Romania acquires additional fighter jets
The Romanian MoD announced that the final agreement for acquisition of an additional five Portuguese F-16 multirole fighter jets could be reached by year end.
The head of the Romanian MoD, Gabriel Leș, confirmed that his department sent to Portugal all necessary acquisition documentation in order for Portuguese authorities to approve the future transaction. According to minister Leș, a final agreement could be reached imminently and contract signing is expected to be before the end of 2019.
Additional fighter jets will complement the Romanian Air Force inventory with its dozen of currently operated F-16 Block 15 MLU fighters (nine F-16AM and three F-16BM), which were previously procured from Portugal under the contract worth €628 million ($701 million) signed in 2013.
The first batch of six ex Portuguese F-16s was handed over in September 2016, with another three accompanying them a couple of weeks later. The last tranche of three fighters arrived in Romania in September 2017.
Romanian F-16 fighter jets are operated by the 53rd Fighter Squadron stationed at 86th Air Base in Fetești. These aircraft are complemented by about 30 legacy MiG-21 fighters, which will have to be phased out in the nearfuture due to their bad technical condition and low operational capability, not adequate to the requirements of the modern battlefield.
Most likely Soviet-era aircraft will be replaced by additional F-16 fighters, as minister Leș has already confirmed that his department will pursue procurement of additional 36 US fighter jets.
He underlined the fact that this time the government in Bucharest would prefer to acquire brand new aircraft instead of second hand platforms, which means that Romania will have to procure new fighters either directly from the system’s manufacturer, Lockheed Martin, or, more likely, through the US FMS programme.
However, due to budgetary limitations, Romania might eventually decide to procure a number of F-16 fighters which previously were operated by USAF and currently remain in storage. In this case the government in Bucharest would only have to pay for restoring their operational capability and modernisation.
At the same time minister Leș dispelled doubts about the possible acquisition of F-35 Lightning II fighter jets, admitting that in the nearest future these aircraft will be too expensive. Lately Romania has been listed as one of five US allies, which eventually could decide to procure Lockheed Martins’ newest fifth-generation multirole fighters, along with Singapore, Greece, Spain and Poland.