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NATO Member Romania Aims to Open F-16 Pilot Training Facility for Allies, Partners, and Ukraine

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Romania’s top defense body said in a meeting Thursday that the country aims to open a regional training hub for F-16 fighter jet pilots from fellow NATO countries and other partners, including Ukraine.

The office of President Klaus Iohannis, who chaired the Supreme Council of National Defense meeting in Bucharest, said in a statement that “Together with other allies and the company that designs this fighter plane, a regional hub will be created in Romania for the training of pilots.”

“Romanian pilots who operate F-16 aircraft will be trained here, and the facility will later be opened to the participation of pilots from allied and NATO partner states, including Ukraine,” the statement read. 

Romania, which shares a long border with Ukraine and has been a NATO member since 2004 and a European Union member since 2007, bolstered defense spending in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The training facility will aim to position Romania as “a regional leader in the field of F-16 pilot training,” and contribute to “improving cohesion, demonstrating unity and strengthening the deterrence and defense posture Euro-Atlantic.” The defense body, known as CSAT, however, did not state when or where in Romania such a facility would open. 

In April, CSAT also approved the acquisition of an unspecified number of “latest generation” American-made F-35 fighter jets, as Romania pushes to modernize its air force. 

After Moscow’s forces rolled into Ukraine in February 2022, NATO increased its presence on Europe’s eastern flank by sending additional multinational battlegroups to alliance members Romania, Hungary, Bulgaria, and Slovakia.

Romania has played an increasingly prominent role in the alliance throughout the war, including hosting a NATO meeting of foreign ministers in November.

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