New vehicles for Belgian SOFs

Belgian SOFs in Senegal for the Flintlock 2016 exercise (Photo credit: SF Gp)

Belgium is discreetly moving forwards with  modernisation plans for its armed forces, as previously announced by Defence Minister Steven Vandeput in his “Strategic Vision” which outlines what the Belgian armed forces should look like by 2030. For the time being investments are concentrated on the Land Component, as illustrated by the recent launch of a call for tender on the European tender platform Ted for “+ – 200 Light Troop Transport Vehicles (LTTV)”.

Destined largely for the future Special Operations Forces (SOF), the 200 LTTVs will be delivered between 2019 and 2021. Of the €59.7M budget for this procurement, €4.8M will be for a medical variant, according to the “Strategic Vision”.

Like the 108 Fox Rapid Reaction Vehicles (RRV) ordered in 2016 from Britain’s Jankel for the Belgian SOFs, the LTTV market includes the provision of “modular protection kits and weapons (12.7mm and 7.62 mm machine guns and 40mm smoke-launcher systems) and the signature of a multi-year open contract for technical assistance.”

So, why order 200 light transport vehicles for a special forces unit that is currently not even the size of a company? The answer lies in the structural evolution of the Land Component. By 2030 it will be based on two main pillars: a joint motorised capability built around five motorised battalions and their support, and the SOF capability which will bring together the Special Forces and two Rangers battalions (ex-paratroop commandos). This new structure will therefore number nearly 1,309 soldiers sharing the same “SOF” mindset and therefore similar combat techniques and equipment. Therefore, 200 LTTVs and 108 RRVs will not be too many to ensure their mobility.

Belgian SOFs will have to rely on their Unimogs until at least 2021

But whilst awaiting for this SOF capability to be set up, the LTTVs will have to start their operational life in classic infantry units in order to “respond to the current lack of combat vehicles in motorised manoeuvre battalions and the corresponding combat support elements,” specifies the “Strategic Vision”. The LTTVs will therefore only join the ranks of the SOFs between 2025 and 2030, in parallel to the delivery of an “international motorised platform common” to all Belgian manoeuvre battalions. Meanwhile, the light transport capacity of the Belgian SOF will continue to be based on a fleet of ageing Unimogs, themselves to be replaced between 2021 and 2026 by “light armoured trucks” …