The Romanian government has approved the draft law to purchase 32 second-hand Lockheed Martin F-16AM/BM (MLU) Fighting Falcons from Norway, with plans to operate the multi-role fighters – which were recently retired from Luftforsvaret (Royal Norwegian Air Force, RNoAF) service – for at least ten years.
According to the draft law approved by the Romanian government on June 16, the deal – worth approximately €454m (US$479m) – includes the 32 F-16AM/BMs (all of which will be delivered in operational condition), along with an initial logistical support and complementary package of goods and services from the US government. It will also include the training of a minimum number of technical and engineering specialists.
“Given the complexity of the programme, the necessary financial resources will be determined exactly after the start of the procurement procedures and the start of discussions with representatives of the Government of Norway and the Government of the United States,” the Forțele Aeriene Române (FAR, Romanian Air Force) said in a press release (dated June 16, 2022).
The acquisition of 32 more F-16AM/BMs will grow the FAR’s Fighting Falcon fleet to 49 aircraft and will enable the air arm to retire its ageing, Cold War-era Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-21 LanceR B/C fleet on May 15, 2023. Romania’s LanceR B/C fleet is currently operated in the air defence role alongside the already operational F-16AM/BMs, which will completely take over responsibility for the mission following the MiG-21’s retirement next year.
Romania currently operates 17 F-16AM/BM (MLU) Fighting Falcons – comprising 14 single-seat F-16AMs and three dual-seat F-16BMs – which were purchased second-hand from Portugal in October 2013 (12) and January 2020 (5), respectively. The former marked the first time that F-16s had been sold for a third time, given that Portugal had previously acquired them second-hand from the US Air Force (USAF).
These multi-role fighters are currently configured to the M5.2R standard but will be upgraded to the M6.X configuration in the near future to meet existing NATO requirements. The former Norwegian examples – which are all currently stored at Kjeller Air Base in southern Norway – will also undergo this modernisation process. This should include eight LN-260 GPS systems and 19 Multifunctional Information Distribution System Joint Tactical Radio Systems (MIDS-JTRS).
The FAR’s F-16AM/BM (MLU) fleet currently equips one unit – Escadrila 53 Vânătoare (53rd Fighter Squadron) ‘Warhawks’ – at Borcea-Feteşti Air Base in southeastern Romania, but a second squadron will be established to cater for the growing Fighting Falcon fleet and its operations. This eventual fleet of 49 F-16AM/BMs will remain operational for at least ten years, which is when Romania plans to transition to a fifth-generation fighter force, with an early desire to acquire a fleet of Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II multi-role stealth fighters in the long-term.
You can read more about the Europe's current fighter fleets and how they are set to change over the course of this decade in AirForces Monthly's 53-page European Fighter Survey, which appears in the April-July 2022 issues.