05/01/2015 - Colin Clapson - deredactie.be
Belgium has plans to share its responsibility to guard Belgian airspace with the Dutch. The Belgian air force will in future also be involved in guarding Dutch airspace.
The Belgian defence ministry is confident that a formal agreement with the Netherlands can be signed this year.
The joint effort will help to cut costs now that both nations are facing mounting bills to fund the introduction of the Joint Strike Fighter, the F-35, as the replacement for our antiquated F-16 fighter jets.
The Belgian government still has to take a decision on the successor of the F-16. Earlier, then Defence Minister Peter De Crem came out in favour of buying Joint Strike Fighters produced by America's Lockheed-Martin. The daily De Morgen reports that 40 Joint Strike Fighters will cost 3.5 billion euros.
A letter written by the Dutch Defence Minister Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert suggests that maintenance of the Dutch fleet of Joint Strike Fighters will cost 280 million euros annually - around half the Belgian budget for operational costs. Opposition MP Dirk Van der Maelen spoke in De Morgen of a classic trick of the defence ministry: suggesting it will be cheaper only to pass on the full bill later on.