Romanian Air Force Has Retired Its MiG-21 LanceR Jets

Romanian Air Force Has Retired Its MiG-21 LanceR Jets

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MiG-21 LanceR
MiG-21 LanceR pilot selfie (Image credit: Forţele Aeriene Române)

The MiG-21 LanceR was the longest serving fighter jet in Romanian Air Force.

After 61 years of career, the iconic MiG-21 LanceR, the longest-lived fighter aircraft in the history of the Romanian Air Force, successfully completed its final flight mission at Boboc, in eastern Romania.

The last flight was celebrated with the traditional passage under a water tunnel.

The MiG 21 LanceR is the upgraded avionics and weapons systems version of the MiG-21 Fishbed, developed by Elbit Systems and Aerostar Bacău for the Romanian Air Force. The first LanceR flew in 1996 and was a LanceR A version. The LanceR program saw the upgrade of a total of 114 MiG 21 airframes in three versions: the ground attack version (LanceR A), the two seater trainer version with ground attack capabilities (LanceR B) and the air superiority version (LanceR C). The upgrade aimed at making the old Cold War planes capable to use both eastern and western weapons systems, mainly focused in the cockpit configuration with the introduction of modern avionics, HOTAS and NATO compatible weapon systems. However, despite the upgrades, the MiG-21 LanceR remains a quite old aircraft mainly used to carried out QRA (Quick Reaction Alert) duties under the NATO control network by way of the Combined Air Operations Center in Torrejon.

Flight activities with the MiG-21 LanceR were suspended between Apr. 15 and May 23, 2022, for safety reasons, following a considerably high accident rate recorded by the fleet that caused “multiple casualties and damaged or destroyed aircraft”. On May 23, the flight activities were resumed for a period of about a year, with a plan to completely retire the type by May 15, 2023, and accelerate the purchase of 32 F-16 aircraft from Norway, to complement the 17 ex-Portuguese Air Force F-16AM/BM Block 15 MLU, received between 2016 and 2021, and in service with Escadrila 53 “Vanatoare” (“Warhawks”) on Baza 86 Aeriana at Borcea/Fetesti.

With the former-RoNAF (Royal Norwegian Air Force) Vipers, the Romanian Air Force will field three F-16s squadrons, that will ensure continuity for a period of at least 10 years. Romania plans to operate the F-16s until 2030, when the aircraft should be replaced by the F-35.

About David Cenciotti
David Cenciotti is a journalist based in Rome, Italy. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviationist”, one of the world’s most famous and read military aviation blogs. Since 1996, he has written for major worldwide magazines, including Air Forces Monthly, Combat Aircraft, and many others, covering aviation, defense, war, industry, intelligence, crime and cyberwar. He has reported from the U.S., Europe, Australia and Syria, and flown several combat planes with different air forces. He is a former 2nd Lt. of the Italian Air Force, a private pilot and a graduate in Computer Engineering. He has written five books and contributed to many more ones.

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