Romania To Host F-16 Pilot Training Center For NATO


By Madalin Necsutu

Romania will host pilot training facilities for F-16 aircraft, including those from Ukraine, as part of a new transatlantic military project, according to the Romanian Supreme National Defence Council, CSAT.

The regional hub in Romania will cover the training requirements of allies and regional partners, making Romania a regional leader in F-16 pilot training.

“Together with other allies and the company that designs this fighter plane [Lockheed Martin], a regional hub will be created in Romania to train pilots who will fly these planes,” said the Bucharest Presidential Administration.

The new training centre will train Romanian pilots who operate F-16s, and the facility will later be opened to pilots from allied and NATO partner states, including Ukraine.

Several NATO countries have recently discussed the possibility of Romania being chosen as a location for training Ukrainian pilots to fly F-16 fighter jets. “Romania is one of the places the coalition is looking to host training,” a Western official told Politico in June.

Lockheed Martin confirmed that the company is ready to train Ukrainian pilots to fly F-16s as soon as Western countries agree to send them. Romania and Ukraine are neighbouris, so logistics will be much simpler.

Denmark and the Netherlands currently lead an international coalition that could provide Ukraine with F-16 fighter jets and training and maintenance of the aircraft. Dutch Defence Minister Kajsa Ollongren said last month that Ukrainian pilots could begin training on US F-16 multi-role jets this summer.

According to Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba, “one of the countries” promised to train Ukrainians on F-16 fighter jets in June but, due to an error in calculations, this did not happen.

Belgium and Luxembourg will also participate in the US-backed training program, while France and the UK are assisting.

Earlier, Ukrainian Defence Minister Oleksii Reznikov said Ukrainian pilots are expected to begin training on fighter jets as early as July.

The Romanian Air Force has 17 F-16 aircraft in the M5.2R configuration, which will be upgraded to the M6.6 configuration. The 17 F-16 aircraft were bought in two instalments from Portugal and were modernized with the help of the US. The whole package cost Romania about 628 million euros, including personnel training.

At the same time, the Romanian Defence Ministry signed a contract with Norway in November 2022 to purchase 32 F-16 aircraft in the M6.5.2 configuration, spare engines and logistical support.

The value of the contract signed with Norway is 388 million euros and will take place over three years, with the first aircraft to be delivered towards the end of 2023.

Balkan Insight

The Balkan Insight (formerly the Balkin Investigative Reporting Network, BIRN) is a close group of editors and trainers that enables journalists in the region to produce in-depth analytical and investigative journalism on complex political, economic and social themes. BIRN emerged from the Balkan programme of the Institute for War & Peace Reporting, IWPR, in 2005. The original IWPR Balkans team was mandated to localise that programme and make it sustainable, in light of changing realities in the region and the maturity of the IWPR intervention. Since then, its work in publishing, media training and public debate activities has become synonymous with quality, reliability and impartiality. A fully-independent and local network, it is now developing as an efficient and self-sustainable regional institution to enhance the capacity for journalism that pushes for public debate on European-oriented political and economic reform.

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