Romania plans to acquire five more F-16s from Portugal’s surplus stocks. Under a draft law passed on November 28, the Romanian government outlined the procurement, noting that the additional aircraft will have the same M.5.2R configuration as the Romanian Air Force’s existing inventory of 12 F-16s also sourced from Portugal. Eventually all 17 fighters will be upgraded to a new standard called M.6.X.
The draft law must still be approved by the Romanian Parliament, though due to the limited scope of the procurement, it should not be an issue.
Romania procured its first batch of 12 F-16s from Portugal under a government-to-government deal inked on October 11, 2013. These consisted of nine single-seat A-standard units acquired by Portugal from the U.S. in 1999 under the Peace Atlantis II program, as well as three two-seat B-standard fighters purchased by Portugal in used condition from the U.S. through its Excess Defense Articles (EDA) program for resale.
The 12 fighters underwent revamps and upgrading to the AM/BM standard by Lockheed Martin prior to delivery, which began on September 27, 2016, with the handover of the first six units. This was followed by the delivery of three more on December 13, 2016; the final three units arrived in October 2017. On March 14, 2019 the entire 12-unit fleet was declared to have reached Initial Operational Capability (IOC) by Defense Minister Gabriel Les at the 86th Air Force Base in Borcea.
By 2018, the Romanian Defense Ministry had begun looking to move forward on another acquisition of F-16s, with Defense Minister Gabriel Les announcing in April that Romania would purchase the five additional secondhand F-16s from Portugal to supplement the first batch and allow the Romanian Air Force to field a complete squadron.
Under the new draft law, a similar procurement-then-upgrade process for the F-16s will occur, this time with four of the five additional fighters modernized to the AM/BM standard prior to transfer to Romania, which is expected in 2020. The fifth unit – an F-16A that will not be upgraded – will be used for spare parts and transferred in 2021.
Once this transfer is completed, Romania will seek to add 36 more F-16s via transfer from U.S. stocks, thereby allowing it to retire its aging Soviet-era MiG-21 Lancer fighters out of Air Force service once and for all.