Allow me to address you in the language of aviation.
The governmental decision yesterday to acquire 34 F-35 aircraft represents the culmination of the on-going transformation of our Belgian Air Force. I want to use this opportunity to pay tribute to Colonel Harry Van Pee and his ACCAP team, whose professionalism, perseverance and dedication have largely contributed to the success of the F-16 replacement endeavor.
Looking into the not too distant future, our Air Force will comprise 2W and 10W flying the state-of-the-art F-35 Lightning II, 15W flying the impressive A-400M Atlas and hopefully the Long Range Jet and 1W flying the high-tech NH-90 Cayman helicopters. These core capabilities will be supported by a Squadron flying the MQ-9B Sky Guardian MALE, one Squadron flying the A-109 helicopter, a National Operations Center operating out of Beauvechain, an Air Traffic Control Centre which is synergistic with the Belgocontrol agency and a Meteo Wing which will be a national Centre of Excellence. A robust Force Protection capability spread over the different bases will safeguard operations at home and abroad and a PED-Center will Process, Exploit and Disseminate the networked information to national and international Command Centers. Our training Centers here and abroad will continue to deliver the highly skilled and qualified airmen and airwomen the Air Force needs. Our personnel will equally serve in the NATO E-3A Component and in the MMF Wing flying the A-330 MRTT Tanker/Transport.
This government has held its promise and has recapitalized the Belgian Defences’s Capabilities. The main priorities that will be fed into the next government will now be to obtain a structural increase of our country’s defense spending and to continue to tackle our personnel shortage through different measures which should increase the attractivity of the military profession.
The groundwork has been done by my generation but the job is far from over. Indeed, the fielding of all these new capabilities will require a great deal of work, dedication and equal perseverance. It will however be a positive flow to work on all these exiting new projects. That will be the responsibility of our future generations of leaders.
Whether you are aircrew, a technician or a specialist in one of our many career fields, whether you are from the Northern, Centre or Southern part of our country, I count on each and every one of you to be united in order to contribute to the success of this huge challenge. You hold your future in your own hands and that future starts now.
Thank you for your dedication which makes me proud to be your commander. Long live the Belgian Air Force.