France signs letter of intent on “ambitious plan” to support Romanian navy

On the sidelines of President Macron’s trip to Constanta [Roumanie]where he met with French soldiers from the Aigle mission, which was launched within NATO after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Armed Forces Minister Sebastian Lecornu and his Romanian counterpart, Vasile Dink, signed a letter. intentions aimed at “capacity building” Forțele Navale Române [Force navale roumaine] based on the “French industrial know-how and operational authority” of the French fleet.

The Ministry of the Armed Forces did not report on the scale of this cooperation. Mr Macron made the remarks during a press conference he gave on 15 June with Klaus Johannis, President of Romania. “We are working at the request of the Romanian authorities on an ambitious partnership to support the Romanian navy,” he said.

Given the strategic importance of the Black Sea, which is one of the important crossroads for the transit of energy resources, as well as for trade between the Eastern Balkans and the South Caucasus [voire entre l’Europe et le Moyen-Orient]Romania’s navy has limited capabilities, which are reduced to three “multi-purpose” frigates [dont deux acquis d’occasion auprès du Royaume-Uni] and seven corvettes [dont trois de type « Tarantul », héritées de la période soviétique]. Note that it has a submarine of the “Kilo” class, which has not sailed since 1996. This seems insufficient at a time when war is raging in Ukraine …

It envisages the modernization of two former frigates of the Royal Navy, as well as the purchase of four new corvettes. However, these projects are slowly being implemented, while Bucharest in 2019 indicated that it had appointed Naval Group to implement them after a rather intense competition. Initially, the result was denied by the Italian Fincantieri. Then his example was the Dutch Damen.

All complaints filed with the court were rejected. Only, and so far there are no obstacles, the contract is still not completed. According to the Romanian press, there were disagreements between the Naval Group and the Constanta shipyard over responsibility for shipbuilding. The French group wants to be taken over by a Romanian partner, as the latter has to build corvettes. However, this cannot be said for the Romanian side.

But this corvette program has been going on for almost seven years … And it “no longer fully meets our needs,” Mr. Dinku said recently. “We need a much more complex program,” he added.

In addition, the letter of intent, signed on June 15, is probably intended to unlock this file. It will be recalled that Forțele Navale Române chose the Gowind Naval Group corvette, equipped with the Setis combat control system and anti-submarine and anti-aircraft combat capabilities based on the hull and towed sonar from Thales and MICA-VL from MBDA.

But since President Macron mentioned the “ambitious plan”, there is no doubt that it is a matter of moving on. Given the situation in the Black Sea, the Romanian navy may need conventional submarines. This was stated by the Minister of Defense of Romania in May last year.

“We hope to produce submarines in Romania in the future, but for now we have to buy a little ‘off the shelf’ because the Black Sea is very populated, it’s full of sharks,” Mr Dinku said.

In 2018, the Romanian Ministry of Defense began thinking about this issue, estimating that Forțele Navale Române would need at least three submarines. And at the time, the Type 214 submarine from the German company ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems seemed to be the most popular. But due to lack of funds, this program could not go further. Now, with the stated intention to increase its military spending to 2.5% of GDP, Romania will undoubtedly have more opportunities to move forward on this issue. With the support of France? In this case, Paris may offer Scorpene produced by Naval Group.

However, other areas may be the subject of cooperation. For example, naval patrol aircraft, Romanian forces are deprived of funds in the area. Or marine reconnaissance.

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