Overtime, the fuel pumps of the MiG-21 LanceR jets began exhibiting symptoms and were unable to operate properly.
Alert 5 reports that it has now been disclosed that Romania had to ground its MiG-21 fleet because the jets were supplied with low-quality jet fuel.
According to Gandul, local businessman Cristian Berendel was given a contract to supply fuel from 2018 to 2022. While the initial batches of fuel were of acceptable quality, Berendel quietly began supplying low-quality fuel from Greece and Turkey.
Overtime, the fuel pumps of the jets began exhibiting symptoms and were unable to operate properly.
Following multiple incidents involving the Romanian Air Force (RoAF) MiG-21 LanceR fighter jets, the Romanian Ministry of Defense announced that all operations with the aircraft were suspended starting Apr. 15, 2022.
The RoAF resumed flights with MiG-21s on May 23, 2022. The service will continue operating them until May 15, 2023.
After May 2023, the LanceRs will be retired from service and replaced by Lockheed Martin F-16 Fighting Falcons. Romania acquired 17 second-hand F-16 fighters from Portugal in 2016 and intends to purchase 32 more aircraft from Norway.
According to Aerotime Hub, for their last year of service, the Romanian MiG-21s will be limited to air police missions and training flights to maintain the proficiency of current pilots.
In 1962 the RoAF received the first 12 MiG-21F-13, followed by another 12 of the same variant in 1963. Deliveries continued over the next years with other variants: 38 aircraft of MiG-21RFM (PF) variant in 1965, 7 MiG-21U-400/600 in 1965–1968, 56 MiG-21RFMM (PFM) in 1966–1968, 12 MiG-21R in 1968–1972, 68 MiG-21M plus 11 MiG-21US in 1969–1970, 74 MiG-21MF/MF-75 in 1972–1975, and 27 MiG-21UM in 1972–1980 plus another 5 of the same variant in 1990, for a total number of 322 aircraft.
Beginning in 1993, Russia did not offer spare parts for the MiG-23 and MiG-29 for the RoAF. Initially, this was the context for the modernization of the Romanian MiG-21s with Elbit Systems, and because it was easier to maintain these fighter jets. In 1995–2002, a total of 111 MiG-21s were modernized, of which 71 were M and MF/MF-75 variants modernized under the LanceR A designation (for ground attack), 14 were UM variant as LanceR B designation (trainer), and another 26 MF/MF-75 variant were modernized under LanceR C designation (air superiority). Today, only 36 LanceRs are operational for the RoAF. It can use both Western and Eastern armament such as the R-60M, R-73, Magic 2, or Python III missiles.
Despite being one of the newest MiG-21 fleets in service, the Romanian MiG-21 LanceR fleet was grounded due to difficulties maintaining the aircraft, and since 1996 it has had an accident rate of over 30 per 100,000 hours. Serviceability rates below 50% are not uncommon.
The RoAF has suffered numerous events in recent years with its arsenal of MiG-21s. On Jun. 12, 2017, a MiG-21 crashed in Constanța County, with Adrian Stancu, the pilot, managing to escape in time. On Jul. 7, 2018, Florin Rotaru died during an airshow in Borcea with some 3,000 attendants while piloting a MiG-21 that suffered technical difficulties, choosing to deflect the plane and die to protect the attendants rather than ejecting himself in time. On Apr. 20, 2021, during a training flight, a MiG-21 crashed in an uninhabited zone in Mureș County. The pilot, Andrei Criste, managed to eject safely and survived the crash.
On Mar. 2, 2022, A MiG-21 LanceR crashed during adverse weather conditions near the village of Gura Dobrogei, Cogealac Commune.
Photo credit: Airwolfhound from Hertfordshire, UK via Wikipedia