Romania took delivery of its very first F-16 fighter jets on Wednesday 28 September. Six aircraft switched ownership at Monte Real airbase in Portugal, transfering from the Portuguese Air Force to the Romanian Air Force. Some of these jets are actually third hand aircraft now, having served in the US Air Force earlier.
The aircraft will fly to Romania on Thursday, where they will be based at Fetesti airbase. Romania ordered the F-16s from surplus inventory in Portugal back in 2013, buying twelve in total. The remaining six jets will be delivered in 2017 at the latest.
The F-16s replace age old MiG-21s that are well past their retirement age.
From 21 February to 4 March, Portugal was the stage of Real Thaw, the annual exercise that provides special training to NATO units most likely to participate in military operations within international cooperative frame works. And if Portugal was the stage, Beja airbase was the dressing room. Fighter aircraft, transporters and helos all played their part.
Other than delivering jet noise over large parts of Portugal, the main goal of Real Thaw 2016 was to provide tough tactical training with participation of air, land and sea forces and focusing on the execution phase. Participating forces were confronted with an operating environment as realistic as possible and typical of current operations, according to the Portuguese Air Force, organizer of Real Thaw.
The Portuguese sent all their assets to join Real Thaw, including F-16s, Alfa Jets, C-130 Hercules plus P-3 and C295 maritime patrol aircraft. Forces from other countries were invited to participate in Real Thaw 2016 in order to create a joint-operational environment.
Participation also came from the US (F-15, MV-22 and C-130), Norway (F-16), the Netherlands (C-130), Belgium (C-130), Denmark (AS550 support helicopters), Spain (C-212 light transport aircraft) and the UK. Also, a NATO E-3A Awacs was involved.
Day and night
Missions took place at both day and night times environments and included the use of para jumpers, forward air controllers and other ground forces. The coordination of Real Thaw 2016 was run from Beja Air Base in central Portugal. In order to give support to air and ground missions that took place further north in the areas of Guarda and Pinhel, a tactical air base was temporarily set up near the town of Seia.
Real Thaw 2016 was the eighth exercise in a series conducted by the Portuguese Air Force since 2009.
The Romanian Air Force is starting the search to purchase another batch of 12 F-16 Fighting Falcon aircraft. This was revealed by plans of the Mihnea Motoc, the Romanian Minister of Defence on 26 February. It is planned the deal is going to be signed in 2017.
In 2015 the Romanian Air Force already bought a batch of 12 F-16s from Portugal, of which the first is expected to be delivered later this year, presumably september. Where the second batch of second hand Fighting Falcons will come from, isn’t clear at this moment, as Motoc stated: “To date, we have sent out requests for information to all the allied countries which operate such planes, including the US and five European allies.”
The extra purchase is made possible as Romania increased the defence expenditure up to 2% of the GDP, as stated in a memorandum of understanding in 2015. The reason of the increase has everything to do with the international situation, as a result of for example the Ukrainian crisis.
As we reported earlier, in November 2014 the first Romanian Air Force pilots flew solo on the Lockheed Martin F-16 Fighting Falcon from Monte Real air base in Portugal (click here).
According to the technician, whose job apparently was to check the aircraft before clearing them for flight, to EenVandaag he was pressured to sign off while planned replacement of the landing gear of the wide-body airliner was postponed three times.
Wind shear crash cause
On 21 December 1992 the DC-10 crash-landed at Faro, killing 56 people on board and severely wounding at another 106. Wind shear is commonly blamed of having caused the crash, while other say pilot errors may have contributed or caused the crash. The news item puts the safety of the plane in doubt and puts new fuel in a public debate that has lasted more than two decades.
Parts of the investigation documents have been classified by the Netherlands and will first be open to the public by the year 2073.