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November 4 (SeeNews) - Romania's government signed a contract for the acquisition of 32 F-16 fighter aircraft from Norway for 388 million euro ($380 million), the defence ministry said on Friday.
The first aircraft will be delivered towards the end of 2023 under the three-year contract signed with the Norwegian government, the defence ministry said in a press release.
The 32 F-16 jets of the M6.5.2 configuration will be delivered with spare engines and logistical support. They will be delivered to Romania in operational condition, and are expected to be used by the country's Air Force for at least 10 years, respectively during the transition period to fifth-generation fighter jets.
The purchase will increase Romania's defense capability and ensure its contribution to collective defense within NATO, the ministry noted.
Romania's government approved the deal in June, when it announced that the acquisition price would be 454 million euro without VAT. At the time, the defence ministry said that the purchase will allow Romania to withdraw its Soviet-era MiG-21 jets from use. The parliament gave the green light to the acquisition at the end of 2021.
NATO member Romania currently has a fleet of 17 F-16 combat aircraft, all bought from Portugal.
Since August 2020, aircraft construction and repair company Aerostar [BSE:ARS] is the provider of maintenance and upgrade services for the country's F-16s in Romania.
In May, the defence ministry said that it has received the necessary approvals to fly its Soviet-era MiG-21 jets for another year, after grounding them for two months following a crash.
President Klaus Iohannis said in February that Romania plans to buy Lockheed Martin's F-35 aircraft as part of its Air Force modernisation programme.
In March, Iohannis announced that Romania needs to increase defence spending to 2.5% of gross domestic product from 2%, following the Russian invasion of neighbouring Ukraine.
Romania, which joined NATO in 2004, has said it plans to spend a total of 9.8 billion euro until 2026 to boost its defence capabilities.
Aerostar Bacau shares traded 0.68% higher at 7.4 lei ($1.48/1.51 euro) as at 1611CET on Thursday on the Bucharest Stock Exchange.
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