The Ceausescu regime was a poor performer even by communism’s low standards, which has left Romania with a long and difficult modernization task as it seeks to integrate into NATO. Romania certainly isn’t one of NATO’s bid senders in absolute terms, but it is one of only 4 NATO countries to approach or exceed the accepted defense spending commitment of 2% of GDP. At Black Sea Defense & Aerospace 2008, Romania’s Curierul National interviewed Defence Minister Teodor Melescanu regarding Romania’s future plans. Among other things, the recent official request for a used and new American F-16s does not appear to be the end of the competition to replace its upgraded MiG-21 Lancers. From the interview:
“The six strategic programs refer to the purchase of the new multi-role planes and of the multirole systems and ground-to-air long-range missiles for the Air Force, the purchase of 4 multifunctional corvettes and 4 mine-hunter boats for the Naval Forces, respectively to the acquisition of some armoured personnel carriers (8×8 and 4×4) and some armoured and non-armoured off-road vehicles for the Land Forces. These purchases are absolutely necessary for the Romanian Army, whose technique is obsolete in a proportion of 90%… the total is 13 billion euros, indeed, but I want to emphasize that we do not have this money… ready to spend it when necessary. However, the executive has given us the possibility, by Emergency Ordinance no. 111/2006, which allows ministries to contract loans on the international banking market, we can employ such loans up to the limit of 2.38% of GDP… in a predictable financing line for the period 2009-2013. We also consider achieving these acquisitions with the participation of internationally prestigious companies, which we would attract in the modernisation and privatisation process of the defence industry.”
Indeed, the MiG 21s will deplete their flight resource by 2010-2011 and therefore we must absolutely start the programme of purchasing a multi-role plane… The issue is the purchase of 48 planes, the budget effort exceeding 3.5 billion lei… financed by foreign loans, using the mechanisms of Emergency Ordinance no. 111/2006… As there appeared some information about the purchase of second-hand planes, too, I want to emphasize that, personally, I think we are too poor to buy cheap, used things. I do not think that the solution of second hand devices is the best option and therefore I feel inclined to the purchase of new aircraft. And I insist on the human resource. We have valuable pilots and we cannot waste this value we have… As I have said, there are five models of multirole planes that meet the technical-operational requirements set up by the specialists of the Romanian Air Force. We are considering the F-16 plane… the JAS-39 Gripen… the Eurofighter Typhoon… the F-18… and the Rafale [the F-35 was eliminated].
…To take a decision based on real and as complete as possible data, the Ministry of Defense has conducted information activities during the recent years, which have included working visits of delegations of specialists, organisation of presentations and sending requests for information to potential producers, suppliers and users of multi-role aircraft. As a result of these activities the 5 types of airplanes I mentioned above were identified. But no decision has been taken yet.”