How Belgium is ruining its tanks – with help from Switzerland
Belgian tanks can only be driven by soldiers below 1.70 m. The Swiss arms company Ruag is responsible for part of the work.
Bad tongues claim that the story can only in this way Belgium take place, the land of surrealism: 44 armored vehicles of the Belgian army are unusable after a million-dollar renovation. The Swiss arms company Ruag is responsible for part of the work. It emphasizes that the customer’s specifications have been met. But one after the other.
The Pandur-type armored vehicles of the Belgian reconnaissance battalion “Istar” are to be made ready for use abroad in Mali. Therefore, and because the vehicles are over 20 years old, they have undergone various modifications. Among other things, the armor was reinforced and a new air conditioning system was installed. Both are updates that are needed for the fight against Islamist terrorists in the Sahel state as part of the UN “Minusma” mission.
Only small soldiers are allowed in the tanks
Only: After the renovation, the vehicles are unusable for the time being. The space is so limited that the crew members may not be taller than 1.70 meters. Getting in and out and operating the steering wheel are difficult. There are also problems with the brakes because the Pandur are too heavy with the new armor.
A test of the first vehicles delivered revealed the defects, the Belgian television station VRT reported based on internal documents. Explosive: The Swiss armaments company Ruag was responsible for a substantial part of the renovation work.
Specifically, the Belgian Ministry of Defense ordered the reinforcement of mine armor and occupant protection from the Swiss, as Ruag spokeswoman Kirsten Hammerich confirms. The Ruag share of the total order of 31 million Euro amount to a «single-digit million amount».
Hammerich admits that there have been delays and qualitative complaints. She rejects the fact that the Pandur was broken through the modifications:
In addition, the prototypes were accepted by the customer without any complaints. According to Ruag, the Belgians were involved in numerous location assessments and intermediate steps and took part in all design reviews. The work was carried out by a Belgian partner company, which was already involved in the license production of the Pandur.
According to Hammerich, Ruag has been “solving problems with the supplier for a long time”. In fact, the Belgian armaments company is said to have made mistakes during assembly and sloppy, as the Belgian newspaper De Standaard wrote with reference to anonymous sources. In Belgium, the story about the Pandur already made short of Christmas for headlines.
Julie Chanson, a Green MP and member of the Security Commission, speaks of a “fiasco” and that “money was thrown out the window”. This is at a time when “public finances are under pressure and the army is already complaining about a lack of investment,” she said green,
The Defense Minister appeased
Belgian Defense Minister Philippe Goffin, on the other hand, is resisting: “We will certainly not simply throw the Pandur away,” said the liberal in Belgian TV, The wheeled armor was not made for everyone. Goffin: “I point out that there are other vehicles in the army that require a specific stature of the soldiers.”
Admiral Yves Dupont emphasizes that the work is not yet complete. In fact, the Pandur will be equipped with a more powerful engine and chassis at a later date, which could at least solve the weight problems.
Despite the complications, it is not the first time that there have been problems with the Pandur. In 2007, three soldiers were killed in an accident in Lebanon when the brakes failed. An incident occurred in the Ardennes two years later. From then on, the Belgian hunting reconnaissance team avoided the mission and switched to the armored wheeled vehicle “Dingo”, according to the newspaper “La Libre”.