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 Stars and Stripes reported.
The National Defense Authorization Act for 2021, which is working its way through Congress, includes $130.5 million to renovate the Campia Turzii Air Base in what would be the biggest overseas military construction project under the Pentagon’s European Deterrence Initiative, initiated in June 2014, shortly after Russia annexed Crimea, the paper reported Thursday.
The Campia Turzii military airfield was built between 1952 and 1953, in the early years of communist rule and was home of the Soviet-made Ilyushin-II-10 attack aircraft. In 1969, an air defense unit was created on the airfield in order to provide protection against air attacks.
In 2002 it was renamed the 71st base and has hosted a large number of national/multinational military exercises and training missions as well as participating in various humanitarian missions
The U.S. 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, the U.S. military publication said.
“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 at the Black Sea port of Constanta, 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.
NATO allies Bulgaria, Romania and Turkey all lie on the Black Sea, as do alliance partner states Georgia and Ukraine, and Russia.