A Finnish F/A-18 Hornet is seen on static display at the Mihail Kogalniceanu Air Base in Romania. (Elisabeth Gosselin-Malo/Staff)

A Finnish F/A-18 Hornet is seen on static display at the Mihail Kogalniceanu Air Base in Romania. (Elisabeth Gosselin-Malo/Staff)

DefenseNews:  The Romanian government has begun a multibillion-euro expansion and modernization project at one of its air bases near Ukraine, where new military equipment will be stored.

Romanian Defence Minister Angel Tîlvăr announced the move June 11 during a ceremony at the Mihail Kogălniceanu Air Base, located less than 200 kilometers (124 miles) from the Ukrainian border.

The project to extend the military base, which has housed U.S. capabilities and forces since 1999, was approved prior to Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.

“The reason why Romania decided to extend our capabilities here is the result of when Russia invaded Georgia in 2008 and later on in 2014 in Crimea [when Russia annexed the peninsula]. Our plans have been approved since 2018 for this,” Romanian Air Force Col. Nicolae Cretu, the base commander, told Defense News during the NATO-led exercise Ramstein Legacy held here.

The work will in part involve the construction of a new runway, a guard tower, and additional hangars to protect existing and forthcoming military assets purchased by the Eastern European country. The official estimated the cost associated with the expansion will come to €2.5 billion (U.S. $2.7 billion).

Romania has several ongoing acquisition programs, primarily focused on short-range and very-short-range air defense systems, on which it plans to spend up to $2.1 billion.

It also received two additional Patriot batteries last year, now totaling four, and is partaking in the joint procurement of up to 1,000 Patriot PAC-2 GEM-T missiles under the European Sky Shield Initiative.

The air base’s location has proved highly strategic in recent years, both for Romania and its NATO allies. As an example, the Romanian officer cited the base’s value during the Iraq war, as it was used by allies “to project force outside of their territories and over long distances.”

Romanian media reported the modernization effort involves the construction of a military installation similarly sized to that of Ramstein Air Base in Germany, although the official did not confirm this aspiration.

Given its direct access to the Black Sea and close proximity to Russian territory, the air base has hosted several NATO-run Enhanced Air Policing missions, including this year’s edition, which welcomed the first-ever deployment of Finnish F/A-18 Hornet fighter jets.

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