A new agreement allowing the merger of Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg armed forces will also amalgamate their current defense procurement plans. The Benelux Army as it is now known will come into effect this week. Dutch Defense Minister Hans Hillen made the announcement today, saying, “Joint training, development, maintenance, repairs; there are very big cost advantages to be achieved. You can use each other's planes. Without having to give up your own identity, you can achieve much, much more". He also said that joint paratroops must be trained soon and “we can jointly train in the airforce, and join forces in the area of equipment". The agreement will include joint procurement of the smart vest which includes a radio, GPS, power supply, carrier vests, backpacks and ballistic protection and the key component of the Dutch project Verbeterd Operationeel Soldaat Systeem (VOSS), or Improved Operational Soldier System.
Netherlands is expected to be the lead party in the procurement process as the other two have the same requirements. Belgium is currently in the middle of procuring ammunition and associated parts, the estimated worth of the tender is US$25 million. Meanwhile, the Netherlands and Norway are already working in partnership on the successor to the F-16s, likely to be the F35 Joint Strike Fighter. Hillen is also pushing for defense partnerships with other countries including the U.K, Norway and Germany. A Defenseworld.net analysis by Bindiya Thomas