RoAF Retires MiG-21 LanceR jets

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RoAF Retires MiG-21 LanceR jets
The Romanian Air Force (RoAF) retired the last MiG-21 LanceR fighters on 15 May with ceremonies and farewell flights.

The Romanian Supreme Defence Council decided to write off the Romanian MiG-21s this year in May 2022, but no timeframe for withdrawal was specified. The MiG-21 LancerR served in the Romanian Air Force for 61 years. The new home for retired jets will be the Bacau airbase in northeast Romania. In 1993, Russia stopped offering spare parts for the MiG-29 and MiG-23 for RoAF.

MiG-21 Lancer TurDef.jpg

The Lockheed Martin F-16 is Romania's replacement for the MiG-21. Bucharest currently has 17 aircraft of the US-made fighter, which were obtained second-hand from the Portuguese Air Force in 2006.

The Black Sea country has also confirmed the purchase of 32 more F-16s, purchased second-hand from the Norwegian Air Force and will be delivered this year.

Romania also plans to purchase Lockheed Martin's F-35A Lightning II fifth-generation fighter. Last month, Romania's Supreme Defence Council announced the aircraft's selection. The number of aeroplanes that will be ordered has yet to be disclosed.

With the deactivation of the MiG-21 in Romania, Croatia will be the only country in Europe to have the outdated Russian fighter, which still flies 12 aircraft. On the other hand, the Croatian fleet's replicas will be decommissioned before 2024 and replaced with the Dassault Rafale.

Since April 2022, Romania's MiG-21 force has been largely grounded. The aircraft's operations were halted following the crash of a similar model in March of last year near the Ukrainian border.

The MiG-21 fighters are one of the last remaining Soviet-era aircraft in Romania's air force, which acquired its first aircraft in 1962. At the time, the country was a member of the defunct Warsaw Pact military alliance governed by Moscow. Romania had around 400 MiG-21s. The unofficial estimate for the current number is approximately 25.

Romania expanded its links with the West with the demise of the Soviet Union in 1991, eventually joining NATO in 2004. With the help of their new partners, Romanian forces began to replenish their arsenals with Western weapons.

With no funds to purchase new aircraft, the Romanian Air Force decided to replace the MiG-21 through the LanceR programme developed by Israeli Elbit Systems in the 1990s. Between 1993 and 2002, 110 Romanian fighters were upgraded with Israeli systems, including digital avionics and longer-range armament systems.

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