The Romanian Supreme Defense Council (CSAT) has confirmed the intention to purchase F-35 fifth-generation fighter jets. “The air force modernization process will continue through the acquisition of the latest generation F-35 aircraft,” explained the CSAT in a statement issued this week, days after the request for military purchases made by the Ministry of National Defense for a total amount of 10,000 million euros. This list does not specify plans to take over the Lockheed Martin planes, which, however, Romania had previously indicated.
The country, which is now receiving second-hand F-16 combat aircraft from Norway, had already pointed out that it is part of its strategy to have fifth-generation F-35 aircraft, which it hopes to receive in the next decade. The country is one of five that the US identified in a 2019 official report as potential F-35 buyers. Of the others (Singapore, Greece, Poland and Spain), only Spain has not yet announced plans to acquire these aircraft, although it is expected to end up doing so, mainly to have units of the F-35B version, the only current ones capable of operate on the Spanish ship Juan Carlos I.
The statement issued this Tuesday by the CSAT takes an important leap in the Romanian strategy, by putting black on white in an official document its intention to purchase the fifth-generation American combat aircraft. Thus, Bucharest joins Poland, Greece and Singapore in this club of new F-35 buyers. The war in Ukraine is considered one of the main drivers of the increase in buyers of these aircraft that have been taking place in recent months, although some were already adding up a little earlier. These movements are reviewed in the following paragraphs.
Singapore announced last February that it will complete the fleet of a dozen F-35B fifth-generation combat aircraft in which it has been working for three years, since the United States Department of State authorized the operation in January 2020, then estimated at 2.75 billion dollars, to get hold of these devices. This is the same variant (B), and the minimum number, that the Spanish Navy wants to replace the AV-8B with which it currently operates from the ship Juan Carlos I.
Greece confirmed its entry into this group when last July, the Greek Prime Minister, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, revealed the “intention to acquire one F-35 squadron with the possible option of a second”, while Athens sent a letter of request (LoR, as this formula is known by its acronym in English) in which the request for about twenty of these fighters is specified to complete that first squad.
Poland was the first of the five countries cited by the Pentagon four years ago now as potential buyers of the model that confirmed its acquisition. At the beginning of 2020, the US accepted the sale to the country of 32 F-35s for 4.6 billion euros.
Beyond this group of five intended buyers, of which Spain has now remained the only one that has not yet confirmed its purchase intention, new customers for the F-35 have joined in recent months.
Germany and Canada buy it after rejecting it
Germany, which came to be fiercely opposed to not even talking about a possible purchase of F-35s (he even dismissed the head of his air force for doing so), ended up last December approving the purchase of 35 units in a package estimated at 10,000 million euros.
The Czech Republic officially confirmed last summer the start of the purchase process for 24 F-35s, after the corresponding authorization from the country’s council of ministers to its Defense Ministry.
Finland formalized early last year the purchase of 64 units of the F-35 to replace its aging fleet of F-18 Hornets.
Switzerland decided in 2021 to acquire 36 F-35As for just over 5,000 million francs (more than 5,100 million euros at current exchange rates).
Canada has also gone on to negotiate with Lockheed Martin for the purchase of 88 units of the fifth-generation fighter that until a few months ago it refused to acquire, in a case similar to that of Germany. Although the Canadian particularity is that it is one of the partner countries of the program (the others are, in addition to the United States, as the absolute leader, the United Kingdom, Italy, Australia, Denmark, the Netherlands and Norway, after Turkey was left out in 2019 ).
Looking at Europe, we therefore have that there are already a dozen countries on the old continent that have the F-35 or are acquiring it. The next could also be Austria, from which a few months ago it emerged that its Defense Ministry has been compiling information to evaluate the purchase from Lockheed Martin. Vienna has been debating for five years what to do with its current fleet of Eurofighter combat aircraft, manufactured in Europe, and whose purchase, commissioned in 2003, was even considered rescinding because the circumstances of its purchase were not clear, although it has now been It is known that its possible plans also include the modernization of the Eurofighter.
10,750 million expected by Madrid
As for Spain, it is known that Defense requested non-binding information in May 2021 about a possible purchase of F-35s from the US, but without specifying a number of aircraft yet. Although the compass that most clearly points towards this possibility is the one included in the latest Defense budgets. It contemplates a forecast of spending of 6,250 million euros in part for the replacement of the current AV-8B short takeoff and vertical landing (STVOL) aircraft of the Navy, which sets its sights directly on the North American aircraft; mainly because the F-35B variant is the only one capable of operating on ships like the Spanish Juan Carlos I.
It so happens that in the same game of 6,250 million there is a second phase of replacement of the Spanish fleet of F-18 fighters (there is a first phase of replacement of more F-18s, known at the same time as the second and estimated in another 4,500 million euros), which has also opened the door to suspicions that Madrid’s purpose also includes the purchase of units of the conventional variant, F-35A.