Spanish F-18s remain in Romania for at least another 90 days

MADRID, SPAIN — Spanish F-18 combat aircraft will continue until next June in Romania. NATO’s mission to protect the eastern flank began in December and was supposed to end on March 31. However, the Ministry of Defense has decided to extend the deployment for another three months, according to the General Staff of Defense [EMAD], responsible for overseas operations.

Some Finnish F-18 Hornets are starting to become museum pieces
Photo credit: Defense News

The extension of the mission implies, of course, the replacement of both personnel and fighters deployed since December. In this way, seven F-18s from the 12th Wing of the Torrejon Air Base will replace the eight combat aircraft of the same model from the 15th Wing of the Zaragoza Air Base, which until now operated in the well-known Viespe detachment.

Fighters from Wing 12 have already arrived at the Romanian base Borca-Fetesti and this week will finish the deployment of personnel from the second rotation, which will be about 130 soldiers, as well as the first contingent. The official handover ceremony took place a few days ago.

F18 in Romania

Over the past four months, Spanish F-18s have flown more than 750 flight hours in air policing missions as part of Spain’s response to NATO’s request to strengthen the allies’ air shield on the alliance’s eastern flank. This mission is known as Enhanced Air Police [EAP].

The flights are carried out in coordination with the Romanian and Italian Armed Forces with the mission to prevent and, where appropriate, respond to any attempt at unauthorized overflight over allied countries in the area under their control. “These deterrence measures have been strengthened since the Russian invasion of Ukraine, which has now been over a year,” recalls EMAD.

Enhanced NATO Air Policing

The operation is part of the Alliance’s collective efforts to monitor the airspace of its members, especially those located in the so-called Southern Application Area, such as Romania, Bulgaria, or Albania. Allied deployment in South-Eastern Europe is carried out under the NATO mandate within the framework of Allied collective defense.

This air policing mission is one of NATO’s assurance measures introduced in 2014, following the Russian annexation of Crimea, to increase the existing capabilities of the allied countries on the eastern flank of the Alliance and, in doing so, emphasizes EMAD, “demonstrate the collective resolve to deter any adversary that poses a potential threat of aggression against a NATO member state’.


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