Romanian air defence weakened by groundings after Lancer and Puma crashes
Two fatal crashes — of a MiG-21 Lancer on 2 March and an IAR 330 Puma SOCAT sent on a search-and-rescue (SAR) mission for it amid bad weather — have prompted the Romanian Air Force (RoAF) to ground all aircraft of both types pending an investigation.
The MiG-21 was part of a two-aircraft formation carrying out a patrol over Romanian territory, the country’s MoD noted in a statement.
Radio connection was lost at 2000h and the aircraft disappeared from radar coverage at 2003h near Gura Dobrogei, about 25km from the Black Sea coast.
The IAR 330 was sent on a SAR mission but it too lost radio connection at 2044h and crashed 11km from Mihail Kogălniceanu International Airport, the MoD added.
As a result of both incidents, the MoD ordered the RoAF to ground all its MiG-21 and IAR 330 aircraft.
Figures from the IISS Military Balance 2022 show that the RoAF fleet included six MiG-21B and 17 MiG-21C aircraft before the recent incident, plus 22 IAR 330 helicopters.
The MiG-21 groundings are a blow to the RoAF, particularly given the seriously tense situation in the Black Sea as Russian forces continue their invasion of Ukraine by pressing along the coast east and west of Crimea.
The RoAF must now rely on its 13 F-16AM and three F-16BM fighter aircraft to defend Romanian airspace and fulfil NATO Black Sea air policing obligations.
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