Belgium is to further reduce its Lockheed Martin F-16 fleet from 90 aircraft to 60 by 2015 as part of a drastic planned reduction in defence capability, writes Herman De Wulf.

The decision forms part of the Brussels government's latest military plan, which will see the army replaced by an organisation with a new "modular structure", from which units will participate in peacekeeping operations under the responsibility of the United Nations, NATO or the Western European Union.

Under the scheme, transport capability will take precedence, with emphasis on the acquisition of seven Airbus Military A400M transports.

The air force currently operates 90 F-16A/Bs, of which 72 are committed to NATO until 2004. There are 40 F-16As with 349 Sqn at Kleine Brogel air base, another 40 with 350 Sqn at Florennes air base and 10 two-seat F-16Bs with the operational conversion unit at Kleine Brogel. By 2015 their numbers will be reduced to 60, of which 48 will be declared to NATO.

F-16 air bases will be retained at Kleine Brogel and Florennes. The transport air base at Melsbroek will remain, as will the central flying school at Beauvechain.

Meanwhile, France, Germany and the UK have agreed to co-operate on three sensitive areas of European defence comprising "structured co-operation", mutual defence, and the creation of a European GHQ (general headquarters) - an idea first mooted in April by Belgium, France, Germany and Luxembourg.

Source: Flight International