Air Force wants to turn Soviet-era base in Romania into NATO Black Sea hub
By JOHN VANDIVER | STARS AND STRIPES Published: July 9, 2020
STUTTGART, Germany — An airfield in central Romania could become a hub for U.S. Air Force operations in southeastern Europe, where the Pentagon is seeking added fighter plane rotations as part of a mission to deter Russian aggression.
The National Defense Authorization Act for 2021, which is working its way through Congress, includes $130.5 million to renovate Campia Turzii Air Base in what would be the biggest overseas military construction project under the Pentagon’s European Deterrence Initiative, which was initiated in June 2014, shortly after Russia annexed Crimea.
The Air Force has requested major upgrades at the base, including dangerous cargo landing pads, more parking aprons to supporting additional tactical fighter aircraft squadron rotations, fuel storage and a depot to support a deployable air base system.
“Campia Turzii Air Base is one of the primary sources for United States European Command and its Service Components’ ability to respond to an evolving European security environment,” the Air Force said in its 2021 budget request.
EUCOM has boosted missions in Romania over the years, but most of its efforts have centered on Mihail Kogalniceanu Air Base, which is used primarily by U.S. Army Europe and rotational ground forces.
But the Pentagon has gradually increased spending on Campia Turzii. Last year, USAFE sent MQ-9 Reaper drones, based in Poland, on a temporary rotation to the site, putting them closer to the Black Sea, where Russian military activity has grown steadily since a brief 2008 war with Georgia.
Air Force fighters also have made rotations to Campia Turzii, but improvements are needed if the U.S and allies are to expand operations.
“An adequate tactical fighter aircraft parking apron capable of supporting larger North Atlantic Treaty Organization weapon systems is not currently available at Campia Turzii Air Base,” the Air Force said in its budget request.
Without the improvements, the Air Force would be limited in what it can send to Campia Turzii, “impairing mission capability and readiness,” it said.
NATO allies Bulgaria, Romania and Turkey all lie on the Black Sea, as do alliance partner states Georgia and Ukraine, and Russia.
Other EDI-funded projects proposed in the NDAA are $59 million to improve infrastructure at the Navy’s base in Rota, Spain, and $36 million and $25 million, respectively, for upgrades to the Air Force bases at Ramstein and Spangdahlem in Germany.