Romania upgrades strategic air base for Ukrainian F-16 deployment

On June 11, Romanian Defence Minister Angel Tîlvăr announced extensive plans to expand and modernise the Mihail Kogălniceanu Air Base near the Ukrainian border. As noted by the news outlet Army Recognition, the official reason cited for this development is the perceived threat from the east. However, in the context of the situation in Ukraine, it may involve the deployment of F-16 fighters .

Positioned less than 200 kilometres from the Ukrainian border, the airbase has long been utilised for the stationing of U.S. forces and assets. Its strategic significance has grown since Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in 2022. However, Romania began enhancing its capabilities even earlier, notably in response to the Russian invasion of Georgia in 2008 and the annexation of Crimea in 2014.

Colonel Nicolae Crețu, the base commander with the Romanian Air Force, stated that the project includes constructing a new runway, a watchtower, and additional hangars to protect both current and upcoming military assets. The total budget for the modernisation is set at €2.5 billion.

“As a result, this is a strategic position for potential foreign F-16s, which could operate from this base, maintaining a convenient operational radius despite the distance,” emphasise the authors of the original piece.

Observers highlight that the Mihail Kogălniceanu Air Base's strategic importance is amplified by its location on the Black Sea coast and its proximity to Russian territory. In recent years, the base has hosted several aerial policing missions led by NATO. Recently, for the first time, a Finnish F/A-18 Hornet fighter was deployed there for such missions.

Last year, the base also received two additional batteries of the Patriot air defence system, bringing the total to four.

According to Romanian media, the modernisation plans include constructing a military facility akin in size to the Ramstein Air Base in Germany, though officials have yet to confirm these plans.

Additionally, military observer Alexander Kovalenko of the 'Information Resistance' group noted that future Ukrainian F-16 fighters are expected to work in tandem with AWACS aircraft. It is anticipated that the deployment of these new jets will pose significant challenges for Russian forces in the south and in Crimea when they take to the skies

  War in Ukraine, NATO, Romania