Romania brings back MiG-21 LanceR fighters after safety grounding

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After a month of grounding, the Romanian Air Force (RoAF) resumed flights with MiG-21 LanceR fighters on May 23, 2022. It will continue operating them for another year until May 15, 2023.  

For their last year of service, the Romanian MiG-21s will be limited to air police missions and training flights to maintain the proficiency of current pilots. The MiG-21 LanceR constitutes the backbone of the RoAF fighter fleet, with about 20 currently in operation. 

After May 2023, the fighters will be removed from service and replaced by Lockheed Martin F-16 Fighting Falcons. Romania acquired 17 second-hand F-16 fighters from Portugal in 2016 and intends to purchase 32 more aircraft from Norway.  

“The draft law approving this acquisition has gone through the stage of legislative transparency and is in the approval process,” the ministry said in a statement. “[It] will be presented to the Romanian Parliament as soon as possible.” 

The Romanian authorities also set out plans to acquire a number of Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II fifth-generation fighters within the next decade. 

The Romanian Ministry of Defense suspended all operations with the MiG-21 on April 15, 2022, following multiple incidents involving the aircraft.  

The most recent took place on the evening of March 2, 2022, when a MiG-21 LanceR fighter 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 an air patrol mission. The MiG-21 wreckage was located near Cogealac, and its pilot was pronounced dead.  

A preliminary analysis found that the crash was likely due to “a combination of human and environmental factors.” 


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