TechRomania to host NATO's largest military base near Ukraine

Romania to host NATO's largest military base near Ukraine

In Romania, the largest NATO military base in Europe will be established - illustrative photo
In Romania, the largest NATO military base in Europe will be established - illustrative photo
Images source: © Getty Images | © 2022 Bloomberg Finance LP
3:28 PM EDT, March 19, 2024

Euronews Romania recently reported that construction has begun on what is set to be NATO's largest military base. The planned facility, comparable in size to a small town, is to be erected at the location of the existing 57th Romanian Air Force Base Mihail Kogălniceanu near Constanta. Bucharest has dedicated €2.5 billion ($2.7 billion) to the project. This budget will cover the costs of new runways, hangars for military aircraft as well as schools, kindergartens, shops, and a hospital.

This initiative will place Romania home to Europe's largest NATO base, surpassing the size of the Ramstein base in Germany. As reported by Euronews Romania, it will span over 7,400 acres and will have the capacity to permanently host up to 10,000 soldiers. To put this into perspective, the Ramstein military base in Rhineland-Palatinate, southwestern Germany—currently the largest American air force base in Europe—covers an area of 3,460 acres.

Europe's Premier NATO Base

According to Dorin Popescu, a noted Romanian military and political analyst quoted by Euronews Romania, "The Mihail Kogălniceanu base is primed to become NATO's most significant permanent military structure in close proximity to the conflict in southern Ukraine. We should not harbour illusions of this conflict concluding this year, in 2025, or 2026—it is set to be a protracted one."

Topwar.ru highlighted that the base is envisaged as an "unsinkable aircraft carrier on the Black Sea". It will be equipped with new runways, airplane hangars, weapon storage and deployment facilities, fuel depots, training facilities, and even a hospital, in addition to civilian infrastructure such as schools and shops. The base's full operational capability is expected by 2040.

Romania's strategic positioning on the Black Sea and near Ukraine, sharing a border approximately 404 miles long, significantly bolsters its importance to NATO and the United States. This geopolitical advantage has been a catalyst for the increased military utility and operational engagement of Romanian military bases.

In an advancement noted by the Kiev Post, November 2023 saw the inauguration of the European F-16 Training Center (EFTC) at the 86th Gheorghe Mociorni air base in Fetesti. This center focuses on training Ukrainian and Romanian pilots to operate Western fighter jets. Moreover, the US frequently utilizes the 57th and 87th air bases, as well as the 71st air base near Câmpia Turzi, from which American F-16 fighters and MQ-9 Reaper drones are operational.

The MQ-9 Reaper: America’s Eye in Romania

The MQ-9 Reaper drones, primarily deployed for intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition, and reconnaissance (ISTAR) tasks and assault missions, mark a significant advancement over the MQ-1 Predator drones. With a length of 36 feet, a 12.5 feet height, and a 66 feet wingspan, the maximum takeoff weight reaches 10,494 pounds. The internal payload can hold up to 850 pounds, and the external payload can support up to 3,000 pounds.

Operating over the Black Sea and monitoring border activities with Ukraine, these drones provide critical reinforcement and intelligence for the alliance. They possess an impressive endurance of about 27 hours, can attain speeds up to 300 mph, and reach altitudes of 50,000 feet, with a range of about 3,667 miles. Equipped with an AN/APY-8 Lynx synthetic aperture radar for high-resolution terrain mapping, an optoelectronic head that includes day and night cameras, alongside a laser rangefinder and target markers, they offer substantial capabilities.

The enhanced features of MQ-9A Reapers enable coordinated operations, for instance, with ground missile launchers by designating targets. These drones are also equipped to defend themselves, featuring under-wing hardpoints that can carry air-to-ground missile systems like AGM-114 Hellfire guided missiles, GBU-12 Paveway II laser-guided bombs, or GBU-38 JDAM bombs.

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