She had however mentioned Wednesday morning, at the microphone of Bel-RTL, means of anti-aircraft defence, anti-tank warfare and ammunition “to meet the demands of Ukraine”.
The Minister did not cite any amount, but concordant sources estimate this aid at some 90 million euros – as much as Defense has delivered to Ukraine since the start of the Russian invasion on February 24, 2022 .
Admiral Hofman for his part mentioned, during a meeting on Tuesday with some journalists, the supply of American medium-range air-to-air missiles AIM-120 AMRAAM (“Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missiles”), LAW (“Light Anti-Tank Weapon” or M72, portable anti-tank weapons) and anti-tank grenades.
Integration with anti-aircraft systems
Belgian aid also includes Scar assault rifles and Minimi machine guns, two types of light weapons manufactured by FN Herstal.
“They will not be deducted from the Belgian army’s endowment, but purchased by Belgium from the FNl”, underlined the Head of Defense (Chod).
The AMRAAMs available to Belgium to arm its F-16 fighter-bombers are of the AIM-120B model. These missiles, manufactured by the American group Raytheon, use active radar guidance and fall into the BVR (Beyond Visual Range) category. The estimated range is 50 to 70 kms.
Once delivered to Ukraine, they will be integrated into Nasams land anti-aircraft systems (“National Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile System”) of American-Norwegian design and purchased by fifteen countries. Some donated them to Ukraine or provided missiles.
The number of missiles that Belgium plans to supply has not been revealed, but AMRAAM’s stock is limited. “The pressure (to give it to Ukraine) was too strong,” a military official told the Belga agency.
Belgium will not give Leopards tanks
Last November, the State Department (US Department of Foreign Affairs) approved the sale to Belgium of 120 AIM-120C-8 AMRAAM missiles – a newer version, suitable for both F-16s and future F -35 – and related equipment for a total amount estimated at 380 million dollars (379 million euros).
According to the newspaper L’Echo, Defense will also provide firing positions for French short-range Mistral surface-to-air missiles, but without the missiles, as the army has not had such ammunition for several years. France and Norway have delivered several hundred Mistrals to kyiv.
Belgium will not, however, donate Leopard 1 assault tanks – it has never bought the more modern model, the Leopard 2, in service in a dozen European countries – nor the Gepard anti-aircraft system, armed with a 35 mm twin-barrel radar-guided gun mounted on a Leopard chassis.
A number of Leopard 1A5BEs are still in Belgium. Twenty machines are based in the Tournai and Antwerp warehouses of the firm OIP, which purchased the lot, according to the weekly ‘Le Vif’.
Defense has examined the possibility of buying back these Leopard 1s, but this path comes up against several obstacles, including their modernization and the price that OIP would ask to sell them.
“We have asked Belgian companies like John Cockerill Defense to look into their possible modernization, but since it is an older model, Germany and its companies have been asked to carry out an inventory in Europe to see what it was possible to do in common,” explained Admiral Hofman.
Belgium had acquired 334 Leopards, armed with a 105 mm gun, at the end of the 1970s and the last examples were withdrawn from service in 2014. Norway bought ten of them and Brazil 128 – plus a tank of “ recovery”, the recovery version of this armored vehicle.
As for the Gepards (54 units acquired and withdrawn from service in 1993-1994), they are also the property of OIP. “We investigated” the trail of a takeover, admitted the Chod. But updating them has proven to be “virtually impossible,” he said.
In a plenary session of the Chamber, Prime Minister Alexander De Croo confirmed on Thursday that the government would discuss on Friday “additional support, based on available military stocks, in connection with our defense industry”. “I hope everyone will understand that this is a decisive moment for the Ukrainian people,” he urged in response to a question from Sophie Rohonyi (DéFI). “Let’s see the German and American decisions. We applaud them. And I hope that Belgium will be up to it tomorrow (Friday) and will materialize the announcements made by the Minister of Defense and the Head of Defense in recent days,” he concluded.
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