Romania Table of Contents
In 1989 the Romanian Air Force had approximately 32,000 personnel and, because of the high technical qualifications required of them, less than one-third were conscripts. The air force operated more than 350, mostly Soviet-built, combat aircraft. It also had responsibility for transport, reconnaissance, and rotary wing aircraft as well as the national air defense system. The air force's primary mission was to protect and support the ground forces in defending the country against invasion. It also had a major role in operating, maintaining, and supplying trained personnel for the national airline TAROM.
The air force was divided into three tactical air divisions. Each air division had two regiments with two or three squadrons of interceptor and one squadron of ground attack aircraft as well as supporting transport, reconnaissance, and helicopter elements (see fig. 9). With a few notable exceptions, most aircraft in the Romanian order of battle were designed and produced in the Soviet Union. The air force had fifteen interceptor squadrons, three with fifteen MiG-23 fighters each and twelve with similar numbers of MiG-21 fighters. Romania received its first MiG-23s from the Soviet Union in the early 1980s, nearly ten years after the plane entered service in Soviet and some other Warsaw Pact air forces. Soviet allies in Third World countries such as Syria, Libya, and Iraq had the MiG-23 in their inventories before Romania did. Romanian fighters carried the 1960s-era Soviet AA-2/ATOLL air-to-air missile. The air force had six ground attack squadrons operating eighty-five 1950s-era MiG-17 aircraft made in the 1950s, which had been modified and transferred from duty as interceptors when Romania acquired the MiG-21, and thirty-five Romanian-built IAR-93 Orao ground-attack fighters. In 1989 the air force had an additional 125 Orao close air-support aircraft on order.
Transport, reconnaissance, and helicopter squadrons supported the ground forces by airlifting ground forces units, collecting intelligence on the composition and disposition of hostile forces, and conducting medical evacuation, mobile command, and utility functions. In 1989 Romania had eleven An-24, eight An-26 (both smaller than the United States C-130 transport), and several other Soviet transport aircraft, as well as four Polish Li-2 and two American-made Boeing 707 transports. Using its total lift capability, however, it could transport only the men and equipment of one airborne battalion. Reconnaissance squadrons operated twenty Soviet Il-28 aircraft built in the 1950s. Helicopter squadrons operated fifty-five IAR-316B Allouette III and forty IAR-330 Puma helicopters produced in Romania under French license and twentyfive Soviet Mi-4 and Mi-8 helicopters. Helicopter squadrons directly supported the ground forces by providing enhanced mobility and fire power for small units. The air force had a large pilot training program, which reflected an apparent intention to develop increased capabilities. In 1989 it had sixty Czechoslovakianproduced L-29 and L-39 jet training aircraft, twenty older Soviet MiG-15 trainers, and a small but growing inventory of Romanianbuilt trainers.
The fourteen interceptor squadrons of the air force were the first line of defense in the country's air defense system. The air force also controlled the ground-based air defense network of 135 SA-2 surface-to-air missiles, early warning radar, and command, control, and communications equipment dispersed among twenty sites around the country. The national military command authority in Bucharest and in the country's oil-producing region around Ploiesti were the areas best protected against air attack. In 1989 Romania still depended on the Soviet Union to supply all of its air defense weapons and equipment.
Data as of July 1989