Ludwin Dendonder: “Star Plan not provided for additional F-35 purchase”

Defense Minister Ludivine Dedondar does not plan to buy additional F-35s. He wants to focus more on the economic returns for Belgian industry.

Ukraine’s conflict and defense budget have been exploited by talks over a 2% increase in GDP. Finalize details of over 10 billion euros investment plan for Army (Star), Which he hopes to present before July 21 and has approved.

Some elements of your Star Plan have already been leaked. Without revealing the final version, can you tell us a little more? For example, do you rule out the possibility of buying an additional F-35?

I’m sure Star Plan doesn’t offer extra F-35 purchases. At this stage, the planned 34 F-35s are sufficient for defense missionsEspecially since, at the same time, we are working with other European countries as part of the NATO deployment

“I think it’s really interesting that Belgium is part of the future aviation program.”

Ludivine Dedondar

Minister of Defense

And to buy a heavy helicopter? You left the door open …

We plan to buy a light helicopter. For heavy helicopters, you know that There is an operational problem with the NH-90s. They are too long to maintain. This is a problem for deployment. Since this is not a specific concern for Belgium, we are in discussions with other European countries to try with Airbus to improve the maintenance of these aircraft.

The more we can make them available, the better. But if this is not the case then maybe there are other ways to look at it. However, I point out that At Star Plan, I would like to be in favor of European shopping.

You have proposed a significantly increased research and development budget, 1.8 billion euros. Are you planning to support the project?

I think it’s really interesting Belgium is part of the future aviation program. I have repeatedly mentioned Belgium’s interest in France and Germany to join the SCAF project. The door is not closed. But outside of the aircraft of the future, it is a complete system including sensors, drones, etc. We need to join now so that our companies can participate in this program by 2040.

“We must not be overwhelmed by the immediate need for defense.”

The team of experts you commissioned suggested that Belgium would join the Franco-German project for future tanks. Have you accepted this offer?

Even if we do not recognize this ability, it does not mean that we are closing the door. But we must not be overwhelmed by the immediate need for defense. When we have the potential to have an R&D budget of this amount, we can afford to go ahead with our companies in our various projects.

What we need now will certainly be very different from what we will need in a few years, such as artificial intelligence or 3D printers, which can make weapons. My goal is to integrate defense needs with the potential of our companies, with defense Europe in the background. So we can join future tank projects, but also cyber security, medical or mine clearance projects.

Belgium can therefore participate in the general defense program when the Belgian army does not immediately want to buy this equipment?

Yes. Because it can be interesting in the future without the immediate need. Even after that, All I want is a defense that opens up, In every possible way. Whether here Within the framework of these projects with companies, but also for partnerships with the workforce. Such sharing could be done between security and defense companies and the Belgian army. We need to combine our needs and our strengths.

“It’s true that the benefits of projects like the F-35 are obviously not there at the moment.”

While we are in the process of establishing research and development capacity, I would not rush to buy capacity that we do not have at the European level. We must take time to develop things with our companies and European companies.

Social income from strategic vision investment (F-35, armored vehicle) is quite disappointing for Belgian companies. What are you planning to change?

I really want to change an example. It is true that the spinoff of a project like the F-35 is not clear at the moment. Is it over yet? No, there will be another fall. Similarly for the material of the earth. But it is always difficult to intervene to get an industry return when the market is over. I try to do it, but it’s complicated. For this reason We put about 20% of the budget into R&D for Star Plan.

It is also important that companies return to us They tell us what’s important to them in the military, including civilian applications, because we have the budget. We have not had such interactions with our defense agencies in the past.

For the F-35, the minister responsible for the file at the time announced a social return that would be equivalent to the money invested, up to 3.8 billion euros. Economic issues now acknowledge that we are at 700 million returns and at best, we can reach double. Is there no political problem here?

Personally, I never promise that I can’t keep it. It is his responsibility to announce the statistics in that way. Now those agreements have been made, I’m trying to catch up with the income for our industry. And as I told you, it’s not easy. It was not the right way to work.

What was wrong?

If I really had to find an excuse, I would say that at that time, there was less money and we have to buy what we have now, the key to the door. But I do not want to judge. Here, we want to change the game and give ourselves a way to work more smoothly And create cases with more returns for the business.

“Everywhere you look today, the tide of protectionist sentiment is flowing.

What is the status of the Queen Elizabeth Quarter headquarters renovation project?

If the question is: “Is it going to cost more”, The answer is yes, it will cost more than estimated at that time This is due to the general increase in expenditure in the construction sector. Lead time will also increase, especially due to raw material supply problems.

What about military hospitals?

The purpose isMake it a medical hub for 2030A with this same principle Openness to the community and partnerships with other hospitals, Not forgetting Crisis Management. We have requested a survey from a consultant, who must notify us before the end of the year.

Are we on a policy of destruction-reconstruction?

Not necessarily. Not against The center will remain in the same position in this future.

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