Berry Vissers visited RAF Lossiemouth, for Exercise Dacian Wolf 2005, the first detachment to the UK by a Romanian Air Force fighter squadron since Romania became a NATO member on April 1, 2004.
INTEGRATION INTO NATO of the former Warsaw Pact air forces has brought a variety of new training opportunities for all the nations involved. Between June 30 and July 18, the Romanian Air Force (Fortele Aeriene ale Romaniei) became the latest NATO member to train in the UK with the RAF.
Four MiG-21 LanceR-C air defence fighters assigned to 861 Escadrila, one of the two LanceR squadrons at Baza 86 Aeriana, based at Borcea-Fetesti, one An-26, and 50 personnel (including eleven LanceR pilots) deployed to RAF Lossiemouth, Morayshire, where they were hosted by 14 Squadron ‘Crusaders’. In October, 617 Squadron, ‘The Dambusters’, will depart for Borcea-Fetesti as part of the two-way training programme.
Wg Cdr Colin Basnett, OC 14 Squadron, told AFM: «It is a great privilege to host the Romanian detachment here at Lossiemouth. The flying has been fantastic and despite its age, the lancer has proven to be a very capable fighter.»
During the detachment, all four LanceRs carried two dummy Magic 2 missiles and one carried a Rafael Litening LDP pod. Cdor Dan Buciuman, detachment commander and commander of 861 Escadrila, added: «The Litening LDP pod is a huge advantage as we are now able to detect, identify and engage ground targets day and night, and in any weather conditions. Also, the imagery from the pod is projected in our helmets, so that the pilot does not have to look down in the cockpit.»
The first missions flown from Lossiemouth were straightforward ones in order to familiarise Romanian and RAF aircrew with the way the other nation works. All of them were short compared to a regular Tornado GR.4 sortie as a LanceR carries less fuel. COMAO (Combined Military Air Operation) missions were flown in which Tornado GR.4s took on the conventional bomber role, releasing ordnance on the Tain range, whilst the LanceRs were tasked to intercept the Tornados and prevent them from striking the target. During the final missions, RAF Tornado F.3s based at RAF Leuchars, Fife, were tasked with providing fighter protection to the 14 Squadron Tornados. On at least one mission Tornado F.3s acted as adversaries to combined Tornado GR.4 and LanceR packages.
All the Romanian pilots got the chance to fly in the Tornado GR.4, giving them an insight into the aircraft, which Cdor Buciuman described to AFM as: «A great aircraft with outstanding capabilities». As part of his UK detachment, he and all the Romanian personnel were eager to attend the air show at RAF Waddington, Lincolnshire, and the Royal International Air Tattoo at RAF Fairford, Gloucestershire, where they supplied welcome static displays.
Cdor Buciuman flew the MiG-21 Fishbed before converting to the MiG-29 Fulcrum, which he flew for eight years. Fie also spent two years in France, amassing 115 hours on French fighter aircraft, including the Mirage F1 and Mirage 2000.