Romania to Buy Ex-Israeli F-16s
The Romanian Air Force has decided to purchase (or perhaps lease) some 24 ex-Israeli F-16s, like the one seen here, to complement a planned procurement of new fighters, a tender for which is expected to be launched in 2006.
Photo by Remko van de Bunt
In eDefense Online, Michal Fiszer reports on one of the more interesting fighter deals of late. Romania is likely to buy ex-Israeli F-16A/Bs:
Romania has decided to purchase or lease some 24 ex-Israeli F-16A/B aircraft to replace some of its MiG-21 Lancers.
The F-16A/Bs involved were declared surplus after Israel decided to introduce the F-16I Sufa into service with its air force. All of the F-16s are to be carefully checked for fatigue damage and will be overhauled. In addition, Elbit Systems (Haifa, Israel) has offered a modernization package for the F-16A/B aircraft, aimed at improving the cockpit, adapting the aircraft to new weapon types, and bringing the fighters to full NATO compatibility. Elbit has already worked together in the past with Aerostar SA (Brasov, Romania) on the modernization of MiG-21M/MF/UM aircraft to the Lancer A/B/C standard.
Romanian Ministry of Defense spokesman Col. Cristinel Ghinea stated that no contract has been signed yet and only confirmed that Romania is “interested in replacing the MiG-21 Lancer fleet with new aircraft."
There is a plan that, in 2006, Romania will launch a tender for 48 new multirole combat aircraft. The recent decision to acquire F-16s from Israel is to supplement the eventual procurement of the new aircraft, not to replace it. The new multirole fighters (not yet selected) are to be delivered over the 2010-2012 timeframe, while the delivery of the ex-Israeli F-16A/Bs, if the contract is finally negotiated and signed, would start in 2007.
The Romanian Air Force currently operates six squadrons of Lancers from three air bases: Baza 86 Aeriana in Borcea-Fetesti (861 and 862 Squadron), Baza 95 Aeriana in Bacau (951 Squadron and 205 Squadron, with the latter being a training unit) and Baza 71 Aeriana in Câmpia Turzii (711 and 712 Squadrons). In all, 73 MiG-21M/MF aircraft were modernized to the Lancer A ground-attack version with the Elta EL/M-2001B radar rangefinder (prototype flown on Aug. 22, 1995), while 14 MiG-21UM two-seaters were modernized to the Lancer B standard, also with the EL/M-2001B (prototype flown on May 6, 1996), and 26 MiG-21M/MFs to the Lancer C air-superiority variant with the Elta EL/M-2032 multirole radar prototype flown on Nov. 6, 1996).
Each of these aircraft received the Elop (now Elta Systems) 921 head-up display (HUD), two 127x127-mm multifunction displays in the cockpit, hands-on throttle and stick (HOTAS) controls, the DASH helmet-mounted cueing system, a new mission computer, and MIL STD 1553B multiplex data buses. The Lancers were also outfitted with a new self-protection system that includes the Elisra (Bene Beraq, Israel) SPS-20 radar-warning receiver (RWR) and chaff/flare dispensers produced by IMI/TAAS (now part of Elbit Systems). Some of the Lancer As were also equipped with Rafael Litening targeting pods or Elbit/Aerostar Airborne Reconnaissance Pods. In terms of armaments, the Lancers were cleared to carry a mix of Russian and Israeli weapons: R-60, R-73, and Python 3 IR air-to-air missiles, as well as Israeli made laser-guided bombs.
The Lancers, however, are to be withdrawn by 2012 and replaced by new fighters. The new fighters, as well as the modernized F-16A/Bs, are to carry beyond-visual-range weapons and guided air-to-ground munitions, and they are to be fully compatible with NATO standards. Should the transaction between Israel and Romania be sealed, the F-16C/D multirole aircraft will likely emerge as the favorite in the planned tender in 2006.
Should a deal for F-16s from Israel go through, the Romanian Air Force would use the aircraft to replace some of its MiG-21 Lancers, two of which are seen here in formation with a Mirage 2000D (attack) and Mirage F1CR (reconnaissance) aircraft during a Romanian-French excercise in 2003.
It should be noted that the Israeli-Romanian MiG-21 Lancer program has not been particularly successful. While the MiG-21 remains a useful aircraft for some missions, and its low-radar cross section and agility potentially make it a difficult opponant even for front-line fighters, its small, aging airframe and limited radar and avionics upgrade options have been a drag on modernization efforts. For more on MiG modernization, see "Red Fighters Revised" and "MiG-29 Export Modernization Programs." See also "Indian Air Force Plans Fleet-Wide Overhaul."