Romania’s Ministry of National Defence has requested formal approval from the country’s government to purchase 32 Lockheed Martin F-16AM/BM fighters from Norway. The deal is estimated at €454 million ($514 million), of which €354 million is for the acquisition of the aircraft and the remainder for logistics support and equipment for upgrades. The latter will be provided by the U.S. government, but the work—including engine repairs—is to be performed in Romania by Aerostar at Bacău, which will also undertake maintenance.
In its request, the Romanian defense ministry explained that: “In order to continue the gradual supply of F-16 aircraft from the surplus of the Armed Forces of NATO members, letters of inquiry were sent in 2019 to the governments of NATO member states equipped with F-16 aircraft (Belgium, Denmark, The Netherlands, Norway, Portugal and Greece) on the availability to transfer 16 to 32 F-16 aircraft.” On studying the responses the ministry deemed that the package of 32 aircraft, plus logistics support equipment and training services, offered by Norway was the best solution.
If approved, the delivery of aircraft could happen quickly, as the F-16 is due for withdrawal from Kongelige Norske Luftforsvaret (KNL, Royal Norwegian Air Force) service before the end of the year, as the operational Lockheed Martin F-35A fleet is built up. Only one squadron—331 Skvadron at Bodø—remains with the F-16. Earlier in December the Norwegian Defence Material Agency announced that up to 12 F-16s would be sold to civilian contractor Draken International for adversary training. These aircraft are scheduled to be delivered to Draken next year, pending government approval from the U.S. and Norway. They will add to 12 ex-Dutch F-16s that were bought earlier in 2021.
Romania ordered used F-16s to begin the replacement of its MiG-21-based Lancer fighters in 2013 when it signed a deal with Portugal to acquire nine F-16AM single-seaters and three F-16BM two-seaters under the Peace Carpathian deal. A further five F-16AMs were added in January 2020. All 17 are now in service with Escadrila 53 Vanatoare “Warhawks” at Fetesti, the last having been delivered in early 2021.
Having been acquired by Portugal from the U.S., the aircraft were put through the Mid-Life Upgrade (MLU) program that raised them to near-Block 52 standards. The Norwegian F-16s are also MLU machines and, despite being older airframes, are more capable than the ex-Portuguese aircraft on account of being upgraded to the M6.5.2 standard as opposed to M5.2R. The difference allows the former KNL aircraft to drop the Laser JDAM precision-guided weapon and to fire the AIM-120D AMRAAM air-to-air missile.