by Marinus Dirk Tabak and Jack Bosma
Romanian Air Force
The Romanian Air Force had to mid '80s a typical eastern bloc composition of aircraft types. The exception was the helicopter fleet mainly of French origin. After the revolution in December 1989 and the end of the Cold War between East and West, relatively few changes followed within the Romanian Air Force. But striking aspect was that the Romanian Air Force was already going for an update of the MiG-21. Slowly older not updated MiG-21 versions and later the MiG-23 and even the MiG-29 were phased out and replaced by Lancers. In 2004 Romania became a member of NATO. Finally a number of MiG-21 Lancer Cs stayed in service for the air defence, and in addition a relatively large number of Puma helicopters.
With the purchase in October 2013 of twelve used F-16s the Romanian Air Force put a big change in motion and it put a significant step forward. The training, the knowledge and the method of operation were brought in line with NATO procedures.The F-16s will be stationed in Fetesti near Bucharest. This airbase is currently thoroughly modernized. Future F-16 pilots are trained in Portugal and the United States. Some pilots who already completed their training are now flying in Portugal with the Portugese Air Force. Nine F-16s were acquired from the Portuguese Air Force, and the other three are ex-USAF Vipers. Currently the F-16s are at OGMA-Alverca in Portugal where they will be made ready for the Romanian Air Force.
For the air defense of Romania the Air Force currently has 20 Lancer Cs in active duty distributed over two squadrons. For training each squadron has three to four MiG-21UM Lancer Bs. The Lancer is a modernized version of the MiG-21. In 1993 a contract was signed of $ 300 million with Aerostar Romania and Elbit from Israel for the modernization of the MiG-21. There were three versions:
• Lancer A, for ground attack. 71 conversions of 34 MiG-21Ms, 30 MiG-21MFs and seven MiG- 21MF-75s.
• Lancer B, the trainer conversion of the MiG-21UM, initially ten, and finally fourteen at the expense of two Lancer As and two Cs.
• Lancer C, for air defense, 26 conversions, 24 MiG-21MF-75s and two MiG-21MFs. The MiG-21MF-75 is built in 1975 in Gorki and it is a version of the MiG-21MF. It already had some MiG-21bis avionics. The MiG-21MF was constructed in Moscow, but in this factory space was needed for the production of the MiG-23 MF. And therefore the production of the MF-version moved to Gorki where the production was continued for a year.
MiG-21MF Lancer C 9611, just on hold before the MiG turned on the runway. 9611 is one of the two MiG-21MFs which have been converted to Lancer C.
[Campia Turzii, June 2015]
MiG-21UM Lancer B 172 from 711 Esc., is one of the five ex Sovjet trainers received by the Air Force of Romania in 1980. [Campia Turzii, June 2015]
Pilot just before the start-up of a MiG-21MF Lancer C. Striking at the MiG-21 is that sheet metal is not tight.
In terms of equipment the MiG-21 became a modern aircraft. It contains:
• A multi-role computer;
• MCD, Multifunctional Cockpit Display monitors in the cockpit (one MDF in the A-version and two MDFs in the
C-version) and a HUD (Head Up Display);
• DASH Display And Sight System helmet with an air-to-ground, air-air, and navigation mode;
• HOTAS, Hands On Throttle And Stick controls;
• New radios, navigation system, IFF on NATO standard and self-protection resources.
In addition to the weapons from the Soviet-time now also suitable for Israeli weapons which include laser guided bombs associated Litening target pointing pod, ARP-pod (Airborne Reconnaissance Pod) and ECM-pods. Lancer A and B are equipped with an Elta EL / M-2001-B ranging radar.
MiG-21 UM Lancer B 176, in standard camouflage, was moved to a nice spot. [Campia Turzii, June 2015]
On a platform are the phased-out Lancer As and Bs. Remarkable is the variety of camouflage. [Campia Turzii, June 2015]
MiG-21MF-75 Lancer A 6801 in a different camouflage on the flightline of Campia Turzii on 24 June 2015.
The Lancer C is equipped with a Elta EL / M-2032 Multi-mode radar. This radar has also been added to the Israeli F-16, Turkish F-4E 2020s and F-5, South Korean F / A-50 and the Kfir C10. Especially the Lancer C, because of this equipment, became a modern and capable aircraft. The disadvantage of the MiG-21 remains his short flight range, and the small number of suspension points. Of each version there was a prototype. Who made their first flights in 1995-1996. These were followed by production conversions at Aerostar on Bacau in the period 1996-2003. The MiG-21 Lancer C participated in various NATO exercises, including the Partnership for Peace Cooperative Key exercise. Organized by Romania itself in 2000. This was followed by further participation in this exercise in 2001 and 2003 in Bulgaria. Another NATO exercise which was attended was i.a. the Nato Meet Bold Avenger. The Cooperative Key exercises formed for candidate NATO-members a preparation for the membership. Romania itself was visited by French Mirage F1s, Dutch F-16s and RAF Harriers and Jaguars. Four MiG-21 Lancer Cs were on detachment at Siauliai, in Lithuania, for Baltic Air Policing from August 2007 until November 2007. Dacian Warhawk is an exercise with American F-16s which took place in 2012. With participation of F-16s from the 100th FS Alabama ANG, AL tail-code, and in 2015 with the 480th FS with SP tail-code. Beautifully was also the Romanian MiG-21 demo with a Lancer B in 2000-2001. This demo was shown in 2001 at the Air Force Open Day at Leeuwarden. (From the MiG-21 demos I've seen the finest one - MDT). It is striking that the Romanians with their MiG-21 Lancers still operate in East-blocstyle from a flight-line, and that on flying days first a weather flight will go out with a Lancer B. The Lancer is also known as Lancer R for Romania.
With the arrival of the Lancers and because of sizable cuts a large number of aircraft were phased out, including older MiG-21 versions, the MiG-21RF(PF), MiG-21RFM(PFM), MiG-21C (R, the reconnaissance version) and trainer versions MiG-21U, 21US and 21UM. The RF, RFM and C were local Romanian indications, the original MiG version indications are in parentheses. Also the cigar was the MiG-23MF and 23UB trainer version: they were phased out. Even the MiG-29 was taken out of service. The Fulcrums were delivered from late 1989, followed by a single one in 1994. The Romanians also had a Fulcrum C, the version with a higher torso back. This type was received from Moldova in 1992 as payment for debts. The Fulcrums were due for major maintenance. The Romanians thought it too expensive and they preferred to fly with the cheaper to fly and modern Lancer. In addition they had the IAR93 Orao fighter bomber, an aircraft that was designed and produced along with Yugoslavia.
After the outbreak of the civil war in Yugoslavia the production of the IAR93 Orao was stopped in 1992. The Orao was equipped with a mix of Eastern Europe and Western avionics. In practice, this meant that almost every aircraft was different. One had an altimeter indicating ft. (feet), and the other one had it in meters. At a given time the pilots refused to fly with the Orao. Therefore In 1998, the Orao was phased out. For the lovers the Orao was an nice airplane, nearly each aircraft was with a different camouflage.
Since 2010 the Lancer As were put into storage when they reached the end of their flight hours. The role of lead in fighter training at Bacau was adopted by the IAR-99C Soim. The MiG-21s and Oraos were stored at Craiova where they were scrapped, or were elevated to monuments.
Another special type within the Romanian Air Force was the H-5, a Chinese copy of the Il-28 jet bomber. This bomber was already retired for a long time in the Warsaw pact. Since Romania under Nicolae Ceauşescu had good relations with China, this country produced between 1971 and 1979 a total of fourteen H-5s for the Romanian Air Force. In connection with the International Air Tattoo at Fairford in 2001 an H-5 was provided with a special paint. But unfortunately it crashed just before this show, which also became the end of the H-5 within the Romanian Air Force.
1104 an An-30, the photo version of the An-26. The 1105 is used for Open Skies missions. [Otopeni, June 2015]
C-27J 2703, the Romanians received in 2001-2005 seven pieces as a replacement for the An-26. [Otopeni, June 2015]
For transport, the Romanians had the An-24 and An-26. Most of the Antonovs were phased out in the beginning of the '90s. Several An-26s had beautiful VIP color schemes.
Most of them are sold, the rest is demolished. Two An-24RTs and four An-26s continued after major maintenance service and were repainted in gray. For reconnaissance and cartography three An-30s were in service. Of these, two remained, of which one is equipped for Open Skies missions.The An-2 was in service until 2010 and was used for para-training. After a fatal accident on July 5, 2010, the An-2s were taken out of service and they are now in storage at Boboc.
There was also a need for heavier transport aircraft. During the Warsaw Pact time the Soviet Union was economical with the delivery of intermediate transport aircraft such as the An-12. Romania did not have such a type. From the Americans Romania received four C-130B Hercules in 1996. They stood in storage at Davis-Monthan and were, after major maintenance on Hill AFB, delivered to the Romanians. Recently a fifth one was added, a former Italian Air Force C-130H. The Romanians called it a super-E because this aircraft did not have same standard as the later Hs. Some Bs are in storage for some time. During our visit to Otopeni we were told that the two Bs will fly again when the engines, after major maintenance, will come back from the USA. In 2011 a contract was signed with Elbit to provide the Hercules with modern avionics. The first Hercules went to Aerostar for these modifications in 2012. As a replacement for the Antonovs seven C-27Js were ordered and delivered in 2010-2015. The last two An-26s are currently in storage at Otopeni awaiting for a buyer.
C-130H 6191 received in April 2006, is ex-Italian Air Force MM61991. Painted in USAF European One camouflage, remarkable in these gray times. [Otopeni, June 2015]
53 is an IAR-316 Alouette III. Still seven are in active duty for flight training.
Within the Eastern bloc Romania did go its own way. Romania has mainly French designed helicopters in service: Pumas and Alouette IIIs. The air force also had more than 30 Mi-8 Hips, which are now out of service, plus five Mi-17s for the police. On the 4th. of December 1970 an agreement was signed with Aerospatiale to build under license by ICA Ghimbov the SA 316 Alouette III with the designation IAR-316B. Until 1987 more than 200 were built of which 60 were exported to France and 10 to Angola. Now there are only six in use for training. Also the SA 330 Puma was built in Romania under license as the IAR 330. Of the 160, 104 went to Romania and 56 were exported. The air force also needed a attack helicopter. IAR Brasov developed, in co-operation with Elbit, an attack version of the Puma, named the SOCAT. The prototype made its first flight on 28 May 1998. In total 25 helicopters were converted.
The first Pumas were built as IAR-330H, but soon followed by the improved IAR 330L. Sixteen were recently, in cooperation with Elbit, converted to IAR 330M NATO standard, a version with various SOCAT systems: this is identified by the radar nose with weather radar. Each helicopter squadron has some Pumas equipped for MEDEVAC, in other words patient transport and Search and Rescue. Striking habit is that prior to a mission first about five minutes a test hover is made. The Puma takes off, hovers ranging in height, and lands again. Approximately fifteen minutes later the Puma departs for its mission. For VIP transport there were SA365N Dauphin 2s. They reached the 2000 flight hours and were put into storage. Later they were made airworthy again. In the meantime they are transferred to the Security service.
IAR-330 SOCAT 61 from 713 Esc. This is the Gunship conversion of the Puma. [Campia Turzzii, June 2015]
Iak-52 34 from the Academy at Boboc. The Iak-52 has been in use since 1985 as basic-trainer. It was built in license at Bacau. The bulk went to the Soviet Union, of which many have been sold now and are flying civil registered.
The pilot training takes place at Boboc. Until 2003 the training was spread out over three bases. From the 1st of August 2003 the school at Boboc was called as Scoala the Aplicatie a pentru a Foretell Aeriene 'Aurel Vlaicu' (abbreviated S.A.p.F.A), the Air Force Training School, including a regional English Language Training Center. Also since 2003 the basic training and the continuing flight training are focused at Boboc. Currently there are approximately 25 students per year. The selection and the basic training of about 60 flight hours takes place on the IAK-52 (Jak-52). All IAK-52s, including those for the Sovjet Union, were built by IAR Bacau (now Aerostar) in Romania. After 25 flight hours there will be decided whether the student will become a fighter pilot, transport or helicopter pilot. Continuing training is about 60 hours. The fighter and transport pilots continue their training upon the IAR-99, one in Romania developed and built jet trainer for continuing training. The IAR-99 replaced the L-29 and the Delphin L-39ZA Albatross.
Then the fighter pilots go to Bacau where they stay with Esc. 205 to continue for the Lead in Fighter Training on the IAR-99C Soim (Hawk), a version of the IAR-99 with a glass cockpit. After that they move on to the MiG-21, in which the conversion takes place at one of the two MiG-21 bases on the MiG-21UM Lancer B. Transport pilots receive their further training at Otopeni. The helicopter pilots then continue on the IAR-316 Alouette III and will also go to Bacau for training on the IAR-330 Puma.
The conversion to the C-27J and IAR-330 takes about 50 hours. Conversion to the C-130 is more complex with more than 100 flight hours. The training of fighter pilots lasted until recently at a total of four years. The program is now more compact and thereby brought back up to 18 months. The first phase of the IAK-52 is six months, then six months on the IAR-99 standard, and finally to Bacau for LIF, Lead In Fighter Training, on the IAR-99C Soim.
Badge on the nose of an An-30.
Is shield of Baza 71. The seven towers symbolize the seven major castles in the province of Transylvania where Campia Turzii is located, including the castle of Drakula.
The shield of Baza 90 Otopeni, the transport base near Bucharest.
In 1995, the Regiments were replaced by a system consisting of air base (Baza Aeriana) numbers, groups (Grupul) and squadrons (Escadrille). On the 1st of July 2010 the name of Baza was replaced by Flotilla. This apparently did not like well. Therefore in 2014 it became Baza again. The Grupul (groups) were disbanded on the 15th of December 2011, the squadrons now resulted directly under the Baza.
In WARPAC-time the types built in the Soviet-Union were delivered in the standard Soviet colors. Most of the MiG-21/23s were silver or gray haze . The Oraos were camouflaged, but it was not really a standard camouflage. Idem for a number of MiG-23s which were, after major maintenance, camouflaged in various schemes and colors.
The transport types and the helicopters were also very varied in the period 1990-2000 . With the arrival of the Lancer conversions the Lancer A and Bs were seen in a variety of schemes, two or three shades of green with dark reddish brown, brown or dark yellow. Sometimes also with gray and blue in a single case. Bottom is blue or light blue.
The Lancer Bs are now in two shades of green with brown and a blue underside.The Lancers C camouflage is an air defense scheme consisting of light gray and two shades of gray, with a light blue bottom. The transport types are light gray (C-27J), gray (An-26/30), USAF European One (C-130). The An-2s are usually green and gray, with one special operations An-2 in green.The Pumas are now in two shades of green and brown (dark yellow). The IAK-52's have a nice scheme, light green, and the colors of the Romanian flag: blue, red and yellow. The IAR-99's are in two shades of green with a light gray bottom. Attractive now is that the airplanes are provided with the base emblem, a sticker in the form of a shield. Exceptions are the types at the Academy at Boboc and the IAR99C Soims at Bacau.
In the Warpac-period usually the last 2-4 of the construction number. Different are i.a. the L-39 and the MiG-21UM, they have a composite number.
For example some MiG-21UMs:
6956 = c/n. 516907056
9516 = c/n. 516945061
There are also types with ascending numbers including the SA 365N Dauphin (201-204), L-29 (14-64), IAR-316 Alouette III, IAR-330 Puma and some VIP Mi-8s. Later also combined numbers. For example, the C-130B, with the last two of the USAF FY followed by the last two of the USAF serial, such as C-130B ex-USAF 61-950, with serial 6150.
The C-130H with the ex-MM number MM61991 shortened to 6191. The C-27J, the type with a serial number, 2701-2707.
Terraced Romanian Air Force 2015: IAR-330M 75 from 903 Esc. Each Puma and SOCAT squadron has some for MEDEVAC equipped Pumas. [Otopeni, June 2015]
MiG-21MF-75 Lancer C 6196. taxied for a scramble to the entry of the runway, turned around and went back to the flight line. [Campia Turzii, June 2015]
IAR-99 701, the academy has the basic version of this jet trainer. The upgraded IAR-99C Soim is used at Bacau for lead-in fighter training. [Boboc, June 2015]
Order of Battle
Câmpia Turzii Baza 71 Aeriana ‘General Emanoil Ionescu’
- Escadrila 711 Aviatie Lupta - MiG-21 Lancer C, B, was eerder het 712e, het 711e had toen de Lancer A, B
- Escadrila 712 Elicoptere IAR-330L/M (gebaseerd op Timisoara – de voormalige 93 Baza Aeriana), was eerder het 714e,
- Escadrila 713 Elicoptere SOCAT - IAR-330SOCAT, IAR-330M
Timisoara/Giarmata Baza 71 Aeriana annex:
- Escadrila 712 Elicoptere - IAR-330L/M
Fetesti Baza 86 Aeriana ‘Locotenent aviator Gheorghe Mociornia’, Cocargeaua (Borcea)
- Escadrila 861 Aviatie Lupta) - MiG-21 Lancer B, C;
- Escadrila 862 Elicoptere (gestationeerd op Mihail Kogalniceanu) – IAR-330 Ba za 86 Aeriana (Bâzu Cantacuzino)
Constanta/Mihail Kogalniceanu Baza 86 Aeriana annex (Bâzu Cantacuzino)
- Escadrila 862 Elicoptere – IAR-330
Bacau, Baza 95 Aeriana, ‘Erou capitan aviator Alexandru erbanescu’
- Escadrila 951 de Aviatia – IAR-99C Soim
- Escadrila 952 de Elicoptere - IAR-330L/M/SOCAT
- Escadrila 205 – leent de IAR99C van Esc 951?
Bucuresti/Henri Coanda Baza 90 Aviatie de Transport ‘Gheorghe Banciulescu’
- Esc.901 Av. Transp. Strategic (strategisch Transport Squadron - C-130B/H Hercules
- Esc.902 Av. Tr. Oper. si Foto (Transport and Verkennings Squadron –C-27J en An-30.
- Esc.903 Elicoptere Transport *helicopter Transport Squadron - IAR-330L/M;
- 142nd Reconnaissance Squadron - Timioara - Giarmata - operating Shadow 600 UAVs
Boboc / Scoala de Aplicatie a pentru Fortele Aeriene ‘Aurel Vlaicu’
- Esc. 1 Aviatie Instr. Faza AI-A - Iak-52, IAR-316B Alouette III
- Esc. 2 Aviatie Instr. Faza AII-A - IAR-99 Standaard
- Scoala Militara de Maistri si Subofiteri a Fortelor Aeriene ‘Traian Vuia’
The latter unit is the school for technicians, with some instruction aircraft including several MiG-21s, IAR-316 and 330s. The various bases and the school are named after Romanian aviation heroes. The drone and air defense units, plus the Police and Service of security, were disregarded.
With thanks to:
- Romanian Air Force, Lt. Laura Istrate
- Romanian Air Force, Public Affairs Office
- 71st Air Base, warrant officer Adela Muresan
- Training School cpt. Alecu Adriana
- 90 th Air Transport Base col. Albu Mihai
The authors Marinus Dirk Tabak en Jack Bosma