MILAN — The Romanian government has solicited bids from defense manufacturers for short-range air defense systems at a cost of up to $2.1 billion, setting up a race between between French and Israeli suppliers with longstanding ties to the European country.
Per a tender notice published by the Romanian Ministry of Defense earlier this month, the country is seeking so-called short-range air defense and very short-range air defense systems, known, respectively, by the acronyms of SHORAD and VSHORAD.
Romania’s quest to procure these weapon systems predates Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine last February, with improved defenses against short-range aerial threats identified as a priority for the air force as early as 2019.
Bucharest has bought the U.S.-made Patriot system for the longer-range segment. All air and missile defense system will plug into the emerging NATO-wide network, known as the alliance’s Integrated Air and Missile Defense concept.
“We intended to launch this tender last year, but only managed to do so now,” a Romanian defense ministry official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media, told Defense News.
A spokesman for pan-European missile maker MBDA told Defense News that the company is interested in Romania’s SHORAD-VSHORAD business.
“MBDA will respond with the most suitable solution for the Romanian Armed Forces, notably allowing increased efficiency with the Mistral currently offered to the customer. This makes the VL Mica system a most relevant candidate in this context,” spokesman Julien Watelet wrote in an email.
The reference to the Mistral missile touches on a separate missile-defense acquisition eyed by Romania, explained the Romanian defense official.
“There are two courses of action currently: The SHORAD-VSHORAD program has a strategic dimension, as indicated in our Defense White Paper, and was approved by Parliament so it already has a dedicated budget line,” the official said. “However, the [joint] Mistral procurement is also being considered taking into account our privileged relationship with France.”
Issue experts believe Israel’s Rafael, with the Spyder air defense system, could also join the race, a prospect that the company confirmed in an email to Defense News.
“Rafael is confident that its multi-layered air defense capabilities, which have proven their effectiveness in operational scenarios, can provide the precise solutions for the Romanian MoD,” a spokesperson wrote in an email.
The Haifa-based company signed an agreement in 2018 with Romaero, a Romanian aerospace company, to launch an industrial partnership aimed at locally producing air defense weapons.
Editor’s note: This story was updated to include a comment from Rafael.
Elisabeth Gosselin-Malo is a Europe correspondent for Defense News. She covers a wide range of topics related to military procurement and international security, and specializes in reporting on the aviation sector. She is based in Milan, Italy.