Tuesday, January 25, 2022

After Greece & Croatia Opting For Rafales, Romania Likely To Acquire Norway’s F-16 Second-Hand Fighter Jets

In the past year, a number of countries have either bought or expressed the intention to buy second-hand fighter jets for a variety of reasons. Croatia, India, and Greece are among the nations that have signed contracts to obtain used aircraft. Now, Romania is likely to join this group with a deal for Norway’s F-16s.

Used Rafales For Croatia

French President Emmanuel Macron visited Croatia in late November. During that visit, Croatian Defence Minister Mario Banožić and his French counterpart Florence Parly signed a deal for 12 second-hand Rafale F3-R fighter jets to be used by the Croatian Air Force.

This was the culmination of the decision that Zagreb reached last May when the country selected Dassault Rafale for a deal that was valued at around US$1.1 billion. Additionally, the scope of the contract also extends to weapon systems, spare parts, logistics, as well as training that the Croatian Air Force will require.

Rafale in flight
Dassault Rafale

France has to make the delivery of the first six twin-engine aircraft in 2024, while the remaining six jets will be supplied in 2025.

The entry of these 12 warplanes will allow Croatia’s Air Force to replace its aging Soviet-designed MiG-21 fighters that belong to the era of the former Yugoslavia. These aircraft are outdated, with only a few still remaining operational.

India’s Deal For Mirage Spare Parts

End of August this year, the Indian Air Force (IAF) inked a deal worth about Rs 300 crore with a French private firm for the acquisition of phased-out Mirage 2000 jets that are intended for providing spares to the current Mirage fleet of the country.

Under the contract, the IAF has essentially purchased 24 second-hand Mirage 2000 fighters made by French firm Dassault Aviation. The deal is an attempt towards strengthening the Air Force’s aging fleet of fourth-generation fighters, while also simultaneously securing parts for its two present squadrons of the Mirage 2000.

The immediate need for 300 critical spares acted as the trigger for this acquisition of the used aircraft. The deal has been made at a time when this warplane is becoming obsolete in France.

IAF Mirage 2000
An IAF Mirage 2000 fighter jet

It is interesting to note that this is the second deal that India has made recently to ensure the availability of spares. The Print reported that the IAF had also signed an agreement with the French Air Force for supplying 16 phased-out Mirages last year. Their delivery was completed in 2021.

The report further said that parts, such as the wings of an aircraft are used till breakdown; if any of the IAF’s aircraft wings develop a crack, the wing from the second-hand aircraft can be utilized.

This also applies to the engine of Indian Mirages that, despite being more powerful, have 80 percent similarity with the original, allowing many parts to be used for this component as well. As of November 25, India had already received 2 second-hand Mirage 2000 aircraft from his batch.

First European Rafale Buyer — Greece

In January this year, in a 2.5 billion euro deal, Greece placed an order for 18 Rafale warplanes with France. Of these, 12 were to be second-hand. The purpose of this acquisition was to boost the Hellenic Air Force’s capability in light of rising tensions with neighboring Turkey.

Later on, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis revealed plans to acquire an additional six Rafales.

Greece-Rafale
The first Hellenic Air Force Rafale (via Twitter)

While Greece made this move, Turkey remained on the lookout for fighter jets to fill its Air Force’s spots before its own indigenous warplane is ready for service. The EurAsian Times had previously reported about the Danish Air Force looking to sell around 16-24 of the 43 F-16s that it has.

There was some speculation about Turkey being a potential customer for the F-16s that Denmark is looking to replace as it gears up for the acquisition of 27 F-35s arriving y 2027.

Romania — The Latest To Join The League

Romania’s Ministry of National Defence asked its lawmakers to give the go-ahead to the purchase of 32 second-hand F-16 fighter jets from Norway under a deal that is valued at approximately $513 million.

Of this amount, about $400 million is allocated to Norway for the purchase of the planes while the rest will serve as payment for logistics and equipment handled by the US.

Norway-F-16AM
A Norwegian F-16AM. (Wikimedia Commons)

The Royal Norwegian Air Force is replacing the F-16s with the “most advanced” F-35 stealth fighters. The acquisition of these 32 fighter jets will enable Romania, which is already operating 17 F-16s, to retire its outdated Soviet-era MiG-21 planes.

Romanian Minister of Defense, Vasile Dîncu, said that buying the additional F-16s would allow the country’s air force to conduct more monitoring and surveillance, particularly on its east coast.

Dîncu also noted that his state’s military was “not very well equipped,” implying the need to pour money in more aircraft and ships- even the ones that were manufactured decades ago.

Dîncu believes that the second-hand F-16s are functional, in good condition, and still “viable” for at least another 10 years.

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