On November 4, 2022, in Bucharest, the Romanian Ministry of National Defense and the Norwegian government’s defence procurement agency Forsvarsmateriell signed a contract for the purchase of 32 F-16 AM/BM fighters in the M6.5.2 configuration that were formerly in use by the Norwegian Air Force (FMA). Additionally covered by the deal are logistics, backup engines, backup parts, and ground staff training. The 388 million euro contract will have a three-year operating period. The fighter transfer will start by the end of 2023 and should be completed by the end of 2024. Romania will pay an additional €100 million for logistics and equipment to the United States. After being given to the nation in acceptable operating conditions, the Romanian Air Force will be able to operate each aircraft for at least ten years. Romania plans to purchase F-35A Lightning II fighters from the United States in the future.
“The available resources of aircraft of three squadrons ensure … their operation for at least ten years” and “will form the air potential for the transition to fifth-generation F-35 aircraft,” the Hungarian Ministry of Defense said in April.
Norwegian F-16 fighters
In November 2021, Romania formally requested that Norway buy 32 F-16 AM/BM fighters that were no longer in service. With the help and involvement of the US government, Romania finalised the contract for their purchase.
Recall that the Norwegian Air Force has finally retired all of its F-16 AM / BM fighters from the end of 2021 in connection with their complete replacement with the incoming American Lockheed Martin F-35A Lightning II fighters. In total, the Norwegian Air Force from 1980 to 1984 received 72 F-16A / B fighters of the Block 5, 10 and 15 versions, which were assembled in the Netherlands by Fokker, and of which 60 were single F-16A and 12 double F-16B. In addition, Norway received one F-16A from the Netherlands Air Force and one F-16B from the US Air Force. In addition, in 1989, Norway received two more pairs of F-16B Block 15 OCUs directly from the American General Dynamics production line. Of these 76 aircraft in total, 56 (including 45 F-16A and 11 F-16B) were later upgraded under the MLU program to the F-16 AM / BM level. Work was completed in 2001; however, constant improvements were made later. As a result, the Norwegian F-16 AM / BM, by the time they were withdrawn from service, had the M6.5.2 software configuration, which allows the use of the most modern types of guided aircraft weapons, including Laser JDAM guided bombs and AIM-120D AMRAAM air-to-air missiles.
In order to replace its fleet of F-16 AM/BM fighters, Norway placed an order for 52 F-35A aircraft and has so far acquired 37 of those aircraft. Ten F-35A’s are being used for personnel training in the United States.
After decommissioning at the beginning of 2022, 53 F-16 AM / BM fighters (44 F-16 AM and nine F-16BM) and four non-upgraded aircraft (three F-16A and one F-16B) remained in Norway. On December 6, 2021, the Norwegian FMA signed a contract for the sale of 12 F-16 AM / BM fighters withdrawn from the Norwegian Air Force to the American private company Draken International, which will use these aircraft to provide combat training services to the US armed forces on a contract basis. Now another 32 aircraft have been sold to Romania.
Previously, between the years 2016 and 2021, Romania made two separate purchases from the Portuguese Air Force that resulted in the acquisition of 17 F-16 AM/BM aircraft. All of the Romanian F-16 AM and VM aircraft have been upgraded to the M5.2R standard, and they are currently deployed with the 53rd Fighter Squadron out of the 86th Air Base in Fetesti. These aeroplanes are going to be improved so that they meet the M6.6 standard. In addition, MiG-21 Lancer B/C aircraft continue to be part of the combat power of the Romanian Air Force. These fighters are currently split between two squadrons. To replace these fighters, the Romanian Air Force purchased the former Norwegian F-16 AM/VM.
The precise number of MiG-21 Lancer fighter aircraft that Romania has available in its Air Force is a closely guarded secret. Unofficial reports claim that Romania is in possession of 25 MiG-21 planes. During the time of communism in the country, there were approximately 400. A spokesman for the Romanian Ministry of Defense stated in May that Romania’s air force would continue to use its Soviet-era MiG-21 LanceR fighters for another year, despite the fact that the operation of these aircraft had been suspended in April due to a number of issues. According to the defence ministry, the decision to cease their flights in April was made because of “a substantial number of accidents and aircraft accidents with the MiG-21 Lancer.”
Marcel Colacu, the chairman of the Romanian Chamber of Deputies, made the announcement in April of this year that Romanian MiG-21 Lancer aircraft would be sent to Ukraine at some point in the future.