Israel’s Elbit inks four aircraft technology contracts with Romania

JERUSALEM — Elbit Systems has signed four contracts with the Romanian military to upgrade helicopters, provide electronic warfare technology, deliver systems to support search and rescue operations, and supply avionics suites for training aircraft.

Tuesday’s announcement comes after the Israeli firm inked two other deals with European costumers in early March, one of which was to supply Romania with unmanned turrets, remote weapon stations and mortar systems.

“These contracts extend Elbit Systems’ track record delivering successful projects to the Romanian Armed Forces, including follow-on contracts awarded after Elbit Systems first was contracted to upgrade helicopters and aircraft,” Ran Kril, executive vice president of international marketing and business development for Elbit, said in a statement.

The company declined to comment on the contract values, and the Romania’s Defence Ministry did not respond to an inquiry from Defense News.

The conflict in Ukraine has been a driving factor for Romania’s procurement efforts, according to recent reports.

NATO deployed airborne warning and control system aircraft to Romania in January, and in February a Russian missile fired at Ukraine crossed over into Moldova, Romania’s neighbor, and came within 22 miles of the border of Romania.

Romania’s Defence Ministry said that “the Romanian authorities have applied all standard procedures since the moment the target was detected until the complete clarification of this situation. Furthermore, at 10:38 a.m., two Romanian Air Forces’ MiG-21 LanceR Aircraft of the NATO-led Air Policing Service, which were executing a flight exercise at that moment, were redirected to the Northern area of Romania in order to increase the reaction options.”

Equipping the IAR 300

One contract is for Elbit’s Spectro XR electro-optical system, which will equip Romania’s IAR 330 Puma helicopters used for maritime operations. The contract work will take place over the coming year, the company said, and follows a “successful upgrade of the Romanian Navy’s IAR helicopters.”

Spectro XR can function in the daytime and at night, and its sensors provide imaging capabilities. The company said it also provides “continuous target scanning capabilities for enhanced situational awareness.”

The IAR 330 is the main helicopter used by the Romanian Naval, Air and Land forces; the Naval Force uses three. The country has used the aircraft in several naval drills, including the NATO-led Steadfast Defender exercise in 2021. The alliance reported in 2018 that the Romanian naval version of the IAR 330 was used with the Romanian frigate Regele Ferdinand for joint maneuvers as part of the NATO Maritime Group 2 in the Black Sea.

Electronic warfare

Another contract with Elbit is for the supply of a “comprehensive electronic warfare (EW) suite including Radar Warning Receiver (RWR), Laser Warning System (LWS), Infrared Missile Warning System (IR MWS) and Counter Measure Dispensing System (CMDS),” according to the company.

Elbit explained that the “suites will be supplied to a domestic supplier for the installation and integration onboard six Puma helicopters with an option for an additional six in the future.”

This contract is a follow-on order of EW suites that were previously installed. The contract will take place over three years.

Search and rescue

One of the other deals will see Elbit supply the Brightnite system to Romanian helicopter specialist IAR Brasov for the search and rescue model of the Puma helicopters. The Israeli company will perform this work over two years for the Romanian Air Force.

Brightnite is a system that can equip aircraft to support nighttime missions and other degraded visual environments, including during blizzards, Elbit said, adding that it “transmits high-resolution video to the Helmet-Mounted Display (HMD), enabling pilots to fly in a head-up, eyes-out position.”

Under this same contract, Elbit will also provide additional Spectro electro-optical systems, as well as technology such as smart displays, digital maps and reconnaissance systems.

Trainers

The fourth contract will see Elbit supply avionic suites, monitors, overhead displays, navigation systems and weapons activation systems for the Romanian defense company Avione Craiova as part of an upgrade to the Air Force’s IAR 99 fighter trainer aircraft.

In 2019, Maj. Gen. Viorel Pană, chief of the Romanian Air Force Staff, described the IAR 99 aircraft upgrades and the IAR 330s as important for the country.

The upgrade is to support an “effective transition of Romanian Air Force pilots to fighter aircraft, including the Romanian Air Force’s F-16s,” Elbit said. The work will take place over a period of four years.

Romania has increasingly sought to bolster its military capabilities. In 2017, the country decided to locally produce Piranha armored vehicles, and it became the first European country to purchase the American-made High Mobility Artillery Rocket System in 2018.

NATO members have supported improvements at Romania’s Mihail Kogălniceanu Air Base to meet the alliance’s standards for airfields, according to a January 2023 report by the Western organization, of which Romania is a member.

Seth J. Frantzman is the Israel correspondent for Defense News. He has covered conflict in the Mideast since 2010 for different publications. He has experience covering the international coalition against the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria, and he is a co-founder and executive director of the Middle East Center for Reporting and Analysis.

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