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Romania could purchase F-16 fighter jets from Portugal

National Defence Minister Corneliu Dobritoiu told Agerpres on Wednesday Romania could purchase F-16 fighter jets from Portugal, with the aircraft being in ‘very good' condition, according to the expert team who examined the technical condition of the multi-purpose jets.

'There are nine Romanian experts who went to Portugal, who got expertise from the Americans. The conclusions of the team were beyond expectations, meaning the fighter jets are in very good condition, very good technical condition and would represent a 'last cartridge' for Romania. Otherwise, we will remain without fighter aviation in nine years, because the MIG jet fighters, after 40 years of missions, will remain on ground. We are in an accelerated process for obtaining all the approvals. We'll raise the issue at the first meeting of the CSAT (Romania's Supreme Defence Council - editor's note), given the elements the evaluating team found on site. On this occasion, we'll also make an analysis of the state of the forces so as to give the country's strategic leadership a real image of the state the Romanian army is in, an army that has top operational experience in the operation theatres, but whose technical equipment is limping, the same as its budgets. I think this is the last chance', Dobritoiu stressed.

The minister explained the alternative of purchasing F-16 jets from the Netherlands no longer stands, since 'the Dutch have sold the products they had in excess'.

'The budget impact is not likely to be big, given the payments to be annually made will affect the public debt at a rate of 0.03 percent or no more than 0.04 percent. It rests with this country's strategic political leadership to get back the Romanian defence aviation to the level of aspirations and to the historic credibility it had. Otherwise, military aviation will turn into transport aviation and somebody must take such tragedy upon themselves', he added.

The multi-purpose aircraft programme ‘is more than acceptable', Dobritoiu stressed, since the final amount for purchasing the fighter jets can be negotiated with the Portuguese partner.

'The total cost of the multi-purpose aircraft programme, training and all, is more than acceptable. F-16 aircraft has flight resources for another 20 years, if we were so generous as to ensure training of at least 200 hours' flight on this jet every year. We do not provide such number of hours on the MIGs due to the tiny budget', the minister explained.