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Romania to buy 32 additional second-hand F-16 fighters from Norway.

| 2022

Romania is set to accelerate a planned acquisition of second-hand F-16A/B fighters from Norway, Reuters reported quoting the country’s Defence ministry. Romania, a NATO member since 2004, grounded its MiG-21 LanceR C fleet due to their high accident rate, Air Force Technology reports. This forthcoming acquisition is not related to the war in Ukraine. Alongside, Romania will continue to operate the older F-16s obtained from Portugal.

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Romania to buy 32 additional second hand F 16 fighters from Norway  F-16A Fighting Falcon of the Romanian Air Force (Picture source: Romanian Air Force)

In 2016, Romania first bought F-16 jets from Portugal as part of its plan to replace its aging Soviet-era MiG-21 fighters. Now, the Defense ministry has expedited an initiative that involves procuring 32 additional F-16 jets from Norway in view of raising two additional squadrons. The ministry was quoted by the Reuters as saying: “The available resources of the aircraft from the three squadrons ensure … their operation for a minimum of ten years and will form an air capability of transition to fifth-generation F-35s.”

Currently, the Romanian Air Force operates a complete squadron of former Portuguese F-16 Fighting Falcons. The 17 planes, together with the logistical support, cost over 900 million euros being at the M5.2R standard.

At the end of December 2021, the Ministry of National Defense announced that it had received the approval of the Parliament to initiate the procurement procedure for two more F-16 squadrons, with the Norwegian F-16s being elected, at a cost of 354 million euros for 32 planes, plus 100 million for logistical support. The difference from the Portuguesefighters is that Norwegian aircraft have a smaller remaining flight potential, but enough to operate them in the next 10 years, the transition period to 5th generation aircraft. In addition, Norwegian F-16 aircraft come in an M6.5.2 configuration, superior to the Portuguese ones.

The first Fighting Falcon for the Luftforsvaret (Royal Norwegian Air Force) took off for its maiden flight on December 12th, 1979. All block 1 and block 5 aircraft have been rebuilt to the block 10 standard. In the course of 2021, the RNoAF was already sending F-16s that were 'out of life' to Kjeller depot to be stored there. The vast majority of aircraft that still had hours left flew until December of 2021 and were stored at that time as well. On January 6th, 2022 the flying era of Norwegian F-16s ended after 42 years of operations when the last flight was performed. This however does not mean the end of these F-16s. They were maintained well by the Norwegians and most airframes still have airframe hours left. On December 20th, 2021 the Romanian government signed an LOI for the acquisition of up to 32 airframes in a deal worth up to $513 million. Another 12 airframes are set to go to Draken International, the US company providing red air combat support to other air forces.

In 2023, Romania should have two F-16 squadrons. At the same time, the modernization of the first squadron of F-16s purchased from Portugal will begin. The Norwegian F-16s will start arriving in Romania in October of this year. According to the Ministry of National Defense, "if everything goes according to plan, at the end of 2023, the Romanian Air Force would have a second F-16 squadron".

The big challenge that Romania will face will be to be able to prepare pilots, operators, and technicians for the F-16 Fighting Falcon, a process that is not only expensive but takes about a year or two and requires the involvement of allies. The modernizations and maintenance of the squadrons will be done in the country at Aerostar Bacău. Also here will be modernized the F-16 aircraft from the first squadron, purchased from Portugal, will be brought to the standard of the Norwegian ones. Their modernization will also begin in 2023, the year in which we should have two F-16 squadrons operational.

According to the Romanian Air Force, the modernization of the M6.XR configuration is planned to take place between 2023 and 2025, with the provision by the American partner of the equipment and software package dedicated to F-16 aircraft purchased by Romania.

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