One of the points of the 2030 strategic plan unveiled by Belgian Defence Minister Steven Vandeput was not picked up by the media despite the financial implications it would have: to provide the Kingdom’s Army with a Ballistic Missile Defence (BMD) system, an idea Vandeput discussed on 17 February with the Defence Commission of the Belgian House of Representatives: “(…) The BMD system would concern the land component and (…) a study will be undertaken to refine our choice between a small radar system which costs 50 million and the full Monty [i.e. a complete anti-missile battery] which is worth millions,” Vandeput said.
“At this stage the study has no other aim but to determine the feasibility of such a project. We are thus in a purely exploratory phase,” the minister added, justifying the study by the need to contribute to the Ballistic Missile Defence initiative launched by NATO in 2010. “BMD is a major capacity that must be constituted in a multilateral fashion. The objective of all member states is thus to contribute to it,” he explained. Even if Raytheon’s Patriot system is regularly pout forward as an example by Vandeput, two other systems either in use or ordered by NATO members are available in case a “full Monty” is chosen: the SAMP-T by Thales and MBDA via Eurosam, or Lockheed Martin’s MEADS (Medium Extended Air Defence System), chosen in 2015 by Germany.
The “full Monty” with a budget of €588m would involved 172 military personnel and lead to the procurement of a battery of six “Patriot type” launchers, the minister said when he presented his strategic plan. This would meet the country’s ambition of being able to deploy this battery “12 months a year” and would allow Belgium to operate a radical strategic about-turn after refusing in the 1980s to replace its MIM-23 Hawk systems with Patriots.
This scenario would nevertheless mean that part of the budget to modernise the Army would have to be sacrificed, dropping from €1.9bn to €1.4bn. This hypothesis has already provoked the anger of Belgium’s political parties, both in the majority and in the opposition, with some members qualifying the project as “idiotic” or “still-born.”