Belgium's Military: How It Stacks Up

With Belgium having reportedly deployed around 225 soldiers to Brussels after a number of people were killed in attacks on the city's airport and a metro station, we look at what the country's military has at its disposal.
  • Belgium has 30,174 active personnel currently serving in the military, with 1,673 reserves. By comparison, Britain has 156,940 active and 75,110 reserve personnel.
  • The military's annual budget is €3 billion (£2.4bn) - 1.2% of the country's GDP. The UK spends £45 billion - 2.1% of GDP.
  • The Belgian Armed Forces are made up of four bodies - the Land, Air, Medical and Naval Components. The first three all use the same military ranks.
  • They are currently active in Lebanon, Afghanistan, the Gulf of Aden and are also conducting anti-Daesh operations in Iraq but not Syria.
  • In recent years the country, a NATO member and EU state, restructured its military to allow it to respond to faster to humanitarian crises or disasters occurring in the world, including peacekeeping missions. In doing so, its Land Component phased out tracked vehicles such as the Leopard 1A5 in favour of wheeled ones, like the MOWAG Piranha III and Dingo 2.


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  • The Air Component, meanwhile, bought new aircraft like the Airbus A400M and NHI NH90 to accompany assets like the AW109 (pictured above) and Alouette 3 helicopters on humanitarian missions. The Belgian Air Component also has F-16 Fighting Falcons in service, currently taking part in NATO’s Baltic Air Policing mission alongside Spain, as well as Sea King helicopters, a number of transport aircraft and RQ-5 Hunter UAVs.
  • Some elements of the restructuring came under fire, however, due to certain moves which, it has been argued, were made due to Belgium's often-complicated political system. One such decision was to mount the (very uncommon) CMI 90 mm cannon, whose ammunition is very scarce and only made by a handful of manufacturers, on the Piranha III.
  • The Belgian Naval Component, meanwhile, has 1,600 personnel and 20 vessels, including two frigates (Louise-Marie (F931) pictured below), five minesweepers, and a number of support vessels, patrol boats and auxiliary vessels.


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Click above, meanwhile, for the reaction from Britain's Defence Attaché in Berlin to the Brussels attacks. Brigadier Rob Rider was speaking to Forces TV reporter Rob Olver.
With thanks to Tim Felce for photography.


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