Belgium is one of the founding members of NATO and the European Union and is hosting the headquarters of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in its capital, Brussels, and NATO's operational headquarters, Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe (SHAPE) in Mons. Belgium is also host nation for several other NATO-related facilities.
The Belgian Defence represents approximately 40000 military and civilian personnel.
Since 2002, Belgium has profoundly adapted the organization of its Defence structure by creating a "unified joint staff”, with the aim inter alia of radically simplifying administrative procedures and regrouping capacities responsible for the same functional field into joint entities.
To ensure smooth operation, the Belgian Chief of Defence (CHOD) is assisted by four Assistants Chiefs Of Staff (ACOS) and six General Directors (DG) while, all operational units remain regrouped in four components: land, air, navy and medical
For each mission in theatre and whenever necessary, personnel and means originating from the four components can be deployed together to create an outstanding synergy.
Since September 1999, Belgium is contributing to KFOR in Kosovo. Currently about 200 Belgian soldiers are engaged in the vicinity of Mitrovica.
Since February 2003, Belgium is contributing to ISAF in Afghanistan. From October 2007 till October 2008, Belgium had the lead of the NATO detachment that is in charge of the airport of Kabul (KAIA). Currently about 270 Belgian soldiers are still active on this airport. 20 other people are working in the Provincial Reconstruction Team of Kunduz and 100 soldiers contribute to the deployment of 4 F16 at the Kandahar airfield. From 2009, Belgium provides a 69 soldiers strong Operational Mentoring and Liaison Team that is in charge of the training and mentoring of an Afghan infantry Kandak (battalion).
In 2004 and 2005, Belgium participated with a frigate to the operation Active Endeavour in the Mediterranean Sea.
In 2004, Belgium was the first country to deploy 4 F16 aircrafts in Lithuania in the framework of the Baltic Air Policing Mission and this in a short notice of less than one week. In 2006, Belgium contributed for a second time in this mission.
Additionally, since the establishment of first NATO Response Force (NRF) in 2004, Belgium is participating with 200 to 1250 soldiers.
To align its support and capabilities with NATO in becoming a more agile and expeditionary force, Belgium's goal is to transform its operational capabilities. The Belgian Defence plans to procure equipment better adapted to mission needs: lighter, more mobile, and air deployable. According to the Belgium National Military Representative, Colonel Pierre Vandervelde, "The transformation of the Belgian armed forces is composed of two essential layers: the accelerated modernization of the Belgian defence capabilities and the continuous innovation in methods and ways of doing business, in order to ensure the optimal use of resources. While transforming its armed forces into a more effective and deployable force, Belgian Defence is making a proportionate contribution to NATO operations.”
The missions of the Belgian Defence are articulated around three great axes.
The first is the collective defense, the second axis concerns the missions executed by Defense as defense diplomacy, Peacekeeping and peace-enforcement operations, and Disaster relief, refugee aid and humanitarian relief and finally the last axis is the contribution to homeland security and urgent aid to the Belgian population. Therefore at any time, Belgium is maintaining capabilities in stand-by, inter alia: for non combatant evacuation operations (minimum 550 military), demining teams, two F16 aircraft for national air policing, specialized capabilities for humanitarian relief (B-FAST) and two Sea King helicopters for search and rescue and naval capabilities for maritime security tasks.
In 2008, the total number of Belgian personnel participating in operations amounts to 4761, representing an average of almost 1200 Belgian military in operations at any given time and a participation of more than 20% of all deployable military personnel.
Almost 50% participated in NATO operations, 34% in UN operations, 9% in national and bilateral operations and 6% in EU operations.