March 6, 2009 (by Lieven Dewitte) - The economic crisis seems to have complicated Romania's efforts to seal a planned multi-billion euro fighter jet purchase in the near future, a deal aimed at replacing its ailing Soviet-era MiGs airforce.
USAF F-16C #89-2047 from 510th FS (Aviano, Italy) standing in the static at Constanta-Mikhail Kogalniceanu AB ( Romania) during the exercise RoIAS 2001 on August 25th, 2001. [Photo by Paul Nann
Since the financial crisis accelerated in October, Romania has turned from being the EU's fastest-growing economy to one of its most vulnerable as big hard currency debt and budget deficits fanned external imbalances.
Foreign Minister Cristian Diaconescu said on Tuesday the crisis weighed on Romania's plans to buy fighter planes to bring its air force up to NATO
standards. "I don't expect to have this kind of big project very near in the future," he said. "For the time being, we don't have a decision with regard to purchasing new combat aircraft."
Bucharest came close to finalising a purchase plan last year with government ministers saying a decision was only "weeks away" in September, but it was put on hold after November's election gave power to the new cabinet.
Five aircraft were in the running for the deal estimated by the previous centrist government to top 4 billion euros. Its choices included:
- the F-16 built by Lockheed Martin Corp ,
- the F-18 from Boeing Co ,
- the Rafale from France's Dassault ,
- the Grippen from Sweden's SAAB and the Eurofighter from EADS.