The previous government planned to acquire 65 new aircraft (scroll down here, more here); lord knows what number the new government will decide it can afford, what with the fallen loonie. But the Belgians and Dutch, with their much tinier area than Canada, with a combined population of some 28 million–seven million less than Canada’s, and with a similar level of wealth, plan to purchase some 71 new fighters between them. Go flipping figure:
…Belgium has set itself a challenge. In recent years, the country has done little to modernize its armed forces and purchase new equipment. Now is its laying out a shopping list of what officials call “concrete investments,” including 34 new fighter aircraft to replace the aging fleet of 56 Fighting Falcons…
Defense officials are surveying current Western-made fighter options, following a request for information issued in 2014 for the , ’s Super Hornet, Dassault’s , the and the . A request for proposals is expected in the coming weeks.
This is expected to lead into a governmental approval process during mid-2016 and the beginning of the procurement phase, which should last into mid-2018 when the next government should approve the procurement.
Belgium wants to start replacing its F-16s in 2023 and to achieve full operational capability in 2029.
The plans would give Belgium a smaller fighter fleet than its neighbor, the Netherlands, which currently plans to purchase 37 F-35As [down from the originally planned 85]. Dutch officials have recently said they hope Brussels will follow and also acquire the F-35 so that both can benefit from closer cooperation.
A plan for joint air policing of the two nations’ airspace is likely to be enacted toward the end of 2016…
By the way the Belgians also have a NATO nuclear mission–at the article quoted above:
A thorn in Belgium’s fighter selection process will be the country’s status in NATO’s nuclear-weapon-sharing agreements. Under a dual-key arrangement, a number of U.S.-owned B61 nuclear bombs are housed at Kleine Brogel air base and would be flown underneath Belgian aircraft in the event of a conflict.
However, nuclear capability will not be included in the fighter RFP, Belgian officials said at the International Fighter Conference in London last November.
The Belgian government is reportedly eager to maintain the nuclear capability, a move which would generally point toward selection of a U.S.-built aircraft fitted with the necessary systems to operate the weapon, such as the F-35…
We certainly would seem to be punching below our weight aerially.