WASHINGTON — Romania signed a letter of agreement with the U.S. government this week to buy both the High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) and Guided Multiple Launch Rocket Systems (GMLRS), making it the first European HIMARS customer.

The Romanian Secretary of State Mircea Dusa and the country’s defense chief, Gen. Nicolae Ciuca finalized the deal at the Ministry of National Defense headquarters Feb. 26, according to several reports from Romanian news outlets.

The State Department cleared the HIMARS deal in August 2017 shortly after Romania played a central role in the U.S. Army’s annual exercise Saber Guardian, hosting a wide variety of events in country and also having a chance to operate alongside HIMARS units at a combined live-fire exercise in Cincu, Romania.

While the State Department estimated the total price tag to be $1.25 billion, Romanian reports on the deal this week indicate the program will cost $1.5 billion.

Romania requested 54 Lockheed Martin-made HIMARS launchers for a total of three systems and 81 unitary GMLRS.

Also included in the request was 54 Army Tactical Missile Systems and 24 Advanced Field Artillery Tactical Data Systems, which is the fire-control system for HIMARS, according to the Defense Security Cooperation Agency. The deal would also include 15 M1151A1 armored utility Humvees and 15 M1151A1 armor-ready, two-man Humvees along with spares and a wealth of other supporting equipment.

The Romanians have said the desire to procure HIMARS came down to the system being NATO interoperable and its range of up to 300 kilometers, far surpassing current capability.

The country announced in the summer of 2017 that it planned to buy HIMARS as well as 36 F-16 fighter jets by 2022, part of a larger plan to spend roughly $11.6 billion on military procurements in the years 2017 through 2026.

Romania has also minted a deal to buy Patriot air-and-missile defense systems and intends to purchase Bell combat helicopters.

Romanian forces constructed a float-bridge in the middle of the night on July 16 for a river-crossing exercise during which U.S. Stryker vehicles from the 2nd Cavalry drove across. It was part of the U.S.-led Saber Guardian exercise, the largest military exercise in the region this year. (Jen Judson/Staff)
Romanian forces constructed a float-bridge in the middle of the night on July 16 for a river-crossing exercise during which U.S. Stryker vehicles from the 2nd Cavalry drove across. It was part of the U.S.-led Saber Guardian exercise, the largest military exercise in the region this year. (Jen Judson/Staff)

Lt. Gen. Ben. Hodges, the then-U.S. Army Europe commander, predicted the Romanian defense spending spree at Saber Guardian noting that he believed the country would meet its NATO promise to spend 2 percent of its GDP on defense.

Romania, like other European countries on the eastern flank, are scrambling to beef up its defense and security to deter an aggressive Russia.

Currently no other European country has procured HIMARS, but Poland has taken steps to buy the system although that deal seems to be on ice as the country focuses on finalizing a complicated agreement to buy a medium-range air-and-missile defense system, which is, in this case, also the Raytheon-made Patriot.

Singapore and the United Arab Emirates are the only foreign customers of HIMARS while Qatar has been authorized to buy the system.

Lockheed Martin told Defense News almost two years ago that it was restarting its HIMARS production line in order to build new launcher for the UAE. Restarting the line has proved to be more lucrative for the company as customers are now rapidly stretching beyond the Arab country.