In two days, Romania is taking delivery of its first batch of Patriot surface-to-air (SAM) air defense missiles, becoming the second Central European NATO member to operate the system, Romanian daily Adevărul reports.
Preparations for the arrival of the missiles has been underway since mid-August at Capu Midia firing range near the Black Sea in southeastern Romania, and the missiles will also be tested in a live-fire exercise, the paper reports. It did not, however, specify whether the sophisticated missiles will be operated there by Romanian military personnel or others.
While the Romanian ground and air forces began training for using the systems earlier this year, that training is scheduled to last well into 2021.
Romania signed a contract for the delivery of seven Patriot PAC-3 configuration systems back in November 2017 with U.S. defense contractors Raytheon and Lockheed-Martin. While neither side disclosed the value of the deal, defense analysts pegged it at $3.9 billion at the time.
With this, Romania became the second regional NATO state to have them, as Poland signed an $10.5 billion deal for the missiles in 2017. At the time, the high cost raised some eyebrows in Poland, and next year, Defense Minister Marius Błaszczak announced that a lower price has been negotiated but did not mention the new amount.
As we reported earlier, last week, the Polish Military Aviation Plant Nr. 1 (WZL1) and American Lockheed Martin announced the construction of a facility to produce elements of missiles chosen as the main armament for the Polish Patriot missile system. The new production facility will be created in Dęblin in East Poland.
The Patriot missile system first entered service in the United States in 1981 but its capabilities to defend against (i.e. shoot down) ballistic missiles was unproven until the 1991 Gulf War, when it reportedly shot down as many as 40 Iraqi Scud missiles. It is currently operated by 14 countries, including Israel, Saudi Arabia and South Korea. The biggest operator is the United States, with a total 1,106 launchers.