CF-188 Hornet Royal Canadian Air Force
@ Aviation Report / Andrea Avian

Operation Reassurance 2021: Royal Canadian Air Force F-18 Hornet in Romania to enhanced NATO Air Policing

Last November we went to Romania to spend a day with the Royal Canadian Air Force personnel engaged in Operation Reassurance 2021 with the CF-188 Hornet fighter aircraft. The Canadian mission took place as part of the enhanced NATO Air Policing mission in Romania and on the Alliance’s east flank. The Canadian detachment was replaced a few days ago by the Italian Air Force with four Eurofighter Typhoon fighters.

Romania is one of those country which after the end of the Warszaw Pact saw a reduction of their air defence power. After the readiness of the Lancer program, begun in 1993 and concluded in 2003 with the last delivery, Romanian Air Force upgraded 110 MiG 21 single seater and double seater, by the romanian Aerostar in cooperation with israeli Elbit Systems, with the aim to upgrade the avionic and weapons systems and enhancing the interoperability and compatibility with the NATO standard.

At its beginning this program proved itself to be effective but over the years, due to the progression in the air defence system’s technology and to the lack of spare parts, the Romanian air power turned in a progressive reduction of efficency, until having more or less 10 aircraft in operative condition, based in Campia Turzii and Mihail Kogalniceanu.

At this point Romania decided for the purchasing of 12 F-16 AM/BM from Portugal under the Peace Carpatian program, with the possibility to buying other 36 machines in order to replace the entire MiG 21 fleet, but the financial limitations rapresent the bigest stumbling block in this aim. Nowadays few MiG 21 and 12 F-16 AM/BM are not enough to fully protect of a country which present about 225 km of coast on the Black Sea and is less then 400 km far from Crimea, now belonging to Russia.

Considering that despite the end of Cold War, the russian invasion of NATO air space was becoming more and more frequent, around 60-70 per year, NATO in 2014 decide to estabilish a task force to guarantee the security of Romanian and Bulgarian air spaces, deploying its air power in this area with the aim of enhancing the air policing component such as it was happening already in Baltic Regions.

Operation Reassurance is Canada’s contribution to NATO assurance and deterrence measures, which demonstrates Canada’s ability and willingness to react rapidly to international crises and to work side by side with its NATO Allies to reinforce NATO’s collective security.

As part of operation Reassurance, the Royal Canadian Air Force has deployed to Mihail Kogalniceanu air base, near Constanta, 6 CF-188 Hornet and aproximately 150 personnel to partecipate in iteration 57 of the NATO enhanced air policing mission. This iteration is three months long, running from 1st September until 30th November 2021. During this deployment, the CF-188 Hornet are augmenting the air policing capabilities of the Romanian Air Force. This is the sixth time the Canadian Air Force have deployed its crew in Romania. The first time in Campia Turzii in 2014, then in Mihail Kogalniceanu air base in 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020 and now in 2021.

The majority of the canadian deployment consist of personnel from 409th Tactical Fighter Squadron, based at Cold Lake, Alberta, under 4th Wing. The remaining personnel are from bases and Wings across Canada and encompass all elements of Air Force, Army and Navy, demonstrating the versatility and inherent team-work of the RCAF. The canadian mission shows the strength of allied solidarity and rappresent a valid defence in contrast to the russian operations over Balck Sea.

Text and images: Aviation Report / Andrea Avian