BUCHAREST - Romania cannot afford to purchase second-hand F-16 combat aircraft unless granted a long-term financing plan, Romanian president Traian Basescu said on Sept. 18.
"We have no money and we cannot commit ourselves to such a contract without a long-term financing scheme," Basescu said during an interview on private TV channel ProTV.
"There is no pressure from the U.S. to buy aircraft, but on joining NATO we committed ourselves to equipping the armed forces with 48 fighter jets compatible with the Alliance's," he added.
Romania had announced in March 2010 its decision to purchase 24 F-16 aircraft currently used by the U.S. air forces, at a cost of 1.3 billion dollars(1.1 billion euros), in order to replace its ageing, Soviet-made MiG Lancerjets.
The announcement triggered criticism from European groups Eurofighter and Saab, which stressed authorities should have issued a call for tenders. But a few months later, struggling with a deep economic crisis, the government announced it would not be able to finance the buy in 2010.
The American ambassador to Romania, Mark Gitenstein, this week said that a regional plan involving the purchase of new F-16 also by Croatia and Bulgaria was "in the works" in order to reduce costs. Maybe even the Hungarians and the Czechs might be interested, he said.
"Then you have a flow of orders that makes it easier to keep the assembly line open and reduces the cost per airplane," he said.