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ACCap program: Vandeput sticking to his guns

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World Defense & Security News - Belgium
 
 
Belgian ACCap program: Vandeput sticking to his guns
 
By Nathan Gain

The Belgian ACCAp program, which aims at replacing the country’s aged fleet of F-16s with 34 new fighter jets, is heating up as the French proposal is now actively debated within the government lead by the Liberal Charles Michel.
     
ACCap program Vandeput sticking to his guns 640 001A Belgian Air Force F-16AM Fighting Falcon departs after receiving fuel from a 340th Expeditionary Air Refueling Squadron KC-135 Stratotanker in support of Operation Inherent Resolve June 23, 2017
(Credit: U.S. Air Force/Staff Sgt. Michael Battles) 
     
Strongly criticized by the Belgian MoD, Steven Vandeput (N-VA), the French proposal is now deeply screened by the Belgian government, in order to avoid any legal process from the two other contenders, Lockheed Martin and BAE Systems. Needless to say, Belgium will do everything to avoid a new “Agusta–Dassault Scandal”, after which Brussels in the 1990s thoroughly revised its arms procurement process.

Besides the four-page proposal sent by the French MoD Florence Parly on Sept. 7, Vandeput last week confirmed to the Chamber of Representatives Defense Committee he received “three more pages of legal-political arguments. The document is not signed, but it is accompanied by a letter from the French ambassador. The Council Minister has indeed decided to have this new document analyzed in depth”.

An opinion also shared by the Belgian government’s Liberal party (MR), which asked for additional legal analysis. Definitely, the Liberal party is interested in the French offer, “but not at all by the legal process it could induce,” said Richard Miller (MR) to the French speaking radio network RTBF. “We want to move forward without facing any legal risk when the government will take its decision,” he added. “There is a second study in progress which we will know the results in the first half of November. We will then be authorized to study the French proposal in substance,” Miller concluded.

Vandeput confirmed its interest to integrate the Belgian military and industry actors in the Franco-german 5th generation aircraft development by 2040, but he reminded again that the Belgian Defense would need new fighter jets by 2023. Moreover, the French Strategic Review recently released “does not specify how to organize such cooperation strategy for replacement projects”. An issue also pointed by his colleague from the N-VA party, Karolien Grosemans, which declared that “no reference is made to a potential partnership with Belgium” in the Strategic Review.

In the meantime, I also received a letter from the British ambassador on behalf of the four European partners of the Eurofighter who would like to clarify their partnership. This letter also speaks about an offer… for a deep defense and security partnership with Belgium,” said Vandeput…

Belgium approved in last December the purchase of 34 new fighter aircraft to be acquired from Spring 2018 for an amount of 3,573 billion euros. Two contenders are officially competing for this 3.5bn € ($4.2 bn) program: Lockheed Martin with its F-35A JSF, and BAE Systems with the Eurofighter Typhoon.