The Pentagon has deployed four F-16 fighter jets to eastern Romania as part of a NATO effort to secure airspace that has been repeatedly breached by Russian drones and cruise missiles. The aircraft arrived at Fetesti Air Base on September 22, with the goal of enhancing NATO's air policing in the Black Sea region.
These F-16 fighter jets, identified as originating from the U.S. Air Force's 480th Fighter Squadron, are equipped for extended air superiority missions. They carry auxiliary fuel tanks, long-range AIM-120 missiles, and medium-range AIM-9 missiles. The American air and ground crew will operate from the Romanian Air Force's 86th Air Base near Fetesti.
The deployment follows Romania's announcement on September 17 that it was closing its eastern airspace to all aircraft, with NATO enforcing the no-fly zone. This decision was prompted by Russian missile and drone strikes targeting Ukrainian port facilities along the Danube River, near the NATO border. Some of these Russian kamikaze drones missed their targets and detonated in Romania.
Romanian F-16s stationed at Fetesti and other eastern Romanian airfields regularly receive support from other NATO countries for air policing operations over the Black Sea, including the Netherlands, Italy, Spain, and Great Britain.
The Black Sea region has seen tensions between NATO and Russian forces, with frequent encounters between NATO reconnaissance aircraft and Russian fighter jets. These incidents have the potential to escalate, but thus far, they have been downplayed by both sides.
NATO conducted a major air defense training event in the Black Sea region in late July, involving air forces from Romania, France, Germany, and the U.S. Navy. Additionally, Fetesti air base is expected to be used for training Ukrainian pilots on U.S.-made F-16 fighter jets, although these pilots will not participate in NATO actions against Russian airspace violations from within Ukraine.