(Bloomberg) -- Romania is poised to sign a $6.5 billion contract to upgrade its air force with US-made F-35 aircraft, the Black Sea nation’s biggest such deal to date as Russia’s war with Ukraine rages on the other side of the border.
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Defense Minister Angel Tilvar said the government is awaiting parliamentary approval for the acquisition of 32 Lockheed Martin Corp.-made fighter jets along with logistics equipment, training and ammunition. The fleet should be in operation from 2030, he said.
“The war has literally moved to our doorstep for these last few weeks,” Tilvar said in an e-mailed response to Bloomberg, citing fresh Russian attacks on Danube river ports near Romania’s eastern border. “We are not ignoring these risks by any means.”
A North Atlantic Treaty Organization member since 2004, Romania has bolstered its air-defense capabilities with a High Launch Multiple Rocket System, HIMARS, which is expected to become fully operational next year — as well as three Bayraktar unmanned aerial systems, to be delivered in 2024, Tilvar said.
The nation is also awaiting the delivery of 32 F-16 fighters from Norway through 2025. Four Patriot missile batteries for air defense have been delivered, while a contract for a further three is likely to be signed by the end of 2023, the minister said.
Read More: Russia Escalates Attacks on Danube in Risk for Ukraine Grain
Romania, the European Union member state that shares the longest border with Ukraine, has gradually boosted defense spending since 2014 and pledged to allocate about 2.5% of its gross domestic product for defense in the coming years.
Anxiety among people living close to the border has been growing after recent Russian attacks on Ukraine’s Reni and Izmail ports on the Danube, as they fear drones and missiles going off course could hit Romanian territory.
“While Romania, as a NATO member, benefits from the security guarantees of the Alliance and this offers the best security guarantee possible, it is a scenario that is taken into consideration by our military,” Tilvar said. “I can confidently say that we are prepared for any contingency situations.”
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