Romanian helicopter crashes during search for missing fighter

Jason Wells/

A Romanian Puma helicopter crashed while searching for a missing MiG-21 fighter, killing all seven people on board. 

On the evening of March 2, 2022, a MiG-21 LanceR fighter of the Romanian Air Force (RoAF) disappeared from radar screens shortly after taking off from the 86th Air Base located near Borcea, southeast Romania. The aircraft was in formation with another MiG-21 and was due to perform air patrol missions.  

An IAR 330 Puma search and rescue helicopter was immediately sent from the 57th Air Base, in the coastal city of Constanța, to locate the crash site. In a dramatic turn of events, the helicopter crashed near Gura Dobrogei, killing the five crew members and two rescuers on board. Shortly after, the MiG-21 wreckage was located near Cogealac and its pilot was also pronounced dead. 

Both the RoAF fleet of MiG-21 LanceR fighters and IAR 330 Puma helicopters have been grounded while an investigation is ongoing.  

“It is premature to discuss the causes of the accident,” said General Constantin Spanu, spokesperson for the Romanian Ministry of Defense. “The weather was unfavorable but we cannot comment at this stage.” 

The Ministry also announced that an exercise due to take place in Constanța was canceled. 

The MiG-21 LanceR constitutes the backbone of the RoAF fighter fleet, with about 20 currently in operation. It will eventually be phased out, as Romania acquired two batches of second-hand F-16A/B Block 15 MLU fighters from Portugal. Deliveries started in 2019, with the last of the 17 aircraft delivered in March 2021.  

The IAR 330 Puma is a Romanian version of the French Sud-Aviation SA 330 locally produced under license.

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