Romania criticised for again suggesting F-16 procurement without tender

By bne IntelliNews August 24, 2012

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European military suppliers have reacted to Romanian Defence Minister Corneliu Dobritoiu's comments on August 22 that the country may purchase Lockheed Martin F-16 fighter jets directly from Portugal. The defence industry complains - once again - that Romania should hold an open tender.

This is the second time in two years that statements from Romanian officials about buying F-16 jets without an open tender has caused an outcry. In 2010, President Traian Basescu suddenly announced the government would buy 24 F-16 aircraft from the US at a cost of EUR1.1bn, in order to replace its ageing, Soviet-made MiG Lancerjets. The announcement triggered criticism from European groups Eurofighter and Saab Gripen, which stressed the need for a tender under EU rules. Following debates in parliament and the media, the decision was shelved a few months later.

The government is now ready to return to the issue and push a quick purchase through. Dobritoiu told Agerpres that the Portuguese jets are in "very good" condition, according to an expert team that examined them. "The conclusions of the team were beyond expectations," he said, adding that Romania needs an expedited solution. "Otherwise, we will remain without fighter aviation in nine years time, because the MIG jet fighters, after 40 years of missions, will remain on the ground. We are in an accelerated process for obtaining all the approvals. We'll raise the issue at the first meeting of the CSAT [Romania's Supreme Defence Council]," he said.

Richard Smith, Saab's Gripen director for Europe, expressed surprise at the comments about a direct procurement. "We have no doubt that we are able to offer a New Generation Gripen fighter through innovative procurement methods (such as leasing, or financing) that would undoubtedly be more cost effective in terms of procurement and also the costs of operation, when compared to second hand fighters," he told bne.

"Not only that, Saab has always committed to delivering a comprehensive industrial package that is designed to stimulate the continued growth of the Romanian economy, provide new jobs, as well as help in generating export growth," he adds. "We would hope, that in order to ensure that the best product, the best total package and the best industrial package, that all the competitors be invited to provide an offer, to be considered seriously."

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