The U.S. Air Force has constructed a hangar at Romania’s 71st Air Base at Campia Turzii, and it could be used to house MQ-9 Reapers and support intelligence-gathering operations around Eastern Europe and the Black Sea, Defense News has learned.
United States Air Forces Europe declined to comment on whether the Air Force had concrete plans to begin operating MQ-9s from Campia Turzii in the near future, but the new facility could pave the way for a first-ever deployment of the Reaper to Romania.
“As a matter of policy, we do not speculate on potential deployments or future aircraft unit movements. U.S. Air Forces in Europe routinely moves a variety of aircraft around Europe for theater familiarization, to conduct training, and support combatant commander objectives,” Capt. Nathan Czuba, program manager for the European Deterrence Initiative, said in a statement.
According to a U.S. Air Forces Europe document listing U.S. Air Force construction projects at Campia Turzii, the new USD 950 million hangar will be able to house medium-altitude, long-endurance drones — presumably the MQ-9, the only MALE unmanned aerial system currently in use by the service — while meeting “all the security requirements” necessary for UAS operations, defensenews.com informs.
Defense News saw the completed hangar during a trip to the base in July, just months after construction ended.
It was built by an eight-person team of Air Force engineers from October 2017 to May 2018, said Brig. Gen. Roy Agustin, U.S. Air Forces Europe’s director of logistics, engineering and force protection, during a July 31 interview.
While Agustin confirmed it “could definitely service an MQ-9,” it could also be used to support manned aircraft like the F-15s and A-10s that have been temporarily deployed to Romania over the past several years.
Even though the Air Force is remaining mum about when an MQ-9 deployment to Romania could take place, it seems likely that it’s only a matter of time until the service flies Reapers from Campia Turzii, now that supporting infrastructure has been built.
Jim Townsend, who was the deputy assistant secretary of defense for European and NATO policy from 2008 to 2017 and is currently a senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security, said an MQ-9 Reaper deployment to Romania would probably be greeted with approval by the country and other nearby partner nations like Turkey and Bulgaria.