Belgium invests in an anti-missile shield and (lays) naval mines
Belgium is busy rebuilding its armed forces. In this context, the Belgian navy can count on an additional amount of 527 million euros. The investment will be used, among other things, for the expansion of ballistic missile defense on the new frigates. Belgium will also buy mine laying capacity.
The Belgian project. The US destroyer USS Paul Ignatius last year launched an SM-3 missile at a ballistic target in space, based on radar information from Zr.Ms. The Seven Provinces. In this way, the launch of a Belgian SM-3 can also take place. (Photo: US Navy)
The 527 million euros represent an investment significantly lower than that reserved for the army and the air force. The army can count on 6.56 billion euros and 2.79 billion euros have been committed for the air force. In Belgium, the priority has long since ceased to be the navy. “In any case, there is cooperation with the Dutch navy. The sea is a priority there”, it seems. The morning to explain the most recent prioritization.
Despite the extra money, there will be no additional frigate, writes De Morgen. Together with the Netherlands, Belgium has already ordered two ASM frigates and had an option on a third frigate. Frigates already ordered will be supplied with extras; funds have been earmarked in the area of ballistic missile defense (BMD).
NATO has long urged its member states to invest in a missile shield, and Belgium is now spending 136 million euros on it. Although the new APAR Block 2 will equip the new frigates, the ASW frigates will not receive radar to see ballistic missiles in space (like a SMART-L MM/N). However, this is not necessary, as Belgian investments focus on missiles. Years ago, the desire to purchase Standard Missile 3 missiles for new frigates was announced, but these plans were put on hold.
In the most recent Belgian media reports, the SM-3 is not explicitly mentioned, but remains the most likely candidate. This will allow the Belgian Navy to complement the Dutch BMD capability. After all, the Netherlands has the radars, but not the missiles. The SM-6 also fits into the launcher of frigates, but it is a different type of missile and is not suitable for removing ballistic missiles in space.
In addition to the adjustments for the missile to be able to communicate with the APAR, some costs are also involved for a data link to get the BMD information from other platforms to the Belgian frigate before launch. It is not known in the public domain what choices were made in this regard.
Model of Belgium’s first ship, the future BNS Oostende (M940), of the City class. (Picture: Jaime Karremann/ MarineShips.nl)
So anyway: laying mines
Another area in which investment will be made is the acquisition of mine laying capacity. NATO had also expressly requested it of its member states. It is not yet clear exactly how these sea mines will be laid. One possibility is that new mine countermeasures vessels will have this capability – this is what De Morgen reports, but earlier this year someone within the project organization said it was not the case at the time.
Stories about the Belgian plan to purchase smart mines have already been met with skepticism by MarineShips.nl and a former Belgian naval officer. Some confusion in the press was expected due to the planned purchase of a movable measuring range. These plans do exist, but so do the plans to be able to lay mines.
It is not yet known which sea mines are involved. 1 million euros is planned for new sea mines.
In addition, coastal patrol boats will be modernized and underwater drones will have to be purchased for 14 million euros. It’s about defusing mines. NH90 helicopters are being upgraded to helicopters capable of detecting submarines.
NH90 helicopters were previously used for rescue missions at sea, but are capable of much more. Other helicopters are now being purchased for this work, as it was considered a pity that advanced and expensive aircraft were used for such relatively simple work.
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