The Bacau-based Aerostar company could become a regional hub as provider of aircraft maintenance services, Minister of National Defence Mihai Fifor said on Friday on the occasion of a visit to the company premises.Fifor said that the Romanian Army has several programs underway with Aerostar, and that the cooperation will also carry on for the 36 F16 multirole fighters Romania plans to acquire.
"What's for sure is that we will definitely work with Aerostar Bacau on several major programs for the endowment of the Romanian Army. This is where the maintenance will be done for the Romanian Air Force's F16s. Negotiations between Aerostar Bacau and Lockheed Martin are in a very advanced phase for both the F16s, but particularly for the HIMARS rocket systems. Negotiations with Raytheon on the Patriot missile systems are also in a very advanced stage. I think this is just the beginning. The Romanian Army intends to acquire another 36 F16s in the next period so that the Air Force be fully equipped with the necessary aircraft. Aerostar will be in charge of the maintenance program for the F16 aircraft. We want Aerostar to be a regional hub for everything aeronautics related to this," said Mihai Fifor.
The Defence Minister said he also discussed the subject with his Croatian counterpart.
"I have repeatedly discussed with my counterpart from Croatia, a country that in its turn plans to purchase F16s and is looking for a provider of maintenance services for its aircraft. Why not, we are discussing with other countries in the region because, as I have always said it and as also set forth in the governing program, Romania wants to become a defence industry hub," Fifor said.
The Minister of National Defence said that several bids are being considered as regards the acquisition of the 36 F16 fighter jets, but that the aircraft purchase procedure will take several years.
"We are waiting for the bidding period to close, because it was routine to consult several sources. About a month ago we went to Israel, where we are having advanced talks, we also received bids from Greece and Portugal. We will choose the best aircraft, which are compatible with the Air Force needs. Within short, an Air Force delegation will travel to Israel for a first-hand look at the aircraft offered by their peers there, I hope we are able to reach a conclusion for the purchase of this aircraft in the shortest time. Don't imagine the acquisition deal will be tomorrow. It's a program that will span several years, just like the maintenance, hardware upgrading part will," the Defence Minister said.
US Ambassador in Bucharest Hans Klemm voiced his satisfaction at Romania's interest in the US defence systems and reiterated President Donald Trump's statement that Romania is a model to NATO member states after having allocated 2 percent of GDP for defence.
Aerostar seems a promising partner for the US defence companies, said Hans Klemm.
Minister of National Defence Mihai Fifor and US Ambassador to Romania Hans Klemm visited Aerostar on Friday at the invitation of Chamber of Deputies Deputy Speaker Gabriel Vlase and of Senator Dragos Benea.