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Romania buys Portuguese F-16s to replace Lancers

October 14, 2013 (by Lieven Dewitte) - Romania has completed the purchase of 12 F-16AM/BM Fighting Falcons from Portugal to replace part of its fleet of Russian built MiG-21 Lancer fighter aircraft and thus bring its air force up to NATO standards.

PoAF F-16BM #15120 still in primer is coming in for landing with brakes opened after being converted to MLU standards at Monte Real AB on November 22nd, 2012. [ photo by Helder Afonso]

The aircraft package includes nine upgraded Portuguese Air Force F-16MLU aircraft, and three former US Air Force aircraft supplied to Portugal for the resale under the US Excess Defense Article program. The Portuguese military procurement agency DGAIED will buy those latter three F-16s and have the Portuguese Air Force upgrade them to the F-16 Mid Life Update (MLU) standard with assistance of OGMA-Indústria Aeronáutica de Portugal prior transfer to Romania.

Romania is rumored to pay about 638 million EUR (866 million USD) with 120 million EUR for the acquisition of the planes. The contract also includes modifications and upgrades to the aircraft (nine single- and three two-seaters); additional engines; logistics support; and the training of 9 Romanian pilots and 69 maintenance technicians.

The first aircraft is scheduled to be delivered in 2016 and initial operational capability achieved in 2017, the Portuguese Ministry of Defence stated. Meanwhile, Romanian pilots will be trained in the US to handle these planes, while infrastructure will be modernized to be compatible with the jets.

Romania will have to spend additional funds to build the necessary ground infra-structure and acquire spares, weaponry and airborne sensors.

Portugal has also been seeking a buyer for some of its F-16AM/BM aircraft since 2006, with discussions on a potential sale previously held with several countries worldwide. The EU has previously lodged its opposition to the F-16 sale to Romania given its non-competitive nature.

The Romanian Air Force currently operates 48 MiG-21 Lancers (upgraded 'Fishbed') which were modernized with the help of Israel. Their service life is slowly coming to an end however with 40 years of flying.

The F-16s should be airworthy for at least the next 20 years (4,000-4,500 flight hours).

In 2010, the Romanian Government canceled purchase plans for the 24 F-16 used planes from the USAF. The country’s Supreme Defense Council had approved a purchase plan but Romania decided to temporarily halt it due to lack of a long-term financing plan.

Additional images:

PoAF F-16AM #15125 from Esq 301 is pulling some contrails after take-off on June 28th, 2010. [Photo by Helder Afonso]

PoAF F-16AM #15102 from Esq 301 is taking a turn on the runway after landing at Monte Real AB on January 26th, 2012 during the Real Thaw exercise. [ photo by Helder Afonso]

Portugese F-16B in the hangar at Monte Real AB, undergoing nosewheel retraction tests [Photo by Artur Gomes]