PORTUGAL HAS handed over the first six of 12 second-hand F-16A/Bs being acquired by the Forţele Aeriene Române (FAR – Romanian Air Force) under the Peace Carpathian programme.
A ceremony was held at Base Aérea No 5 Monte Real, Portugal, on September 28, to formally transfer the aircraft to the FAR. In attendance were Portugal’s Prime Minister António Costa and Defence Minister José Alberto de Azeredo Lopes, while Romania was represented by Defence Minister Mihnea Motoc.
The aircraft departed from Monte Real, initially flying to Aviano Air Base, Italy, for a refuelling stop en route to Romania. They comprised F-16As 1601, 1602, 1603, 1608 and 1608, plus F-16B 1610.
The aircraft have been refurbished by OGMA, supported by Lockheed Martin and given a mid-life upgrade (MLU) to MLU M5.2 standard. They will be operated from Baza 86 Aeriana (86th Air Base) ‘Locotenent Aviator Gheorghe Mociorniță’ at Borcea-Fetești, where they will begin replacement of the MiG-21 LanceRs of 861 Escradrila.
A contract valued at around 628 million euros, signed between the Government of Romania (represented by the State company Romtehnica SA) and the Government of Portugal, covering the purchase of these aircraft, came into force on September 30, 2013. The next three will be delivered at the end of this year, with the last three due to arrive at the end of 2017.
The 12 aircraft are split between nine single-seat F-16As and three twin-seat F-16Bs. The nine single-seat F-16As are former Força Aérea Portuguesa (FAP – Portuguese Air Force) aircraft, but the three F-16Bs were acquired by Portugal specifically for this contract from surplus US Air Force stocks. This was due to the FAP not being able to spare sufficient two-seat aircraft from its own inventory. They are also being refurbished and upgraded to the same standard.
For the future, the FAR hopes to eventually acquire an additional 12 second hand F-16s to enable it to also replace the MiG-21s at Baza 71 Aeriana, Campia Turzii.