Former Belgian Army M109 155mm self-propelled howitzers sold to Ukraine by OIP private company
According to Belga news agency, the Belgian Defense was unable to buy back the completely refurbished M109 155mm tracked self-propelled howitzers it had sold in 2015 to FTS, a Belgian private company. Belgian Minister of Defense Ludivine Dedonder explained on June 1, in the Defense Committee of the Parliament, that these howitzers, which were of interest to the Ukrainian authorities, have already gone to Ukraine.
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The reason behind the failed deal is reportedly the unreasonable price of the M109A4BEs set by the Flemish technology company OIP, who are charging “more than 10 times what they paid for it themselves”, a source told De Morgen. The Belgian howitzers were sold to the OIP in 2015 for €15,000 each – “a dumping price for modern weaponry”, according to a military source. Now, they are too expensive to purchase back. (Picture source: FTS)
In 2008, the Belgian army unexpectedly withdrew from service 64 M109A4BE 155mm self-propelled howitzers after having completely refurbished and upgraded the mat high cost at the Arsenal of Rocourt. These howitzers had served in several artillery battalions in the meantime disbanded.
In 2015, at least some of them were sold to a private company of Tisselt, Flanders Technical Supply (FTS) founded by two associates (one of which recently passed away), specialized in the purchase and sale of military surpluses all over the world, for the amount of 1.75 million euros including spare parts, which means a VERY low price for these completely refurbished and upgraded M109s. The contract did not provide for a buyout condition by the Defense. During Defense and Security Thailand 2018, Army Recognition was shown some pictures of these M109s in pristine condition stored in a hangar in Tisselt (see one of these pictures hereunder).
Recently, the Ukrainian authorities contacted the Belgian Defense because they were interested in these howitzers (possibly informed of their presence by undisclosed contacts). “There was a discussion but, when we reconnected with the company, it had sold them. We do not have to know to whom it sold them, or how much”, explained Minister Dedonder in response to questions from Parliament membres (Georges Dallemand (Les Engagés), Theo Francken (N-VA), Steven Creyelman (VB), Guillaume Defossé (Ecolo) and Kris Verduyckt (Vooruit)).
But these howitzers have however taken the road to Ukraine, according to the minister who says she does not know the details of the operation. According to her information, the Flemish armament company OIP, whose optical systems have been part of Defense deliveries to the Ukrainian army in recent weeks, was commissioned by FTS. "What interests us is that the Ukrainians can have this material, that's the main thing," added Mrs. Dedonder.
A source told the Belgian newspaper De Morgen that the sale price demanded by OIP to the Belgian Defense to buy back its former M109s was more than 10 times above the price they had been sold, without a valid justification could be given for such a price… In addition, OIP, whose subsidiary is dedicated to military vehicles, would have also been unwilling to have the condition of the M109s checked by specialists from the Belgian Army.
The 64 M109A4BE self-propelled howitzers completely refurbished and upgraded by the Arsenal of Rocout before being sold were stored by FTS in a hangar located at Tisselt-Willebroek (Picture source: FTS)