July 5, 2006 (by Lieven Dewitte) - Romania is discussing with Belgium the possible purchase of used F-16 fighters to upgrade its ageing air force, the Romanian defence ministry said on July 4.
Belgian Defence Minister Andre Flahaut said that no price for the F-16s had been set yet. "The price is a political one, as we want to collaborate with our allies in safety."
Romania has a long and proud aviation heritage. Its airforce dates back to 1910 when a small flying corps was established.
After the second world war Romania fell under the influence of Moscow. However, in 1994 the Romanian Air Force was the first East European former Warshaw Pact country to sign the Partnership for Peace treaty. On 1 April 2004 Romania became part of NATO
together with six other ex-communist European states.
Currently the Romanian Air Force is reorganising drastically under the 'Objective Force 2007' program to reach sensible levels of aircraft and personnel. They hope to be able to buy or lease 48 new fighters between 2008 and 2012.
"The Romanian army is going through an upgrading process. We have discussed the possibility of acquiring some F-16 planes from Belgium
," Defence Minister Teodor Atanasiu told reporters, without elaborating.
For its air defence, the Romanian Air Force currently relies on its fleet of 106 heavily modernised MiG-21 Fishbeds which are expected to be phased out between 2010 and 2012.
Despite earlier plans to upgrade about twelve MiG-29s to NATO standard the Romanian Ministry of Defense decided on 21 January 2003 to withdraw the MiG-29 from service.
Last April, Jordan
already signed a letter of Intent (LoI) for the purchase of these (14) F-16 MLUs from Belgium but now it seems that Romania could possibly acquire them instead.
In 2005, Washington approved a possible deal between Romania and Israel
for the acquisition of dozens of F-16 jets in a deal worth around USD 150 million. That deal has never gone trough though.