WARSAW, Poland — Romania’s government plans to bulk up its 2024 defense budget by almost 45% over 2023, reaching roughly 95 billion lei ($20.8 billion), to accommodate major weapons purchases ready for signature this year, according to officials and documents.
National Defence Ministry officials said at least two major contracts for the land forces, related to the purchase of tracked infantry fighting vehicles and self-propelled howitzers, are to be awarded.
As competition is heating up for both major procurements, numerous foreign suppliers have lined up to offer their gear to Bucharest.
Publicly available information suggests the IFV program, under which Romania is to buy up to 298 new vehicles, is worth about €3 billion, or $3.3 billion. Local observers say the Romanian military is expected to choose between South Korea’s Hanwha Aerospace with the Redback, General Dynamics European Land Systems with its Ascod, German Rheinmetall with the Lynx, and the CV90 made by BAE Systems Hägglunds in Sweden, among others.
A spokesperson for the National Defence Ministry told Defense News the award procedure for the vehicle contract is underway, and its signing is expected to take place in 2024.
Under its howitzer acquisition program, Bucharest is currently evaluating offers to purchase 54 self-propelled 155mm howitzers along with related support vehicles, equipment and ammunition under a procurement valued at some RON 4.2 billion (U.S. $920 million).
Local sources say the bidders include German Krauss-Maffei Wegmann with its Panzerhaubitze 2000, Hanwha Aerospace with the K9 Thunder, and Turkey’s BMC with the T-155 Fırtına.
The howitzer contract is “estimated to be signed in 2024,” the spokesperson said.
Also still waiting in the wings is Romania’s planned purchase of F-35 fighter jets. The estimated price tag for 32 planes is $6.5 billion. Bucharest aims to sign a letter of acceptance in 2024 and is considering to order a further 16 fighters in the long term.
The projected spending pattern is in line with government efforts to improve military prowess through accelerated acquisition following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The focus lies on purchases for its land forces and the air force, Alexandru Georgescu, a security and defense analyst based in Bucharest, told Defense News.
The breathtaking pace of Romania’s defense spending has already led to some organizational changes aimed at boosting the country’s return on investment when cutting large checks.
“Foreign partners are expected to cooperate with Romanian defense companies, in particular on offset agreements,” Georgescu said. The government has established the Romanian Agency for Technological and Industrial Cooperation for Security and Defense for this purpose. “But the past years have also brought a rising number of government-to-government purchases, and Romania is increasingly resorting to such deals to buy weapon systems.”
The analyst said around 40% of Romania’s new military budget will be allocated to buying new weapons to replace Soviet-times gear, and the government intends to use a sizable portion of this spending to upgrade local manufacturing capacities which have languished for years due to mismanagement and underinvestment.
Jaroslaw Adamowski is the Poland correspondent for Defense News.