Since 2019, twenty incidents with drones have been reported within Defence, all in the immediate surroundings of Kleine-Brogel. This is apparent from a parliamentary question that Steven Matheï, mayor of Peer, put to Defence Minister Dedonder.
Flying over military quarters is forbidden. It is classified as malpractice and can therefore be prosecuted. Yet from 2019 to 2021, sixteen incidents involving drones were reported within Defence: one in 2019, four in 2020 and eleven in 2021. Those figures come from Minister Dedonder in her response to Steven Matheï's parliamentary question. They all took place in the immediate vicinity of the Kleine-Brogel air force base. Several of these incidents involved drones on the extension of the runway or carrying out observation missions. In 2022, there were already four incidents with drones around Kleine-Brogel. This is confirmed by colonel pilot Koen Vanheste, base commander of Kleine-Brogel.
Twenty incidents with drones in less than four years is quite a lot. Colonel-flyer Vanheste agrees. "Especially since drones can obviously be very dangerous for our F-16s when they land or take off. And then there is also the aspect of military security. Filming military installations is forbidden tout court. Nowadays you already have 4k cameras on cheap drones."
Kleine-Brogel is allowed to disable drones if they fly over the territory of the base. "We do indeed have that authority," says Vanheste. "One meter inside the base we are allowed to intervene, one meter outside we are not. Without going into too much detail, we can, for example, catch the drones with a shotgun firing a net. Or we can jam the frequency at which the drones fly so that they become immobile. But there are other ways as well."
Usually, however, it does not come to that. Kleine-Brogel can detect whether there are drones in the vicinity of the base. "Then we call in the local police and they send a team," says Koen Vanheste. "Even though the bird may have been flying for a long time by then. Our experience is that drone pilots are often unaware of the danger. They regard their drone as a toy, even though it is subject to very strict legislation."
Are there any indications of espionage? "I have no knowledge of that. Most incidents are rather innocent. Although it remains very dangerous, people not realising they are within the perimeter of an airport or just not knowing the legislation. Although it could be that occasionally curiosity is involved, but not for that reason to pass on information."
In her reply to Steven Matheï, Minister Dedonder said that investments will be made in additional Counter Unmanned Aerial Systems (C-UAS systems) for Kleine-Brogel, Florennes and Bevekom. These will be used against smaller drones. For large drones, heavier than 150 kilograms, Defence no longer has Short Range Air Defence since 2017. Should such an incident occur, which would be a very serious one, F-16s can be called in to take them out of the air.
Source: Het Belang van Limburg