Romania will use its fleet of Soviet-era MiG-21s for one more year, the Ministry of Defence said Thursday, just a month after deciding to ground them following a slew of problems.
“Our Air Force made an analysis based on objective criteria, like the regional security context, the solutions we have for defending our airspace and personnel safety,” said ministry spokesman Constantin Spinu.
The jets will be used only for air policing missions and flight training.
“The intention is to retire them definitively on 15 May of next year,” said Spinu.
NATO member Romania is dependent on a squadron of F-16 jets bought recently from Portugal and on allied air policing missions.
NATO strengthened its eastern flank following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which has included sending troop reinforcements and equipment to Romania, which shares a border with Ukraine.
Romania has pledged to accelerate its efforts to buy 32 F-16 jets from Norway, adding two more squadrons to the country’s air force, according to Spinu.
The precise number of MiG-21 fighters is confidential in Romania, but unofficial estimates say it is around 25.
During the communist regime, the country had around 400 MiG-21s.
But “a considerable number of incidences and aviation accidents reported while using the MiG-21 LanceR” pushed Romania to suspend its use last month.
The announcement came one day after the Romanian military reported that a MiG-21 experienced problems with its landing gear.
And On March 2, a MiG-21 disappeared from the radar while on patrol near the Black Sea. It was later found to have crashed, killing the pilot.