Benelux Special 
Belgium has ordered seven A400Ms from Airbus Military, but its industry believes it could have contributed more to the programme (top right). Dutch F-16s (centre right) have played a major role in the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan, but the Netherlands could end its commitment this year after public opposition. Fokker is no longer synonymous with aircraft manufacture, but is name lives on in the services sector (left and bottom right)

Europe's big aerospace nations, France, Germany and the UK, surround Belgium and the Netherlands, but the great confluence that created the modern Airbus and EADS passed by these two small states at the heart of Europe. Despite this, the aerospace sector in Benelux retains a stake in many of the big European programmes. Under national champion Fokker, the Netherlands was a founder of Airbus, with a 5% share on the A300 programme, responsible for flaps, ailerons and wing tips. The country went its own way in the 1980s as its focused on Fokker's ambition to be a heavyweight airliner manufacturer. Much of its Airbus work moved to Belairbus, a consortium of manufacturers put together by its neighbour. After Fokker's humbling 1996 bankruptcy, the industrious Dutch reinvented their sector and fought back into Airbus and other supply chains. Innovations in materials such as Glare helped them win a 1% value share of the A380. Despite the country's modest defence budget, Fokker remains a partner in key programmes, including the Eurocopter-led NH90. Belgium's industry too has long been a supplier to Airbus and other airframers. The country - along with Luxembourg and Turkey - is an "outside" investor in the Airbus Military A400M (a programme the Netherlands shunned), although there are mixed views on the benefits this has brought. Although the Francophone, heavy-industrial south has been the traditional home of aerospace, Dutch-speaking Flanders has muscled into the sector in recent decades under Belgium's drift to regional autonomy. In the following special feature, we examine the future for aerospace in these two neighbours, both of which rely on technology and expertise giving their industries the edge over lower-wage rivals in the global marketplace.



Source: Flight International