Text: Marc Arys - Interview: Serge Van Heertum - Pictures: Serge Van Heertum & Marc Arys  sbap 2014

Tuesday November 25, 2014, the Belgian Minister of Defence Steven Vandeput visited the Belgian Air Component at Florennes airbase home of the the 2nd Tactical Wing accompanied by the Chief of Defence General Aviator Gerard Van Caeleberge and the Air Component Commander General Major Aviator Frederic Vansina. He was given an in depth overview of the means used by the Air Component to accomplish their missions.

At first Minister Vandeput had a tour in a hangar with a thorough summary, in the cockpit as well as on the outside, on a fully armed F-16 on display together with its extended bombing capabilities. Followed by a detailed view on the capabilities and materials of the members of the Force Protection and the K-9 unit. The latters being responsible for securing our airbases. This first part was concluded with the presentation of the personal and a B-Hunter craft from the 80 UAV Squadron.

On the apron, the Minister received a walkaround on the other types of aircraft in use in the Belgian Air Component starting with the SF-260 Marchetti used for the initial training of the pilots. On to the Dassault Dornier Alpha Jet before moving on to the F-16 for the fixed wing pilots. Rotary wing pilots move to the Agusta A109. The rotary community also uses the Alouette III within the Marine Component, the Westland Seaking Mk48, mainly for SAR missions (Search and Rescue) and the newest arrival, the NHIndustries NH90 TTH (Tactical Transport Helicopter) and NFH (Nato Fregate Helicopter). The necessary information on these various aircraft was given by the crews present on site.

The visit was concluded with the departure of the F-16 of the QRA (Quick Reaction Alert) aircraft demonstrating the professionality of the crews.

F-16AM turn around (Serge Van Heertum) (Serge Van Heertum)
(Marc Arys) Explanations about the guidance systems by Gen Avi Gerard Van Caelenberge,
Chief of Defence (Serge Van Heertum)
(Serge Van Heertum) A view in the cockpit (Marc Arys)
(Marc Arys) (Serge Van Heertum)
(Serge Van Heertum) (Serge Van Heertum)
(Marc Arys) (Serge Van Heertum)
(Serge Van Heertum)
(Serge Van Heertum) (Serge Van Heertum)
NBC clothes, Dog unit and airfield protections (Marc Arys)

(Serge Van Heertum)

FAC material (Forward Air Controllers) (Marc Arys)
(Serge Van Heertum) B-Hunter overview (Serge Van Heertum)

Interview with the Minister of Defence Steven Vandeput

 

We are talking about budget restrictions up to 20% and the malaise within the army is very present, each one fearing for his future. Is this situation confirming itself ?

 

The report of the court of auditors is very clear and the budget put forward by the government will bring important financial worries to all the departments and within the Defence department the situation will be the most critical. A strategic plan is under review and one will hace to take some drastic measures, but we are talking off a "white sheet of paper", specified Minister Vandeput. At this moment military personnel have nothing to worries about as there will be no 'purifying' at stake but the course towards end of careers and voluntary departures will be the main idea. The Minister and his staff are taking all these questions into account and will provide a report to be debated in parliament within the next weeks, probably around Eastern 2015. In the same way will the recast of the structures and the renewal of the material be studied to re-energize the army which, for the minister, stays a quality tool and of which the maximum of potential must be drawn.

 

The closure of some airbases has been suggested with Florennes and Beauvechain being targeted in the media. What is the actual situation ?

 

Once again, nothing has been decided yet. These are only ideas being evaluated to ensure the necessary savings. It is rightful for the concerned military personnel to have some concerns, but all this will be debated once a clear and functional plan is established (note: Colonel Thierry Dupont, base commander of Florennes airbase stays confident. To him and at this time nothing indicates a possible closure of the 2nd Tactical Wing). The Defence office is well aware that a closure would also generate secondary economical losses in the concerned regions.

 

During the mandate of your predecessor the replacement of the F-16 fighter has been mentioned, which was already largely spread out in the media with a clear feeling to prefer the American fighter F-35. What is the actual situation regarding the replacement of the F-16 and also of the aging B-Hunter unmanned air vehicles ?

Here again the Minister of Defence stayed very evasive, not engaging any comment on the subject. The study schedule is maintained and a decision could possibly be taken and presented in 2018. Former studies of the De Crem office were not swiped clean, it is only the continuation of the renewal plan. The question regarding the B-Hunter is an integral part of the strategic plan and "we will decide according to the necessities and types of missions to be fulfilled by our army", implying more likely the revision of the  scope of the actual missions in Afghanistan and Irak.

Some media interviews (Marc Arys) (Marc Arys)
Gen Maj Avi Frederik Vansina interview (Serge Van Heertum) (Serge Van Heertum)
Siai-Marchetti SF.260D (Serge Van Heertum) (Serge Van Heertum)
(Serge Van Heertum) "K1" giving some informations about the IP job (Marc Arys)
(Serge Van Heertum) With Alpha Jet instructor (Marc Arys)
(Serge Van Heertum) (Marc Arys)
(Serge Van Heertum) (Serge Van Heertum)
(Marc Arys) (Marc Arys)

(Serge Van Heertum)

Look into the Alouette III (Serge Van Heertum)

Agusta A109BA (Serge Van Heertum)

(Serge Van Heertum)
Lockheed C-130H (Marc Arys) (Serge Van Heertum)
(Serge Van Heertum) NH-90 crew waiting the visit.... (Marc Arys)
(Serge Van Heertum) (Serge Van Heertum)
(Serge Van Heertum) (Serge Van Heertum)
Father and son... (Serge Van Heertum)
QRA...Quick Reaction Alert
Looking to the pilot fast reaction (Serge Van Heertum) (Serge Van Heertum)
(Serge Van Heertum) (Serge Van Heertum)
(Serge Van Heertum) (Serge Van Heertum)
(Serge Van Heertum) (Serge Van Heertum)
(Serge Van Heertum) (Serge Van Heertum)
(Serge Van Heertum) (Serge Van Heertum)
(Serge Van Heertum) Few minutes later the take off (Serge Van Heertum)
The contact with the Air Force is over... (Serge Van Heertum) ...Minister of Defence take off for another visit (Serge Van Heertum)
Back to home base (Serge Van Heertum) "K1" preparing to get back to Beauvechain (Serge Van Heertum)

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