Romania’s Supreme Council of National Defense (CSAT) approved the acquisition of Lockheed Martin F-35 fifth-generation fighters.
A meeting of the CSAT led by the President of Romania, Klaus Iohannis, was held on April 11, 2023, to discuss the security situation in the Black Sea region and Romania’s position in the context of Russia’s aggression against Ukraine.
The council ruled that the development of Romania’s air defense was necessary to deter possible aggression, with the help of both air and anti-missile defense capabilities and long-range precision fire and strike capabilities. To achieve the latter, the CSAT confirmed a future order of Lockheed Martin F-35 fighters.
“The process of modernization of the Air Force will continue with the purchase of the latest generation F-35 aircraft,” the office of Romania’s President said in a statement. “These aircraft, equipped with a wide range of advanced sensors, the ability to exchange encrypted information in real-time with both air platforms and ground-based defense systems, the ability to actually manage the operational picture of the battlefield, and with high-precision intelligent munitions, allow achieving and maintaining air superiority, a mandatory condition for ensuring sovereignty in the national airspace and, if necessary, for its defense.”
Romania’s long-standing consideration of procuring F-35s is now being actively pursued. However, neither the expected number of aircraft nor the delivery plan was disclosed.
In the past few years, the Romanian Air Force has been attempting to replace the aging MiG-21 LanceR fighters that currently constitute the backbone of its fighter fleet, with about 20 currently in operation. In order to do so, two batches of second-hand Lockheed Martin F-16 fighters were purchased, namely 17 from Portugal in 2016 and 32 from Norway in 2022.
The invasion of Ukraine by Russia only exacerbated the need for Romania to protect its territorial integrity. Numerous airspace violations were reported in the neighboring country of Moldova by cruise missiles fired at Ukrainian cities from Russian warships in the Black Sea.
Since May 2022, France has deployed a SAMP/T [also called MAMBA – ed. note] ground-to-air defense system in Romania to “provide a protective bubble for the benefit of the [NATO] forces operating in the coverage area.”