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Military


Belgium - Navy /
Composante Maritime / Marine component

The official birth of the Belgian Navy dates back to 1 February 1946, when the Belgian government created the Naval Force. The fleet has gradually developed and modernized. The primary mission of the maritime component is to ensure Belgian state presence in the maritime territory, to contribute to Belgian foreign policy and trade support, to contribute to technical and military cooperation with the allied countries, to contribute to the humanitarian missions, fishing control, oceanographic research, police and customs operations support and commercial naval officers training.

In the event of large conflict it would concentrate within the North Atlantic Alliance on the following goals:

  • Air/sea control, escort support to ship transport and mine warfare,
  • Building a unit at the level of battle group assigned for joint NATO operations.

In addition, it should be able to provide 650 personnel for multinational operations of the following types:

  • Building a multinational unit of escort vessels operational for six months, for a longer period provide for personnel rotation,
  • Building a group assigned for anti-mine warfare composed of ?ve mine hunters and their logistic support operational for six months, less vessels should be deployed in a longer mission due to necessary rotation,
  • Building capacity for strategic naval transports (by 2015).

The Belgian Navy is embedded in an interdepartmental coast guard structure, allowing a comprehensive approach toward maritime-security aspects within Belgium’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ). This interdepartmental structure is demonstrated by the creation of an operational Maritime Security Centre where defense — through the navy, police, and customs — share information.

Divisional Admiral John-Paul Robyns wrote in March 2012 that "The strategic objectives of the Belgian Navy have their foundation in a 1996 political accord in which Belgium and the Netherlands agreed to “pursue deeper cooperation and integration for both navies.” Today, our navies are deploying similar types of frigates and mine countermeasures vessels (MCMVs), which have been commonly upgraded and therefore are commonly maintained. The agreement also enables both navies to integrate further their operational, logistical, and educational organization. Indeed, to a certain extent crews or individual personnel can even be exchanged. Soon, with the introduction of NH90 helicopters, such cooperation will be broadened to maritime air capabilities. This bi-national agreement forms the cornerstone of the current Belgian Navy and, with the modernized platforms, its “operationality” is guaranteed until 2020-25."

In 2014, Rear Admiral Michel Hofman wrote "Since 1948, the Belgian and the Dutch navies have looked for opportunities to cooperate, which has evolved into an ever-deepening collaboration in the domains of training, education, and maintenance. This cooperation culminated in 1997 with a bi-national operational command and organization called Admiral Benelux, or ABNL. To address the two sensitive political considerations related to sovereignty and strategic agility, the navies opted for task specialization, which resulted in a single-nation support approach for the ships of both countries."

The Belgian-Dutch naval cooperation started shortly after the Second World War and evolved as the navies were developing. The current cooperation finds its origins in the 1995 agreement signed by the Defence Ministers of The Netherlands and Belgium. Under the terms of this agreement, steps were taken to further integrate both navies in the operational, educational, personnel and material domains, while respecting the sovereign right of both countries to deploy their own assets in operations. A common operational HQ, referred to as the Admiral BENELUX, was therefore established in Den Helder, the Netherlands, and makes use of the existing facilities in The Netherlands and in Belgium for both educational and logistic purposes. This bilateral naval cooperation allows the Belgian Navy to live up to its NATO and EU commitments in multinational exercises and operations, with full respect for the national Level of Ambition.

The Naval Component has two core capabilities - escort operations and mine countermeasures (MCM) - and consists of two frigates, five minehunters and one command & support ship, all located in the Belgian naval base in Zeebrugge. The Naval Component is able to deploy one frigate for two periods of six months, as well as, in the framework of an MCM-group, four minehunters and its command & support ship for up to six months, or two minehunters on a permanent basis.




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