After over 60 years of service, the iconic MiG-21 LanceR took its final flight for the Romanian Air Force, marking the end of an era.

The farewell flight departed from three air bases: the 71st Air Base “General Emanoil Ionescu” in Câmpia Turzii, the 86th Air Base “Lieutenant Aviator Gheorghe Mociorniţă” in Borcea, and the 95th Air Base “Erou capitan aviator Alexandru Șerbănescu” in Bacău.

A fond farewell

The MiG-21 LanceR, a fighter and interceptor jet, entered service with the Romanian Air Force in 1962. Over six decades, it guarded Romania’s skies during its tenure as a non-aligned state.

In 1997, the Romanian Air Force received the upgraded MiG-21 LanceR variant, which played a role in NATO Air Policing after Romania acceded to the alliance in 2004. For over a quarter of a century, the upgraded MiG-21 LanceR protected Romanian airspace and participated in international missions.

In a notable display of solidarity, Romania deployed four MiG-21 LanceR aircraft to lead NATO’s Baltic Air Policing mission in Lithuania, Estonia, and Latvia from August to November 2007. The Romanian Air Force is retiring 96 MiG-21 LanceR, according to a GlobalData report on the “Romania Defence Market 2023-2028“.

“Four Romanian Air Force F-16s are currently again deployed in support of NATO’s Baltic Air Policing mission providing a critical contribution to deterrence and defence along the eastern flank,” said Colonel Cosmin Vlad, the Romanian Carpathian Vipers’ commander.

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“At Siauliai, Lithuania, the deployed F-16 detachment continues the tradition of the MiG-21 deployment in 2007 in an impressive display of Allied cohesion and solidarity and Romania’s commitment to the Alliance,” Colonel Vlad added.

A much-needed modernisation from the MiG

In 2019, the Romanian Air Force started operating the MiG-21 LanceR alongside the F-16 during Air Policing missions, showcasing a harmonious integration of old and new technologies.

However, as of May 15, the MiG-21 LanceR has officially retired, making way for a much-needed modernisation with the F-16 fleet to assume the duty of protecting Romania’s skies.

With this transition, Romania has become a member of NATO’s F-16 user community, further strengthening its partnership with the alliance and strengthening a long-overdue modernisation of its air fleet. The F-16, known for its performance and versatility, will enhance Romania’s aerial capabilities, ensuring increased interoperability with NATO allies.

Romania has purchased second-hand F-16 aircraft from NATO members, including Portugal in 2013 and Norway last year.

The Romanian Air Force’s transition to the F-16 fleet reinforces its commitment to modernisation, operational effectiveness, and its role within the NATO alliance.