NATO Member Romania Pushes to Buy US-Made F-35 Fighter Jets

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Two U.S. Air Force F-35 Lightning II fly over Romania.
Two U.S. Air Force F-35 Lightning II aircraft assigned to the 34th Fighter Squadron at Hill Air Force Base, Utah, fly over the 86th Air Base, Romania, Thursday, Feb. 24, 2022. (Senior Airman Ali Stewart/U.S. Air Force via AP)

BUCHAREST, Romania — Romania’s top defense body approved on Tuesday the acquisition of an unspecified number of American-made F-35 fighter jets, as the NATO-member state pushes to modernize its air force, Romania’s presidential office said.

The office of President Klaus Iohannis, who chaired a Supreme Council of National Defense meeting in the capital Bucharest on Tuesday, said members of the council approved the purchase of the “latest generation” Lockheed Martin F-35 aircraft.

“The achievement of robust, credible, interoperable, flexible and efficient air defense operational capabilities … assumed as a result of NATO and EU membership, as well as to deter a possible aggression, is the essential condition for fulfilling the objectives of the defense policy of Romania,” the statement read.

“The process of modernization of the Air Force will continue with the purchase of the latest generation F-35 aircraft,” it said.

Iohannis’ office did not specify how many F-35 fighters Romania would look to purchase or when it would buy them. The acquisition would also need Parliamentary approval but is expected to be widely supported.

The announcement comes after Romania, which joined NATO in 2004 and the European Union in 2007, boosted defense spending last year following Russia's war in Ukraine, Romania’s neighbor.

After Moscow’s forces rolled into Ukraine in February 2022, NATO bolstered its presence on Europe’s eastern flank by sending additional multinational battlegroups to alliance members Romania, Hungary, Bulgaria, and Slovakia.

Romania has played an increasingly large role in the alliance throughout the war, including hosting a NATO meeting of foreign ministers in November.

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