Romania could open regional F-16 pilot training hub for NATO allies, Ukraine

Romania is considering opening a regional training hub for F-16 fighter jet pilots which would ultimately be available to its NATO allies and partners, including Ukraine, the country's supreme defence council (CSAT) said on Thursday. Romania, both a European Union and NATO member, has raised defence spending to 2.5% of gross domestic product this year from 2%, in response to Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

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The country, which shares a 650-km (400-mile) border with Ukraine, is host to a U.S. ballistic missile defence system and, as of last year, has a permanent alliance battlegroup stationed on its territory. "Together with other allies and the company which builds this fighter plane, a regional hub will be created in Romania to train pilots who will fly these jets," CSAT said in a statement following a meeting ahead of next week's NATO summit in Vilnius, the Lithuanian capital.

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"Romanian pilots operating F-16 planes will be trained here, and the facility will later be open to pilots from allied states and NATO partners, including Ukraine." The F-16 is made by Lockheed Martin Corp. At a meeting in April, CSAT said Romania would aim to buy the latest-generation U.S. F-35 fighter planes, also made by Lockheed Martin, to boost its air defences.

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In March, the Defence Ministry said Romania would buy Abrams tanks made by General Dynamics, as part of wider defence acquisition plans.

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Source: Reuters

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