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Romania Stretches Out Military Modernization

March 1, 2014
By Robert K. Ackerman
E-mail About the Author

Delays, not cuts, address budgetary pressures.

  • Romanian land forces conduct a patrol in Afghanistan, where they have served as part of the International Security Assistance Force. As a member of NATO, Romania is modernizing its military to fulfill a role as a regional security force.
     Romanian land forces conduct a patrol in Afghanistan, where they have served as part of the International Security Assistance Force. As a member of NATO, Romania is modernizing its military to fulfill a role as a regional security force.

Romania has opted to extend its force modernization period rather than cut important purchases as it deals with its version of the global budget crisis. Despite suffering from the severe economic downturn that began more than five years ago, the Black Sea country continues to upgrade its military with the goal of being a significant security force in an uncertain region.

The country’s efforts are part of a long-term plan that began with its application for, and acceptance of, membership in NATO. The first part of the three-phase modernization program concluded in 2007, the year before the global economic crisis.

The global financial slump affected Romania’s defense budget significantly, allows Maj. Gen. Catalin Moraru, RMAF, deputy chief of the Armament Department. However, the country viewed its modernization efforts as essential for its military, especially as a member of NATO. So, instead of implementing cuts as many other nations have done, Romania has delayed some of its programs.

Romania currently has 85 active military acquisition programs. They range from large programs such as fighter aircraft and a new air defense system to small programs with lesser impact, the general explains. About 15 to 20 programs have finished delivery, but they are still ongoing because of upgrades and maintenance improvements. Another 20 programs have pending contracts, and the remaining 45 to 50 programs are ready to start but are among those delayed for financial reasons.

Some acquisition programs have been postponed for as long as three to five years, the general notes. He allows that, in the future, some acquisition programs may need to be scaled back. But for now, postponement rather than cancellation is the method of economizing adopted by the Romanian military.

Gen. Moraru states that the military’s top priorities are a new fighter aircraft—the F-16; modernizing the country’s frigates; and upgrading the military’s infrastructure. This infrastructure modernization includes communications, with a focus on new technologies for units, he says. Some Romanian forces still operate Russian-made equipment dating back to the country’s membership in the Warsaw Pact, which ended in 1991.

Replacing that Russian equipment will be gear developed indigenously and purchased on the international market, the general continues. The country’s aviation industry, which produced the domestic IAR-99 Hawk aircraft, can provide maintenance and support. The local munitions industry can provide guns and ammunition as well as armored vehicles for the country’s land forces and for international export.

Gen. Moraru notes that, over the past five years, many small Romanian companies have emerged that are skilled in electronics and information technology. In particular, some of these small firms are offering software for command and control systems. Cyberdefense is another growth area. He predicts these small firms will cooperate with larger, more established defense firms to generate modernized equipment for the armed forces.

This will help the modernization of command and control already underway. “More and more military units, from battalion level to division, are in progress to be equipped with advanced command and control systems,” the general offers.

For communications and information systems, Romania is looking at buying commercial off-the-shelf technologies. Gen. Moraru notes that much of the new equipment entering the force is based on ruggedized hardware, which makes it easier to maintain and less expensive than traditional military-specification equipment. This approach has been suggested to the rest of the Romanian defense industry so it can offer affordable solutions to the military today, he adds.

While other nations are incorporating consumer technologies such as smartphones, Romania has not moved that far along the commercial shelf. The military is evaluating them for some applications, the general allows, particularly for some individual military units such as special forces. However, broad implementation across the force is not taking place right now.

Romania strives to remain an active member of NATO, Gen. Moraru states. Where some NATO nations have assumed specific roles within alliance operations, Romania seeks to be an overall security provider in its region within Europe. “Romania wants to become a real provider of security in the eastern part of Europe,” Gen. Moraru declares. “The eastern border of the alliance is not an easy part of the world, and there are a lot of challenges in this area.”

While some of the Black Sea nations have stability issues that complicate regional security, these challenges can come from other nations from outside the region, the general continues. He adds that Romania has benefited from good cooperation in the area, particularly with Poland, Turkey and Bulgaria. Romania has endeavored to join different initiatives among its neighbors.

The country is part of NATO’s working group for improved command and control, which will help ensure its interoperability and compatibility with the NATO Command and Control System. It also is actively involved in the NATO Alliance Ground Surveillance (AGS) program.

In another effort, the NATO Communications and Information Agency is heading the bid process for Romania’s Broadcast, Maritime Rear Link and Ship-to-Shore (BRASS) system. This program will develop a shore-based surface command and control infrastructure in Romania along NATO standards.

In addition, Romania has strategic partnerships with fellow NATO members such as the United States, France and Italy, with all of whom it supports and develops bilateral relations. Romania also is a member of the European Union, and it is aiming to integrate with that organization’s military element to a greater degree (SIGNAL Magazine, May 2012, page 48, “Harmonizing European Defense Efforts”).

As with many countries, cyber issues are important to Romania. “Cyberdefense today is considered one of the most significant threats—and an important challenge for us,” Gen. Moraru declares. Unlike many other countries, however, Romania takes a single approach to cyberdefense. Its cyberdefense elements are not separated by military service barriers, but instead they are concentrated in a single entity at the national level. This cyber element spans the armed forces as well as the country’s intelligence community, the general explains.

Responsibilities for this national cyberdefense entity also extend to the commercial infrastructure. Whether a cyber target is military or commercial, all Romanian institutions come under the purview of a single national cyberdefense organization. Internationally, the Romanian Intelligence Service cooperates directly with the NATO Cyber Defence Management Board.

Gen. Moraru notes that Romania embraced cyberspace later than most other countries. As cyberthreats became more widely known, Romania’s cyberpresence was still evolving. So, because the country was late into cyberspace, it was able to plan for protection earlier in the process.

Even with the acquisition program delays, Romania’s military should continue to progress toward its objectives, Gen. Moraru says. “In five years, we will be able to conclude our military modernization program and to fulfill our goals to be more efficient and to be fully integrated within the NATO military structure,” he states.

 

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