Belgium - The Army /
Composante Terre / Landcomponent
With a strength of 12,500 men and women, the component of land, modified since October 2009, always managed to remain powerful despite an impressive number of restructurings in 2018. The primary units are the Mechanized Brigade [formerly the Medium Brigade] and the Special Operations Regiment [formerly the Light Brigade].
The Modernisation Plan 2000–2015 Of The Belgian Armed Forces was based on a strategic reflection called VISION 2015, that was initiated in 1997. The operational characteristics of the new 2015 Force structure will be more readily available, flexible, modular, sustainable, deployable, effective and fully equipped and manned units. The land component – the term “component” is used in order to stress the jointness in the future – had 2 core capacities :
- a mechanised capacity with wheeled armored vehicles, formerly consisting of 2 fully equipped and manned brigades [now a single Mechanized Brigade];
- an air transportable infantry capacity with transport helicopters, consisting of the transformed airborne para-commando brigade - the Specidal Operations Regiment.
As a result, the gradual adaptation of the equipment and weapon systems of the land component encompassed the modernisation of the transport means, the improvement of the anti-tank capacity, the introduction of new jeeps with a better protection, the acquisition of deployable temporary or semi-permanent infrastructure for PSO-contingent, the acquisition of medium transport helicopters, the replacement of the different types of tracked vehicles by wheeled vehicles, the digitalisation of the land operations.
The capacity of the units has been significantly improved. Although some units had merged or were removed, units that remained were more robust and better driven. As there were fewer units than before, they had far more means of transport and training equipment. External missions remained the essential task. Although many restructurings were performed, the level of ambition of the land component remained unchanged.
In addition to normal tasks, the Army should be immediately able to detach 6,000 personnel, if necessary, to provide for:
- Building a unit at the level of independent brigade group deployable within one year and its rotation,
- Forming a unit at the level of independent brigade group intended for missions abroad of short-term nature,
- Building a unit at the level of battalion with reinforcement troops (battle group) for unlimited time engagement,
- Available combat and/or support units, if necessary, in favour of multinational forces at the level of division or army corps.
The composition of a combined arms Battle Group depends on the mission it has to execute and on the environment in which it is deployed. A typical composition consists of a command and control element, a 500-men strong manoeuvre battalion (a mix of infantry, armoured vehicles for direct fire support, own reconnaissance means and mortars), combat support elements (artillery, engineers, ISTAR), combat service support elements (logistics, medical support, command and communication means) and sometimes also other mission-tailored capabilities, such as air assets (helicopters and drones). In its largest configuration, a combined arms Battle Group is about 1,200 men strong. A combined arms company is also a combined structure but is limited to some 250 men. With the integrated operational preparation of the various manoeuvre, combat support and combat service support elements, the combined arms concept makes a rapid deployment possible.
The land component should be able to provide units necessary for supporting a brigade intended for deployment in an operation abroad even if a unit of the above mentioned has already been deployed. The units comprise airmobile or mechanised land sub-components.
Within the land forces, cooperation with neighboring countries has been well developed in terms of quantity. With the Netherlands and Luxembourg it even takes place within the structural framework of the Benelux defence cooperation. Besides, Belgium also has a structural cooperation with France within the Rapid Reaction Corps in Lille and through our contribution to the Eurocorps. The Dutch-German cooperation structure and the Benelux defence cooperation have also generated cooperation with Germany for land (sub-)capabilities.
These forms of cooperation are primarily focused on the exchange of doctrine, common training and operational preparation (within the framework of EUBG and NRF). However, there is considerable potential for further intensification of cooperation with regard to the lines of development “education/training” and “equipment” (acquisition, logistic support and maintenance, configuration management). Economies of scale in these areas can enhance efficiency.
The brigades are equipped with a range of Piranha IIIC (wheeled) armoured infantry vehicles, Dingo II multi-purpose protected vehicles and Iveco light multi-role vehicles. The Land Component’s declared level of ambition is to deliver a light battalion on very short notice, a battle group on a permanent basis for security operations in the framework of UN, NATO or EU operations, and finally, a brigade-size formation for a limited period of time.
By 2030, combined arms motorised Battle Groups or companies will be deployed with adapted command structures, according to the level of ambition described in the table. The deployment takes the international framework of the EUBG, NRF and VJTF into consideration. All vehicles of the combined arms motorised capability will be air transportable by means of the future A400M transport aircraft. In this way, the first elements can be rapidly projected into the theatre of operations. The participation in the Joint Logistic Support Ship, referred to previously, would, in addition, offer the possibility to transport an important part of a Battle Group at one time.
Besides the command and control elements that are indispensable to a deployment at the level of combined arms Battle Groups and companies, a brigade-level operational preparation structure will be maintained. In this way, Belgium can - subject to a limited operational preparation - meet the level of ambition that NATO requires, namely the deployment of a motorised brigade within the framework of collective defence. Although such a deployment scenario is unlikely, this form of organisation increases the potential for adaptation of land forces.
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