New planes for the Belgian Air Force? Who got 6 billion Euro?
Belgium bought its F16 jet fighters in the seventies of last century. So, these planes are nearing their expiry date. The Belgian Minister of Defense, christian-democrat Pieter De Crem, announced now he wants them to be replaced by 40 new jet fighters.
Belgium bought its F16 jet fighters in the seventies of last century. So, these planes are nearing their expiry date. The Belgian Minister of Defense, christian-democrat Pieter De Crem, announced now he wants them to be replaced by 40 new jet fighters. On other occasions he did not hide his personal preference for the super expensive Joint Strike Fighter (F35) produced by Lockheed Martin (USA). According to our calculations this would cost Belgium 6 billion Euro. In times of austerity en high unemployment this is pure madness; it is simply criminal.
It is a public secret that Mr De Crem made up his mind and personally chooses the JSF as possible replacement for the outdated F16s. Wikileaks showed this already in October 2009. Where he hopes to find the budget to fund this purchase in a period with comprehensive austerity measures, remains a mystery.
Recently the Dutch government decided to purchase 37 Joint Strike Fighters. According to official audit agencies this means an invoice of 4.5 billion Euro, or 121.6 million Euro per jet fighter. Operation costs are still to be added at the amount of some 7.2 million Euro per year per plane.
Unlike the Netherlands, Belgian didn't participate in the JSF's development programme, so the price will be higher: it is not exaggerated to say that one Belgian JSF would cost more than 150 million Euro. It is not so difficult a calculation in order to conclude that the operation would cost Belgium some 6 billion Euro, without operating costs. The Belgian annual purchase budget for military equipment is about 250 million Euro: this means one JSF and a half. So, even with a thorough reshuffle the actual defense budget cannot pay for the replacement of the F16s. It should still be increased with at least a quarter annually if the purchase would be spread over 8 years.
This is not just a technical debate on army logistics. The JSF is per definition designed to bomb, to realize interventions abroad. The debate cannot be separated from the NATO nuclear task of the Belgian air force, because the nuclear capable JSF will indeed be able to transport the modernized B61 atomic bomb from Kleine Brogel air base. The peace movement has been campaigning for years to get rid of this non-strategic atomic bomb. Yet, the Pentagon decided to invest billions of dollars in its modernization.
Our peace movement, Vrede vzw, appeals to the common sense of all our political representatives. We urge them not to follow the NATO ambitions of our Minister of Defense, as he probably would like to embellish his solicitation letter to become the next NATO secretary general.