Romanian Air Force
Forțele Aeriene Române
Emblem of the Romanian Air Force
  • 1 April 1913; 110 years ago (1913-04-01)
  • 1 January 1924 as an independent force category[1]
Country Romania
TypeAir force
RoleAerial warfare
Size11,700 personnel
Part ofRomanian Armed Forces
Anniversaries20 July[2]
Chief of the Air Force StaffMajor general Leonard-Gabriel Baraboi[3]
Military colors
Identification flag (obverse)
Aircraft flown
AttackIAR 330 SOCAT
FighterF-16AM MLU
ReconnaissanceAntonov An-30, RQ-7 Shadow
TrainerF-16BM, IAR 99, Iak-52, IAR 316
TransportAntonov An-26, C-130 Hercules, C-27J Spartan, IAR 330L/M Puma

The Romanian Air Force (RoAF) (Romanian: Forțele Aeriene Române) is the air force branch of the Romanian Armed Forces. It has an air force headquarters, an operational command, five airbases and an air defense brigade. Reserve forces include one air base and three airfields.

In 2022, the Romanian Air Force employed 11,700 personnel.[4]

Current state

Romanian F-16 at the 86th Fetești Air Force Base

Currently, the Romanian Air Force operates the F-16 Fighting Falcon multirole aircraft. The old MiG-21 LanceRs, modernized in cooperation with Israel between 1993 and 2002, were retired on 15 May 2023.[5] The Romanian Air Force also operates C-130 Hercules, C-27J Spartan and An-26 transport airplanes and IAR 330 helicopters. IAR 330 Puma SOCAT helicopters have been modernized by the Romanian Aviation Industry in cooperation with Elbit Systems (Israel) for attack missions. The Romanian Air Force also includes locally built IAR 99 Șoim jet planes, in general only used for training of the young pilots.

Due to the old age of the MiGs, the Romanian Air Force procured fighters from partner states. In 2013, Romania signed a contract with Portugal for 12 F-16 A/B Block 15 MLU fighters.[6] Under the Peace Carpathian program, the first six fighters entered service with the Romanian Air Force in September 2016, another three have been delivered in November and the last three have entered service in 2017. Romania signed a contract in 2019 with Portugal for another 5 F-16 A/B Block 15 MLU fighters, which were delivered until March 2021.[7][8]

Another contract, announced in December 2021,[9] for an additional 32 F-16s was signed with Norway for €388 million. The first delivery of Norwegian F-16s is set for 2023, while a second delivery is set for 2024. Under the contract, the F-16s will undergo the modification to the M6.5.2 Romanian configuration with US support before delivery. Kongsberg Aviation Maintenance Services will provide support, maintenance and training of Romanian technical personnel.[10][11]

On 2 February 2022, the President of Romania stated its intent to purchase the fifth-generation F-35 joint strike fighter as part of its Air Force modernization, which plans to spend a total of 9.8 billion euros until 2026 to boost its defense capabilities.[12] On 11 April 2023, the Romanian Supreme Council of National Defense (CSAT) approved the F-35 acquisition plan. This process can take at least 5 years, and the operational capability for the F-35 is set to be achieved after 2030.[13]

On 23 May, the MiG-21 LanceRs resumed flights after being suspended on 15 April 2022. The LanceR will continue to fly for a period of one year, until 15 May 2023 after which they will be replaced by the F-16s purchased from Norway.[14]

In July 2023, following a CSAT meeting, the plan of hosting an F-16 training center in Romania was approved. The aim is for this center to become a regional training hub for Romanian and other allied fighter pilots, including Ukrainians.[15] To support this decision, an international coalition of 11 nations (Denmark, the Netherlands, Belgium, Canada, Luxembourg, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Sweden and the United Kingdom),[16] as well as Ukraine was formed during the 2023 Vilnius summit. Lockheed Martin and its subcontractor Draken International will also support the project. As part of this initiative, Romania is providing the necessary infrastructure of the 86th Air Base, the Netherlands is to provide the F-16 aircraft, and Draken International will provide the instructors and technicians. The center will become operational at the end of the year, however, training might start at the beginning of 2024 according to Ray Piselli, vice president at Lockheed Martin Global.[17][18]

The current chief of the Romanian Air Force Staff, succeeding Lieutenant General Viorel Pană on 29 November 2023, is Major general Leonard-Gabriel Baraboi.[3]


A. Vlaicu Nr. I at military exercises 27 Sept. 1910


In 1818, during the reign of John Caradja, the prince of Wallachia, an unmanned hot air balloon was flown off Dealul Spirii in Bucharest.[19] On 2 July [O.S. 20 June] 1874, Marius Willemot, the owner of the hydrogen balloon named "Mihai Bravul" flew together with Majors Iacob Lahovary, Constantin Poenaru and Dumitrescu over Bucharest. The last flight took place on 19 [O.S. 7 July] 1874, Willemot flying together with Colonel Nicolae Haralambie, Ion Ghica and a third person. The balloon had made its first flight at Paris on 27 March of the same year.[20]

On 20 November 1909, the Chitila Piloting School was formed as a joint venture by Mihail Cerchez. The school, conducted by French flight instructors, had five hangars, bleachers for spectators and workshops where the Farman airplanes were built under license. The school opened on 9 July 1910, when the chief flight instructor and director of the school René Guillemin crashed a Farman III biplane from a height of 40 metres (130 ft) during a demonstration flight and broke his leg.

Guillemin was succeeded by Michel-Paul Molla who made the first flight across Bucharest on 7 September 1910. Molla was succeeded by two others before the school closed in late 1912 due to financial difficulties, having trained six officers, but only licensed two.[21]

In November 1909, the Romanian Minister of War commissioned Aurel Vlaicu to build the A. Vlaicu I airplane at the Bucharest Army Arsenal which first flew on 17 June 1910. On 28 September during the Fall military exercise, Vlaicu flew his airplane from Slatina to Piatra Olt carrying a message, Romania thus becoming one of the first countries to use airplanes for military purposes.[22] Along with other Romanian pilots, Vlaicu flew reconnaissance missions during the Second Balkan War.[23][24][25] Vlaicu III, the first metal aircraft in the world, was completed after his death, in May 1914.[26]

World War I

A Romanian Nieuport 11. The blue color on the tail appears nearly white in the black and white photograph.

Main article: Romanian Air Corps

On the eve of Romania's entrance into the war in August 1916, only 24 out of the 44 aircraft that had been imported and assembled at RGA were available. Another 20 aircraft were provided by the flight schools. The total of 44 aircraft included: 10 Bristol T.B.8, 7 Bristol Coanda Monoplanes, 5 Blériot XI, 4 Farman HF.20, 8 Farman MF.7 and MF.11, 4 Voisin III, 4 Morane-Saulnier monoplanes, 1 Caudron G.3 and 1 Aviatik C.I.[27][28][29][a] Added to these were two native-made monoplanes designed by Aurel Vlaicu.[30] One of the Vlaicu monoplanes, A Vlaicu II, crashed in 1913, while the A Vlaicu I was retired in 1914, leaving A Vlaicu III as the sole Romanian-made aircraft in the Romanian Air Corps.[31]

During World War I, Romania acquired 322 aircraft from France and ex-RNAS aircraft from Great Britain including Nieuport 11 and 17 single seat fighters and Morane-Saulnier LA and Nieuport 12 two seat fighters, Caudron G.3, Henry Farman HF.20, Farman MF.11, and Farman F.40 & 46 artillery observation and reconnaissance aircraft, Caudron G.4, Breguet-Michelin BLM and Voisin LA bombers.[32] On 16 September 1916, a Romanian Farman F.40 downed an Imperial German Air Service aircraft near Slobozia; this was the first Romanian aerial victory. By the end of World War I, Romanian pilots had flown about 11,000 hours and 750 missions; however, it was unable to prevent the December 1916 Romanian offensive at the Battle of the Argeș from being defeated, which resulted in the occupation of southern Romania, and the armistice on 6 December 1917 following the Russian revolution.[33]

World War II

A pair of IAR 80 fighters on patrol during World War II

Main article: Royal Romanian Air Force

See also: Western Allied Campaign in Romania

When Romania, allied with Nazi Germany, went to war against the Soviet Union on 22 June 1941, the Romanian Air Force had 621 airplanes, including its locally made fighter IAR 80/81. The air force accomplished hundreds of missions, contributing to Romania's recapture of Northern Bucovina and Bessarabia, which had been occupied by the Soviet Union a year earlier. By the end of the Siege of Odesa, the Romanian military fighters claimed about 600 air victories.[34] Romanian Military Aviation fought on the Eastern Front until 22 August 1944, bringing an important contribution to the great battles at Stalingrad, in Crimea, and the Ukrainian fronts. Between 1941 and 1944, Romanian aircraft won 2,000 air victories. The most famous flying aces were Captain Prince Constantin Cantacuzino, who gained 69 certified victories, Captain Alexandru Șerbănescu, who shot down 60 enemy airplanes, and Captain Horia Agarici.

In the aftermath of King Michael's Coup of 23 August 1944, Romania turned against Germany and joined the Allies.

Cold War

A pair of Romanian MiG-21 fighters, late 1970s

See also: Army of the Socialist Republic of Romania § Air Force

Starting in 1948, Romania tailored its military to Soviet concepts and doctrine. On 15 February 1949, the Aviation Command was established based on the Soviet model (regiments instead of flotillas). In the following years, new Soviet aircraft, such as Yakovlev Yak-18, Polikarpov Po-2, Lavochkin La-9, Tupolev Tu-2, and Ilyushin Il-10 entered service. In 1951, 9 Yakovlev Yak-17s and Yak-23s entered the air force, and in 1952, another 88 MiG-15 aircraft. In 1958, the first supersonic fighter MiG-19 entered the inventory. Three years later, in February 1962, a new fighter was added to the inventory, the MiG-21, which represented one of the most effective fighters of that time.[35]

Starting in 1974, Romanian-made aircraft supplemented the already existing jets. The Romanian IAR-93 attack aircraft flew its first flight on 31 October 1974. It represented a great step forward taking into account that it was the only jet fighter not made by the Soviets, the only one ever manufactured and operated by a Warsaw Pact country.[36]

In 1962, the first helicopter subunits were established and followed later on, in 1965, by the first Soviet Mi-2 and Mi-4 helicopters. From 1968, Mi-8 helicopters will also enter service.[37] Renewing the aircraft fleet process went on with the first 2 MiG-23s arriving on 23 January 1979.[38]

On 14 May 1981, at 20:16, the Soviet spaceship Soyuz-40 was launched from Baikonur to perform a common Romanian-Soviet flight, with Lieutenant Dumitru Prunariu and Colonel Leonid Popov as commander on board. During the early 1980s, the 67th Fighter-Bomber Regiment and the 49th Fighter-Bomber Regiment from Craiova and Ianca were equipped with new IAR-93s, which replaced old MiG-15s and MiG-17s. In December 1989, just a few days before the Romanian revolution against communism began, MiG-29 aircraft entered the Air Force inventory. Initially, 45 MiG-29s were ordered but only 21 were delivered, with the rest of the order being cancelled. The MiG-29s were assigned to the 2nd and 3rd Squadrons of the 57th Fighter Regiment located at the Mihail Kogălniceanu Airport.[39]


The MiG-29 was withdrawn in 2003

In 1990, the last MiG-15 fighters were retired from the 49th Aviation Regiment, located at Ianca. In 1992, production of the IAR-93 was stopped following the start of the Yugoslav Civil Wars. The last IAR-93s were retired in 1998. By 1 June 1995 the Air Force dropped the communist era regimental system in favor of a system consisting of Air Bases, Groups and Squadrons.[40]

Due to financial constraints, being unable to purchase new fighers, the Romanian Air Force decided to invest in the upgrade of the MiG-21 fighters. Following a competition between several companies, the Israeli company Elbit was chosen, and the MiG-21M and MF/MF-75 versions were selected. The program was originally called the "DD program" as a tribute to the fighter pilot and writer Doru Davidovici, who died in a MiG-21 crash in 1989. The upgrade program was later renamed to "Lancer", designated as "LanceR" with capital "R" in Romania.[40] The first flight of an upgraded MiG, a LanceR 'A' ground attack variant, took place on 22 August 1995.[41]

The Romanian MiG-29 fleet was also intended to undergo modernization under a project named "Sniper" done by DASA, Aerostar and Elbit. The first flight took place on 5 May 2000 and the prototype was presented at ILA 2000.[42][43] However, the modernization project was canceled due to various reasons and the MiG-29s were retired.[44]

Following its entry into the Partnership for Peace program in 1994, Romania started cooperating with other countries with the goal of eventually joining NATO. For this, Romanian Air Force aircraft participated in many local or abroad exercises and airshows. Before joining NATO, the 86th Group at Borcea started to convert into a NATO compatible unit by making improvements to the base's infrastructure, allowing its pilots to fly a fair amount of training hours and work according to NATO procedures.[40]

During the period of reorganization, starting from the year 2000, other aircraft models such as the MiG-23 fighters, the Harbin H-5 bombers and the IAR 823 and L-39 Albatros trainers were retired, the latter of which was retired in 2007.[40][45] Along with the retiring of airplanes, several bases were disbanded as well, including the Alexeni Airfield, the 49th Air Base from Ianca and the 91st Air Base from Deveselu. The 93rd Air Base from Timișoara was also disbanded and currently serves as an annex to the 71st Air Base.[40]

In the spring of 2009, the Romanian government decided to purchase VSHORAD/SHORAD systems from France.[46] The deal included Mistral MANPADS and MICA VL surface-to-air missiles.[47] However, after preliminary talks with MBDA in August, the deal was put on hold and canceled afterwards because of the defense cuts.[48]

In February 2010, the Supreme Council of National Defense signed an agreement with the United States for missile defence under whose terms land-based SM-3 systems would be installed in Romania. On 3 May 2011, the president of Romania Traian Băsescu announced the location for the SM-3 systems: former Air Force base Deveselu in Olt County.[49] The system includes 3 batteries with 24 SM-3 Block I rockets, manned by approximately 200 US soldiers (with a maximum of 500) initially under Romanian Air Force overall command.[49] The Deveselu Aegis Ashore site was declared operational on 13 May 2016.[50]

2022 Russian Invasion of Ukraine

On the starting day of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, two F-16s from the 53rd Fighter Squadron were sent to intercept a Sukhoi Su-27 of the Ukrainian Air Force that was approaching Romanian airspace. The Su-27 was escorted to the 95th Air Base where the pilot was taken by Romanian authorities.[51] The Ukrainian Minister of Defence, Oleksiy Reznikov, quickly apologized for this event and requested the return of the airplane and its pilot. After a maintenance team from Ukraine fixed the technical issues of the fighter,[52] the aircraft was returned without its weapons on 1 March, being escorted by two MiG-21 LanceRs to the border where other Ukrainian airplanes took over.[53][54]

On 2 March 2022, a MiG-21 LanceR was lost while on an air patrol inside Romanian airspace near Cogealac, 60 miles from the Ukrainian border. This "occurred amid increased air police missions in Romania after the Russian invasion of Ukraine." An IAR 330 on a search and rescue mission for the missing MiG-21 crashed with seven fatalities.[55][56] The eight servicemen who died in the two accidents were posthumously promoted and decorated by the president of Romania.[57] Shortly after, fake news claiming that the Romanian MiG was shot down by Ukrainian S-300 missile systems appeared. These claims were officially refuted.[58] The preliminary analysis published on 23 March showed that the crashes occurred due to human and environmental factors.[59]

As of 13 December 2022, Romanian Air Force and allied aircraft took part in more than 150 air policing missions since the start of Russia's invasion. The majority of the missions involved Russian aircraft approaching Romanian airspace. Other missions involved coordinating civilian aircraft which had reported bomb threats or after their communications were interrupted.[60]

International deployments

Romanian MiG-21 of the Baltica 07 Detachment ready for a night mission

2007 Baltic Air Policing

Four MiG-21 LanceR Cs were deployed from August–November 2007 at Šiauliai Air Base in Lithuania for Baltic Air Policing. The Romanian detachment succeeded the French Air Force Mirage 2000Cs of Escadron de Chasse 01.012 from Cambrai, which fulfilled the Baltic Air Policing since May 2007. Once the RoAF finished its three-month stint, a Portuguese Air Force detachment took over the mission.[61]

The four aircraft and most of the staff came from the 71st Air Base. A total of 67 personnel, among them nine pilots, were part of the detachment: 63 served at Šiauliai, while other four served at the air traffic control centre in Kaunas, to ensure smooth cooperation with local authorities. The Romanian detachment attracted attention from the local media, not least from the fact that it was only the second time a Soviet-era jet fighter was deployed to Šiauliai (Polish Air Force MiG-29s had been deployed there first in 2006).[62]

2019–2020 mission to Mali

From October 2019 to November 2020, the Carpathian Pumas detachment of the 572nd Helicopter Squadron was deployed to Mali as part of MINUSMA. The detachment consisted of four IAR 330L helicopters and 120 personnel deployed on two rotations which took part in MEDEVAC, CASEVAC, troop and materiel transport, air patrol, and reconnaissance missions.[63] By the end of the mission to Mali, the detachment flew over 380 missions, of which approximately 100 transport missions, 200 reconnaissance missions, and 18 medical missions during which more than 40 patients were evacuated. It operated in the UN sectors in the Mopti and Kidal regions.[64]

One IAR 330 was damaged in August 2020. It was located at the Douentza base when the helicopter was overturned by a storm. No injuries occurred as a result of the accident.[65]

2023 Baltic Air Policing

In November 2022, it was announced that Romanian F-16s were to participate in the Baltic Air Policing missions between April and July 2023.[66] The Carpathian Vipers detachment was established 14 March 2023. It was formed by four F-16 and 100 servicemen primarily from the 53rd Fighter Squadron of the 86th Air Base, and was led by Commander Cosmin Vlad.[67][68] The Romanian detachment was deployed together with a Portuguese detachment, taking over the Baltic Air Policing mission from the previous French and Polish detachments.[69]

The deployment ended on 31 July, with the Romanian F-16s being succeeded by a detachment of Italian Eurofighter Typhoons.[70] The repatriation ceremony for the personnel took place on 8 August at the 86th Air Base.[71] Between April and July, the Romanian fighters intercepted over 60 Russian aircraft and participated in various multinational exercises totaling 600 fight hours.[72]


See also: List of Romanian Air Force units

Air Force General Staff

The Romanian Air Force General Staff represents the military concept-developing, command and executive structure providing Air Forces peacetime, crisis and wartime leadership in order to reach, maintain and increase, as required, the operational level of the military subordinated structures so that to be able to operate under authorized commands responsible for military operations planning and conduct.

Generate, mobilize, structure, equip, operationalize and regenerate the required forces, provide the logistic support necessary to conduct military operations and based on higher orders, take over both the Joint Operation Air Component and independent air operations command and control, through the Main Air Operational Center. Starting with 1 July 2010, the Romanian Air Force bases were renamed to Air Flotillas.[73] The names were kept until 1 December 2013, when they were changed back to Air Bases.[74]


Romanian Air Force is located in Romania
Romanian Air Force
Romanian Air Force radar stations
Fighter base Helicopters Other flying units
AN/FPS-117(V) Radar station Air Component Command Air Signals and IT Centre
Alenia C-27J Spartan RoAF 90th Airlift Base

The current structure of the Romanian Air Force is as follows:[75]

A IAR 99 Șoim in 100th anniversary of aviation colours

Reserve air bases

Capu Midia Training Range

Main article: Capu Midia Training Range

The Capu Midia Surface-to-air Training and Air-to-Surface Shooting Range provides firing training, execution and evaluation facilities. It is located in Constanța County, 20 kilometres (12 mi) north of the city of, Constanța.



Further information: List of aircraft of the Romanian Air Force

An F-16AM lands at Borcea Air Base
Romanian Air Force IAR 330 SOCAT
Aircraft Origin Type Variant In service Notes
Combat Aircraft
F-16 Fighting Falcon United States multirole F-16AM/BM 20[103][104] 29 surplus Norwegian units on order[105][106]

4 used for conversion training[103][104]

Antonov An-30 Soviet Union surveillance 2[103]
Antonov An-26 Soviet Union transport 1[103]
C-27J Spartan Italy transport 7[103]
C-130 Hercules United States tactical airlifter C-130B 8[107] 4 are H variants[103]
IAR 330 Romania utility / transport 57[103] 22 SOCAT used in a gunship role
Trainer Aircraft
IAR 99 Romania jet trainer 21[108]
IAR 316 Romania trainer / utility 7[103] Licensed built SA316B
Yakovlev Yak-52 Romania trainer 14[103]
RQ-7 Shadow United States surveillance Shadow 600 6[109]

Note: Three C-17 Globemaster III and five RQ-4D are available through the Strategic Airlift Capability, and Alliance Ground Surveillance programs[110][111]

Air Defense

The Romanian Air Force also has several anti-aircraft systems:[112]

The first Romanian MIM-104 Patriot battery, 29 October 2020
Name Origin Type In service Notes
MIM-104 Patriot United States SAM system 4 batteries[113]
MIM-23 Hawk United States SAM system 8 batteries[112][114]
Air Defence Artillery
S-60 57mm Soviet Union Mobile anti-aircraft Towed gun[115]
P-14 Soviet Union Radar 2D VHF radar[116]
P-18 Soviet Union Radar 2-dimensional air search radar[117]
P-37 (radar) [ro] Soviet Union Radar E band/F band 2D radar[118]
PRV-13 [ro] Soviet Union Radar Radar altimeter[119]
AN/TPS-79(R) United States 3D radar 17 Medium range 3D radar- co-produced in Romania[120][121]
AN/FPS-117 United States 3D radar (5) FPS-117 / (5) TPS-77[122][123][124] Long-range 3D radar

Note: Additionally, five WSR-98D radars owned by the National Meteorological Administration are used for both civilian and military purposes[99][125]

Aircraft markings

The Romanian roundel uses the colours of the Romanian flag. It is used on Romanian Armed Forces vehicles and Romanian Air Force aircraft.

Ranks and insignia

Main article: Romanian Armed Forces ranks and insignia

NATO code OF-10 OF-9 OF-8 OF-7 OF-6 OF-5 OF-4 OF-3 OF-2 OF-1 OF(D) Student officer
 Romanian Air Force[127]
Mareșal General General-locotenent General-maior General de flotilă aeriană Comandor Căpitan-comandor Locotenent-comandor Căpitan Locotenent Sublocotenent
NATO code OR-9 OR-8 OR-7 OR-6 OR-5 OR-4 OR-3 OR-2 OR-1
 Romanian Air Force[127]
Plutonier adjutant principal Plutonier adjutant Plutonier-major Plutonier Sergent-major Sergent Caporal clasa I Caporal clasa a II-a Caporal clasa a III-a Fruntaș Soldat

See also



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