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F-35 Fighters: $6.5 Billion Boost For Lockheed As Romania Set To Acquire US Jets; Comes Amid Russian Drone Attack

In a dramatic video captured at the Isaccea border crossing in Romania, a Russian kamikaze drone came dangerously close to unintentionally striking the NATO member, causing border guards to scramble for cover just moments before a massive explosion erupted. 

This incident reportedly damaged the international border crossing connecting Ukraine with its NATO ally, Romania, as the Romanian news outlet Digi24 reported.

The video depicts the unfolding events, capturing the intense atmosphere with blaring air raid sirens and people’s frantic reactions. Viewers can witness a dramatic fiery explosion as the video nears its end. 

The kamikaze drone assault by Russia occurred on the night of September 25-26, aimed at the Ukrainian ports of Reni, Ismail, and Orlivka. 

However, a Russian drone was dangerously close to a ferry carrying Romanian passengers as it departed from Isaccea. In Ismail, Ukraine, the attack caused damage to the port’s infrastructure, resulting in several warehouses and vehicles being affected.

The international checkpoint in the Odesa region on the border with Romania was damaged during an attack by Russian kamikaze drones.

In the video, a voice can be distinctly heard urgently shouting, “Forward, another drone is approaching. Listen! Another one is flying here. Run, it’s coming here! Look, it’s flying straight towards the customs office. Hurry!

Residents of Isaccea have reported hearing loud noises between 2:30 and 3:30 a.m., with sightings of five or six drones in the vicinity. According to reports, no danger notifications were issued to the Romanian population.

In response to the Russian shelling, Coast Guard representatives have confirmed a full closure of the Isaccea border crossing point, particularly in the vicinity of the Orlivka border crossing point in the Izmail region.

“Two ferries providing transportation across the Danube from one bank to the other are currently anchored on the Romanian side,” the authorities said.

Iranian Shahed 136 drone

Nonetheless, the recent incident is not isolated, as prior incidents involving Russian kamikaze drones straying into Romanian territory have been documented. 

In September, Ukraine claimed that two Iranian-origin drones, initially intended for Ukrainian grain-handling port facilities along the Danube, deviated from their intended path and exploded within Romanian territory. These occurrences proved incredibly embarrassing for the Romanian government, which the National Liberal Party leads. 

Romania To Buy F-35 Fighter Jets

The Ministry of Defense in Romania has formally sought parliamentary approval to acquire 32 F-35 military aircraft from the United States at an estimated cost of approximately US$6.5 billion.

The decision to purchase these advanced stealth multirole combat aircraft from the United States was made by the Supreme Council of Defence of the Country (CSAT) back in April.

The CSAT-approved program outlines a two-phase approach to procuring F-35 aircraft. Initially, the Romanian Air Force is set to acquire two squadrons comprising 32 fighter jets. Subsequently, in the second phase, the Romanian Army will secure an additional squadron of 16 aircraft.

In the first phase of this procurement effort, the Romanian Army is earmarking US$6.5 billion for aircraft, engines, logistical support, and services for pilot and staff training and the acquisition of flight simulators. 

This budget allocation also includes the acquisition of specialized air-to-air and air-to-ground ammunition. This deal would stand as one of the most costly defense acquisitions in the history of the country’s armed forces.

In response to the escalating security challenges along its eastern border due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Romania, a NATO member, early this year, announced to elevate its defense expenditure from 2% to 2.5% of its gross domestic product for the current year. 

This increased budget allocation is aimed at facilitating the modernization of its armed forces, with the acquisition of the F-35A Lightning II aircraft playing a pivotal role in this plan.

File Image: F-35

The Romanian Air Force (RoAF) presently operates a fleet of 17 F-16 A/B fighter aircraft acquired second-hand from Portugal between 2016 and 2021. 

Last year, Romania signed up with Norway to acquire a fleet of 32 additional second-hand F-16s. These aircraft are expected to serve for another decade in operational capacity, bridging the gap until the arrival of the F-35s, which are anticipated to join the Romanian Air Force’s inventory starting in the 2030s.

The preliminary agreement comprises logistics and training services, flight simulators, ammunition, and fighter jets. Furthermore, Romania retains the flexibility to potentially acquire an additional 16 F-35 aircraft in the future. 

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