Romania will be an F-35 operator, but did not specify the quantity
BUCHAREST, ROMANIA — Official Bucharest confirmed its intentions to acquire the American stealth fighter Lockheed F-35 Lightning II. In this way, the started process of modernization of the Romanian Army and more specifically of the Air Force continues.
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A report by BulgarianMilitary.com in July 2022 suggested that Bucharest would target such a purchase. Shortly after Greece submitted its request to acquire the F-35, an analysis predicted that Spain and Romania would be next. A source in Washington confirmed at the time that Bucharest was on the US list of potential F-35 operators.
Undoubtedly, when the F-35s are acquired and reach full operational readiness, the Romanian Air Force will achieve a very large combat capability in the region. In the Balkans, Greece is currently the only other future F-35 operator. At the moment, the backbone of the Romanian combat aviation consists of 17 F-16AM units. However, Romania expects delivery of another 32 F-16 units. However, they will be second hand and come from Norway.
Of course, there are 16 MiG-21 combat aircraft in the inventory of the Romanian Air Force. They are Soviet design and very outdated. Romania has no intention of relying on these aircraft, especially in conditions where the country is replacing its outdated Soviet military equipment with new ones. This modernization is not taking place only in the Air Force, but in all the military domains of the Romanian defense.
How many F-35 fighters Romania will order is not clear from the information released today by the country’s Supreme Defense Council. It is not clear when Romania plans to expect the delivery of the first units. By all accounts, Bucharest is at the beginning of a long process that could take between two and four years, depending on the speed with which things will happen.
As a member of NATO, Romania tries to follow the trends of the Allies in the Alliance. For example, Romania is one of the few NATO countries that increased the military budget to 2.5% of the country’s GDP this year. In recent years, the military budget has remained at a constant level of 2%. In Bucharest, they explain this increase with the war in Ukraine.
Perhaps one of the hurdles Bucharest will have to overcome along the way is agreeing on a price. But Romania entered a period in which the US enjoys interest in the F-35. This means that Lockheed Martin will increase production. Logically, the price is expected to drop, and according to some experts, $80 million for one F-35 is a price that countries with small military budgets like Romania will be able to afford.
Of course, the Romanian government’s bigger problem will be after the F-35 fighters are purchased. Maintenance costs and an hour of flight are still expensive, even for the US Air Force. Although Lockheed Martin has been “ordered” to cut costs, the company has failed to do so in the last two or three years. So in order to achieve full operational capability of its future fighters, the Romanian F-35 squadron will have to fly them, and this will cost the Romanian taxpayers a lot of money.
Spanish F-18 in Romania
At the moment, optimism is emanating from Bucharest and no questions are being asked about future costs. The country’s Supreme Council of Defense [CAST] issued a statement saying the F-35 “is of key importance for Romania to achieve its defense policy objectives,” emphasizing the country’s anti-aircraft capabilities and the F-35 purchase.
BulgarianMilitary.com recalls that there are currently deployed F-18 fighters from the Spanish Air Force in Romania. They stay in Romania for at least another 90 days. The Spanish fighter jets are in Romania as part of a NATO program and mission to strengthen the Alliance’s eastern flank. The reason: the war in Ukraine.
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