"Now reports in the Israeli press indicated that Romania and may go another route, and spend $150 million to purchase 'dozens' of used F-16A Netz (Hebrew for 'Falcon') aircraft from Israel. Israeli contractor Elbit Systems would be the lead contractor, overseeing their refurbishment and upgrade with newer Israeli electronics.
This could be a good deal for both parties. The Romanians would receive a version of the most widely-adopted fighter in NATO, with electronics that would be interoperable with NATO standards. The reports note that the Israeli Air force ('Cheyl Ha'Avir') plans to phase out at least some of its 75 older F-16A/B planes as it introduces 102 new F-16I Soufa (Storm) jets, which incorporate all of the F-16 Block 52 advancements plus Israeli electronics and weapons. Reports claim that a special committee has been set up to coordinate the various stages of what seems to be a complicated deal.
Its possible choices also tend to narrow down to the lightweight fighter segment, in order to achieve even the 24 modern fighters desired for the kind of money the country will want to spend.
That leaves a small set of options:
* Used F-16 Falcons, from Israel or from other NATO countries.
* Mirage 2000s, possibly used, from France.
* Leased JAS-39 Gripens from Sweden. May be more expensive than used aircraft, but provides a 4th-generation fighter and comes with industrial offsets.
* Russian aircraft with upgraded Western avionics et. al., much as Israel did for their Lancers. The MiG-29 is the only modern Russian fighter in Romania's likely cost profile. Downsides include minimized NATO interoperability, and extra costs per plane due to the required refit.
The one potential downside to the F-16 is the necessity of US approval for technology transfer or sale. After all, these Romanian deal rumours come hot on the heels of the forced freeze of Venezuela's $100 million F-16A upgrade contract with Israel, under a new system in which the USA exercises far more say than ever before regarding Israeli weapons deals.
In Romania's case, however, Israel is transferring the weapons themselves, not just maintaining them with Israeli technology. Formal American approval has always been required for any transfer of US equipment to third countries.
Fortunately, sales to a new NATO member like Romania aren't likely to attract any vetos from the USA.
Indeed, rumor has it that the potential deal with Romania was given a provisional green light by the American government and by Lockheed Martin. If matters have reached that point, the F-16 deal with the Israeli government is at a more advanced stage than the Romanians are letting on."
Photo © Yuval Lapid
Photo © Chris Lofting
Photo © Ofer zidon
Photo © Ofer zidon
Admittedly, those early, former ANG A/Bs are tired old birds and the $150M price reflects it - but could this be the breakthrough needed for IAI's Falcon ACE upgrade package to gain its first sale?