WARSAW, Poland — Romania’s Ministry of National Defence has announced it aims to sign a letter of acceptance in 2024 to buy 32 F-35 Lightning II fighters in the program’s first phase, and subsequently secure a further 16 aircraft.

Bucharest intends to purchase “the first two squadrons from the United States of America through the Foreign Military Sales …[scheme to buy] 32 aircraft. The purchase, whose value is estimated at $6.5 billion, will be based upon a government-to-government-type” contract, the Romanian ministry said.

“The endowment program is designed to be completed in two stages. At the end of these, the Romanian Air Force will count three F-35 squadrons,” the ministry’s press office told Defense News in a Sept. 28 statement. “Documents for the first stage of the program were sent for the parliament’s approval.”

Romania’s planned contract is to also cover the delivery of 35 engines, initial logistics support, training services for pilots and technical staff, simulators, weapons, as well as ammunition.

The Romanian ministry said it expects to receive the first jets in 2030.

The decision to buy a then-undisclosed number of F-35s was taken by the Romanian Supreme Council on National Defense (CSAT), a state body chaired by President Klaus Iohannis, at its April 11 meeting.

The jet is made by U.S. defense giant Lockheed Martin. The planned deal could make Romania the fighter’s largest operator on NATO’s eastern flank.

A growing group of Eastern European allies have set their sights on the F-35. In January 2020, the Polish cabinet signed a deal worth some $4.6 billion to purchase 32 fighters along with a training and logistics package.

Meanwhile, Czech defense leaders said this week they had secured Cabinet approval to buy 24 F-35s.

In a Sept. 27 statement released by her ministry, Czech Defence Minister Jana Černochová said the project to buy the fifth-generation aircraft with related equipment, weapons and logistics will cost “less than five billion dollars, and will be paid gradually in the years 2024 to 2034.”

Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala said the first fighters are expected to be ready in 2029, with deliveries to be completed in 2035.

Jaroslaw Adamowski is the Poland correspondent for Defense News.

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