The MiG-21 LanceR was the longest-lived fighter in the Romanian Air Force.
After a 61-year career, the iconic MiG-21 LanceR, the longest-lived combat aircraft in the history of the Romanian Air Force, has successfully completed its last flight mission in Boboc, eastern Romania.
The last flight was celebrated with the traditional passage under a water tunnel.
The MiG-21 LanceR is the upgraded avionics and weapons systems version of the MiG-21 Fishbed, developed by Elbit Systems and Aerostar Bacău for the Romanian Air Force. The first LanceR flew in 1996 and was a LanceR A version.
The LanceR program involved the modernization of a total of 114 MiG 21 airframes in three versions: the ground attack version (LanceR A), the two-seater training version with ground attack (LanceR B) and the air superiority version (LanceR C).
The upgrade aimed to make older Cold War aircraft capable of using both Eastern and Western weapon systems, focusing primarily on cockpit configuration by introducing modern avionics, HOTAS, and NATO-compliant weapon systems.
However, despite the improvements, the MiG-21 LanceR is still a fairly old aircraft used mainly to carry out QRA (Quick Reaction Alert) tasks under the NATO control network through the Combined Air Operations Center from Torrejon in Spain.
Flight activities with the MiG-21 LanceR were suspended between April 15 and May 23, 2022, for safety reasons, after a considerably high accident rate recorded by the fleet that caused “multiple casualties and aircraft damaged or destroyed.”
On May 23, flight activities resumed for a period of approximately one year, with a plan to fully retire the type on May 15, 2023, and to accelerate the purchase of 32 F-16 aircraft from Norway, to complement the 17 ex-Portuguese Air Force F-16 AM/BM Block 15 MLU, received between 2016 and 2021, and in service with Escadrila 53 “Vanatoare” (“Warhawks”) at Baza 86 Aeriana in Borcea/Fetesti.
The MiG-21 holds several aviation speed records, achieved in the 1950s and 1960s. It is the most-produced supersonic fighter in history, the most-produced combat aircraft after the Korean War, as well as the one produced for the longest period, over the course of 26 years.
With the former RoNAF (Royal Norwegian Air Force) Vipers, the Romanian Air Force will have three F-16 squadrons, guaranteeing its continuity for at least 10 years. Romania plans to operate the F-16s until 2030 when the plans will have to be replaced by the F-35s.
The Romanian Air Force announced that they would carry out one last overflight with MiG-21 on Monday, May 15, at 3 air bases in Romania to mark their retirement.
W Rumuńskich Siłach Powietrznych (RoAF) kończy się pewna epoka. Dzisiaj na zasłużoną emeryturę przeszły słynne 🇷🇴 “ołówki”, czyli samoloty MiG-21 LanceR, które zostaną zastąpione pozyskanymi z 🇵🇹 i 🇳🇴 myśliwcami F-16. pic.twitter.com/jzJMOr0Ll1
— Conrad Ce (@conradce2) May 15, 2023
“To commemorate this event, ceremonies were held simultaneously on Monday, May 15, at the 71st “General Emanoil Ionescu” Air Base located in Câmpia Turzii and at the 86th “Lieutenant Aviator Gheorghe Mociorniţă” Air Base located in Borcea, which will conclude with the takeoff of the last MiG-21 LanceR aircraft in service of both air bases heading to the 95th Air Base «Erou captain aviator Alexandru Șerbănescu» located in Bacău, where they will be withdrawn from service.