The US State Department has approved the possible Foreign Military Sale (FMS) to Romania of equipment and services required to undertake mid-life updates to 32 Block 10/15 F-16 fighters being procured from Norway, for an estimated cost of $105m.
Equipment included in the potential deal consists of KY-58M and KIV-78 cryptographic devices; AN/PYQ-10C simple key loaders; night vision device aviator vision systems and spare image intensifier tubes; electronic warfare database support; and classified/unclassified computer program identification number systems (CPIN) and CPIN electronic combat international security assistance program equipment and support, among other items.
The US Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA), in a 30 June notification, said the proposed sale would “improve Romania’s capability to meet current and future threats by bolstering its operational readiness while enhancing air and defense capabilities with a modernised fleet”.
Further, the proposed sale would “support the foreign policy goals and national security objectives of the United States by improving the security of a NATO ally that is a force for political stability and economic progress in Europe”, the DSCA stated.
Romania picks up Norway’s F-16 fleet
Norway divestment of its F-16 fleet comes as a result of the country’s acquisition of the vastly more advanced fifth-generation F-35A stealth fighter. As of August 2022, Norway had acquired 28 F-35s which in the same year also took of Quick Reaction Alert responsibilities from the Air Force’s F-16 fleet.
In November 2022 the Norwegian Defence Materiel Agency and Romania signed a contract for the sale of 32 F-16 fighter jets to the latter’s air force.
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Announced by the Norwegian Government, the contract was finalised on 4 November with an estimated value of $387m (€388m), also including the delivery of associated equipment, spare parts and other aircraft modification, maintenance and technical training services.
Following this, all 32 aircraft were to undergo required maintenance and modifications to transform to the M6.5.2 Romanian configuration.
Delivery of the first tranche of F-16s to Romania is expected to take place by late 2023 while the second lot’s delivery is scheduled for 2024.
According to GlobalData analysis into Romania’s defence sector, the Russian invasion of Ukraine in 2022 has had a dramatic effect on the growth of Romania’s defence budget. Having seen a modest increase of $0.7bn over 2019–20 then stagnating at around $5.5bn over 2020–22, the budget law approved by Parliament in December 2022 confirmed $8bn in 2023, or a year-on-year increase of 45.2%.
Relative to the overall size of its economy, the percentage of GDP that Romania spends on its military is already well above the 2% NATO minimum target, predicted to remain at around 3.2% over 2024–28.