A short U.S. Air Force deployment to Romania is doubling the number of F-16 fighter jets in the country, ahead of Romanian plans to purchase more of the U.S.-made aircraft.
More than 250 airmen and a dozen F-16C fighter jets from the Fort Worth, Texas-based 457th Fighter Squadron deployed to Romania this month to strengthen regional air defenses and deter possible Russian aggression, stripes.com informs.
“We have our ‘friendly’ neighbor on the east side, that sometimes puts a lot of pressure, not only on our country, but on the entire eastern flank of NATO,” said Romanian Maj. Cosmin Tanase, who has been working with the U.S. airmen. “Having the U.S. Air Force in Romania ensures that any possible aggression would be taken care of right away and would make [them] think twice before coming here.”
“Of course, we have our own planes, but having a dozen U.S. fighter jets on base helps a lot,” Tanase added.
The three-month deployment is part of Operation Atlantic Resolve, the ongoing U.S. mission to reassure allies in Europe by positioning troops and equipment to NATO’s Eastern borders in response to a resurgent Russia.
“I think our presence here in the region, and our resolve to work with our allies, like Romania, will deter any aggression,” said Lt. Col. Josh Padgett, the squadron commander. “Security in Europe is paramount to security in the United States, and missions like this help to strengthen Europe and the NATO alliance.”
The deployment of the 12 4th generation multirole fighters also gives the transitioning Romanian air force more experience with the jets, Tanase said, stripes.com also reads.
In 2013, Romania purchased 12 F-16s from Portugal, and now plans on adding 41 more of the jets in the years to come, according to a statement from Romanian Defense Minister Gabriel Les last month.