Belgium is currently finalizing plans to increase its army capacities with the arrival of new fighter jets and soon new helicopters as well. The recent move came as a reply to Russia’s war in Ukraine and NATO requirements.
The credit is being given to Defence Minister Ludovine Dedonder for plans, and the army’s operational abilities are being reinforced.
“We will acquire 15 light helicopters fairly quickly,” said Lieutenant-General Frédéric Goetynck, adding that this type of aircraft is “essentially intended for ground support of our operations: medical evacuation and support of special forces operations.”
“The objective is to buy less expensive helicopters equipped for search and to keep the army’s NH90s equipped with high technology and a lot of radar for naval support functions.”
The new helicopter supplies will also include the acquisition of heavy transport helicopters to deploy a company of para-commandos or special forces from one point to another with a fairly large range, as per Goetynck.
Buying new helicopters also means replacing the NH90, an aircraft that does not meet expectations, at least in its land version. Goetynck explained that as a European aircraft, its development and modernisation are very expensive.
It has the potential of becoming an excellent aircraft for the Belgian army but as it is not readily available, it is not a good option at present. However, buying army gear is also a political decision.
Dedonder has not hidden the fact that she prefers buying EU equipment to encourage economic returns to Belgian companies if possible, but supplies can be an issue: for small and medium capacity helicopters, there are existing aircrafts. But for larger capacity aircraft, it is more complicated, as per Goetynck.
“There are effectively no European candidates identified,” said Goetynck. “We are looking. A European orientation is indeed preferable for economic returns and for interoperability with our allies. But we must not close the door to other markets.”