NATIONAL HARBOR — The Romanian Navy is exploring the purchase of a new drone for its expansion and modernization plans, the chief of the Romanian Naval Forces said Monday.

Amid growing tensions with Russia on the Black Sea, the service is looking at a “totally new” unmanned aerial system for the maritime and riverine domain, Vice Adm. Alexandru Mirsu said at the Sea-Air-Space forum here.

The capability would be used by Romania's Danube flotilla and for coastal surveillance, operated from the shoreline, Mirsu said. He did not provide a timeframe or a budget for the possible acquisition.

Plans are underway to buy four new multipurpose corvettes as the core of the Romanian navy, and to modernize its Type 22 frigates. Also expected are purchases of new coastal missile batteries and three new submarines — all part of Romania’s commitment to spending 2 percent of its gross domestic product on defense for the next decade.

The idea is to expand Romania’s presence in the Black Sea, the Mediterranean and elswhere as needed by allies, and to maintain a submarine program beyond 2030.

Mirsu has previously said the submarines are needed to ensure Romania’s operational capacities in the Black Sea, as the one Kilo-class submarine does not meet that need. Its Delfinul submarine was reportedly withdrawn from service and was being used for training purposes.

Mirsu also pointed to “a new iron curtain” of Russian anti access/area denial (A2/AD) hubs in Kaliningrad, Sevastopol and Syria.

He lauded major multinational exercises and NATO operations on the Black Sea for sending a message that the Black Sea is open, and an international body of water.

Romania led NATO’s Poseidon antisubmarine exercise on the Black Sea in March. Also notable, the Romanian-led Sea Shield in April involved 20 ships and crews from Romania, Bulgaria, Canada, Greece, the Netherlands and Turkey, all working with maritime patrol aircraft from the U.S. and Turkey.

Joe Gould was the senior Pentagon reporter for Defense News, covering the intersection of national security policy, politics and the defense industry. He had previously served as Congress reporter.

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