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.
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).
Romania has revealed which airbase will be the home of the country’s new dozen second-hand Lockheed Martin F-16 fighter aircraft. Fetesti will be upgraded for at least 32 million euro – mostly paid for by NATO – to accommodate the new fighter squadron, the government has acknowledged on 13 May 2015. Meanwhile, four Portuguese F-16s have temporarily deployed to Romania.
The base strategically located between Constanta on the Black Sea Coast (48 miles or 77 km) and the capital of Bucharest (80 miles or 130 km) further west. The base with only one runway (north-south) and one major taxiway has been very much run down and is not up to NATO standard (yet). The upgrades will include the hangars, shelters, fuel tanks and the ammunition bunkers.
Romania bought 9 ex-Portuguese Air Force F-16s and three ex-US stock Vipers in 2013. Romanian crews are training as we speak at 5 Air Base in Monte Real in Portugal, where the first Romanian pilots went solo in November last year. In 2016 the F-16s and their crews should reach operational capability at Fetesti.
Furthermore, four Portuguese F-16s from Monte Real arrived at the Romanian Air Force’s 71st Air Base in Câmpia Turziin on 4 May. They are deployed here as part of joint training mission Falcon Defence 2015. The Portuguese are to stay until 30 June.
In an attempt to boost Europe’s defenses in an attempt to scare of Russia, the US Air Force now sent a so-called Theater Security Package of 12 Republic Fairchild A-10 thunderbolt II attack jets to Romania on 30 March 2015. The A-10s arrived from Germany, where they were previously deployed.
The dozen Warthogs – as the nickname for the planes go – landed at Câmpia Turzii, where six USAF F-16C Fighting Falcons from Spangdahlem Airbase last month had been training with the Romanian Air Force’s 71st Air Base’s Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-21s as well, the Lancers of A, B (ground attack) and C (interceptor) versions that call Campia Turzii home. The A-10s will be their guests for three months and are from the 354th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron from Davis-Monthan AFB, and immediately came in action a day later by “taking out” a car that served as training target on the ground.
Many of the joint training missions flown have been labeled Dacian Thunder 2015. According to Romanian Air Force sources they will involve 11 of the 12 American A-10s, but only four of the officially 36 Romanian MiG-21s, plus six license-built IAR-330 Puma helicopters in both SOCAT (assault) and medevac configuration.
Twelve Portuguese Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcons are on their way to Romania. The East European country signed the deal last Thursday, the Romanian Ministry of Defence confirmed.
Portugal actually bought three additional F-16s from the United States to meet the number, since it only had nine Vipers available for sale. The deal of 600 million euro will start with modernisation of the fighter jets, with first deliveries planned for 2015. The newly purchased US jets will get temporarily Força Aerea Portuguesa (FAP) serials.
By purchasing the much needed air assets second-hand from Portugal Romania has definitely killed an earlier plan to purchase up to 24 F-16s from the United States. There is much criticism to the deal within Romania, as many feel the country can’t afford to operate the new jets. Advocators point out that the F-16 has one of the lowest operating costs per flying hour compared to other modern aircraft.
Source: Romanian Ministry of Defence with additional reporting by AIRheads’ Marcel Burger