The final Lockheed Martin F-16AM Fighting Falcon (serial 1615) combat aircraft acquired by Romania from Portugal was delivered to the Romanian Air Force (FAR, Forțele Aeriene ale României) on 25 March. The fighter departed Monte Real (Portugal) early in the morning towards Aviano air base (Italy), where it made a short stop before continuing to it’s new home base, Borcea/Fetesti, Romania. This completed an order that commenced in 2016 when Romania acquired 12 F‐16AM/BM Block 15 fighters (nine single-seat and three twin-seat), with a further five F-16s (four single-seat and one twin-seat) following for a final tally of 17.
Romanian Air Force acquired five surplus Lockheed Martin F-16s from Portuguese Air Force (Força Aérea Portuguesa) and will upgrade the 12 examples of the fighter already in its fleet. The aircrafts that Portugal will sell to Romania will be modernized and updated at the Monte Real Air Base. At the ceremony to officialize the sale of the aircraft, Minister of Defense João Gomes Cravinho said the fighters were going to be modernized and updated at OGMA – Indústria Aeronáutica de Portugal SA. In June the first aircraft will be handed over, in October two more and the last one will be in early 2021.
The €130 million deal includes, in addition to the F-16 fighters, technical conversion to Romanian specifications and the work of the Portuguese Air Force in Romania for information transmission and maintenance. The five new aircraft will have the same M.5.2R configuration as Romania’s existing 12 F-16s, but Bucharest says all 17 will be raised to a new standard it calls M.6.X. In addition, the contract will boost the technical expertise of the Romanian air force, says the defence ministry, including the ability to overhaul and repair the F-16’s Pratt & Whitney F100 engine and modernise the platform.
Romania acquired the F-16 to replace its Warsaw Pact-era MiG-21 ‘Fishbed’ fighters that were later upgraded by Israel to the Lancer standard. While the country builds up its new inventory it is being supported by NATO, which is flying air policing missions out of Mihail Kogalniceanu Air Base near Constanta on the Black Sea. This Southern Air Policing mission also includes Bulgarian airspace as that country too begins the process of replacing its ageing Warsaw Pact-era MiG-29 ‘Fulcrum’ fighters with the F-16. A follow-on F-16 order from the United States of a further 36 to 48 aircraft to equip a further two squadrons is anticipated.