Did military top brass withhold information about drones too?

In the wake of the controversy surrounding the withholding of information concerning the lifespan of Belgium’s fleet of F-16 fighter jet. It has now emerged that politicians, including the Defence Minister, were keep, in the about import elements relating to the purchase of new drones for our country’s air force.

The news appears in Friday’s edition of the daily ‘De Morgen’. It is as yet unclear with this was part of a plan to deliberately manipulate the procurement process.

The Belgian Air Force has been looking to replace its existing Israeli drones. A tender for the procurement of new drones was issued in February of last year. Three companies, one American and two Israeli, replied.

By May of last year, a Belgian Air Force working party charged with examining the tenders had already made its choice. The two Israeli candidates were swept aside, leaving only the American-built drone in the running.

The reason given was that only the American-built drone would provide the necessary guarantees for operational cooperation with other EU or NATO members. Furthermore, there were also said to be issues surrounding the Israeli planes’ ability to gain certification from the relevant European body.

One of the two Israeli companies that bid for the tender Elbit says that this is nonsense. The company claims that information has been withheld from the Defence Minister Steven Vandeput (Flemish nationalist and his staff. Elbit also claims that it made it clear to those dealing with the tender on several occasions that their drone would obtain the relevant certification and that it had provided evidence to back this up. However, this information was not passed on to the office of the Defence Minister.

This of course begs the question of whether the information was deliberately withheld in order to manipulate the procurement process. The VRT’s defence expert Jens Franssen says that t is currently not yet clear whether this was the case.