BUCHAREST, Romania (AP) — The U.S. Air Force has deployed about 90 airmen and an unspecified number of drone aircraft to a base in central Romania, boosting its military presence in the region where there are allied concerns that Russia is trying to display its military strength.
The Romanian Defense Ministry said Wednesday that the U.S. deployment in its Campia Turzii Air Base will be for “a few months” to conduct information gathering, surveillance and research missions in support of NATO operations.
NATO-member Romania shares the Black Sea border with Russia, and Moscow has lately been arming its neighbor Serbia with military aircraft, tanks and other armored vehicles.
“The forward and ready positioning of our MQ-9s (Reaper drones) at this key strategic location reassures our allies and partners, while also sending a message to our adversaries, that we can quickly respond to any emergent threat,” Gen. Jeff Harrigian, U.S. Air Forces in Europe and Air Forces Africa commander, said in a statement.
The statement said the Reapers will boost surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities in the Black Sea region, where the U.S. has regularly accused Russia of dangerous intercepts of its military aircraft and other incidents that have caused tensions to flare between the two superpowers.
The Pentagon has spent millions of dollars in recent years to upgrade the Cold War communist-era base in central Romania where its air force hosts two squadrons of modernized version MiG-21 aircraft and two Puma helicopter squadrons.
This deployment has been fully coordinated with the Romanian government, the statement said. The United States and Romania enjoy a close military-to-military relationship as NATO allies and cooperate on numerous regional security issues, the U.S. statement said.
The forward MQ-9 presence enabled by this deployment demonstrates the United States’ commitment to the security and stability of Europe and aims to strengthen relationships between NATO allies and other European partners, it added.