By Daniel Stroe – Bucharest
The Pentagon will send an unspecified numbers of F-16 fighters to Romania next week to join military drills, but he planes will remain in the country for a long period, the Romanian minister of Defense announced last night.
“Next week F-16 American airplanes will come to Romania as we have drills in the Romanian air space with the Americans and they (the aircraft) will stay in Romania for a pretty long period” Mircea Dusa said last night, as quoted by Antena 3.
Dusa also pointed out that, apart from these “immediate and short term” military drills, Romania has other requests towards USA and NATO concerning the deployment of air squadrons to Romania until 2017 when “our own F-16 flotilla becomes operational”.
The minister rejected the “second-hand aircraft” label to the fighters Romania is about to buy from Portugal and underlined these F-16s will be equipped with last generation weaponry. “An air fighter which has last generation avionics, which has last generation war electronic equipment and weapons, because weapons are the most important (…) is an effective and very good plane. Especially since after the repairs they will undergo they will only have the old fuselage while the engines will be new and the purchase package also includes spare engines” Dusa also said. He concluded he would have a phone discussion with the US secretary of Defense, Chuck Hagel.
Dusa’s remarks come a few days after the Pentagon notified Romania it seeks to expand its military operations at the Mihail Kogalniceanu air base in SE Romania by deploying 600 more marines and an unspecified numbers of military planes. Thus, the total military personnel will reach 1,600 troops. The base on the Black Sea coast will play an important role in the withdrawal process the US will begin late this year in Afghanistan.
But the US troops’ concentration in Romania doesn’t satisfy anyone. Last week, an adviser to PM Victor Ponta warned Romania has become “the perfect target” for a military attack after agreeing to host elements of the US anti-missile shield and more American troops on its soils. His comments drew fierce criticism from Romanian politicians who asked for his resignation.
In October, Romania signed a 600 million Euros contract to acquire 12 F-16 AM/BM fighters from Portugal. The deal also includes training for an initial nine pilots and 69 technicians which will take place in the US. The first air fighters will be delivered next year with the rest to be delivered in 2017.