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The Transport Fleet; Bucuresti-Otopeni, September 18, 2015

The Romanian Air Force, part 9; Text and Photograph's by Alex van Noye

The Romanian airbase Otopeni is the home base of the Romanian transport fleet. The big workhorse of the fleet is the American C-130 Hercules. In addition to the C-130 Hercules the Romanian Air Force also has the C-27 Spartan. These small tactical transport aircraft are nowadays the most widely used aircraft.

The home base of the Romanian transport fleet is Baza 90 Transport Aerian Bucharest Otopeni. This airbase is part of the national airport of Bucharest and is located on the south side of the airport. This airbase is the home base of the C-130 Hercules, the C-27 Spartan and the An-30 “Clank”. The history of the military part of the airport began in 1949 when the 49th Airlift Division was established. From that moment, many types were flown such as the Li-2 "Cab", the Il-14 "Crate" and "Il-18" Coot". In 1971, a special squadron was created, which was in 1972 transformed into the 50th Airlift Wing of the 99th Airlift Division. This new unit would fly with the Il-18 "Coot", the Il-62 "Classic", the Boeing 707, BAC 1-11, the An-2 "Colt", the An-24 "Coke", the An-26 "Curl" and the An-30 "Clank". After the Cold War, as a result of organizational changes, the 90th Airlift Base and 76 technical Airport group were founded in 1990. After this reorganization the 90 Transport Aerian would fly with the An-24 "Coke", the An-26 "Curl", the An-30 "Clank", the IAR-330 Puma, the Mi-8 "Hip", the Mi-17 "Hip" and the SA365 Panther. In 1996 the unit was renamed to Baza 90 Transport Aerian "Comandor Aviator Gheorghe Banciulescu". This name was given in honor of a famous Romanian pilot who had two wooden legs and flew with the SET-4 over a distance of 9,000 km across 15 European countries in nine days. Nowadays, the Romanian transport fleet consists of a unit with the transport aircraft and a unit with IAR-330 helicopters.

The Romanian Air Force currently has five C-130 Hercules transport aircraft in use. The C-130 Hercules is the workhorse of the Romanian transport fleet as it has been for many other air forces. In total, the Air Force has four C-130Bs and one C-130H in use. Romania was the first country from the former Warsaw Pact which decided to purchase the Hercules. At this moment only three of the five aircraft are still in operational service. Two C-130B variants are at Otopeni in storage. The Romanian

C-130 Hercules aircraft are flying at the Esc.901 Av. Transp. Strategic. The C-130B Hercules aircraft are all former American aircraft. The first two aircraft were delivered in Otopeni on October 23, 1996. The other two aircraft were delivered to the Romanian Air Force on February 16, 1997. With the commissioning of the Hercules Romania doubled its transport capacity. After the Hercules entered service, the step towards integration in NATO was made quickly. Since 2001, there were plans to join in international operations with the transport aircraft. The Hercules is therefore widely used in an international context since 2002. In 2002, Romania had supported the Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) with C-130B Hercules aircraft which were deployed to support the NATO mission. The mission consisted of transporting more than 400 soldiers from an infantry battalion and a nuclear, biological and chemical warfare unit which were all stationed at Kandahar in Afghanistan.

The Romanians have supported the Hungarians with transport capacity to achieve an air bridge between Budapest and Afghanistan at the beginning of 2005. The C-130 is often used during these kinds of missions. The Hercules aircraft were used very much and therefore it was decided to purchase a fifth aircraft. This time it was an aircraft originating from Italy and was of the type C-130H Hercules. This aircraft was delivered to the Romanian Air Force on February 14, 2007. The aircraft was drastically modernized by Lockheed Martin in the United States. The personnel of the Romanian Air Force were sent to the United States to be trained on the modernized Hercules. The four older C-130B Hercules aircraft were drastically modernized as well. The aircraft were all brought up to the same standard and the aircraft is again able to serve in the Romanian Air Force in the upcoming years. The Herculeses’ were after this update all on the C-130H Standard. The second type of transport aircraft of the Romanian Air Force is the An-30 "Clank" which has been in use since 1976. The Romanians currently have two of these aircraft in use of the original three aircraft. The An-30 is assigned to the Esc.902 Av. Tr. Oper. si Photo at Otopeni. The An-30 is not widely used anymore and is only used for aerial photography. The An-30 is ideal for aerial photography because the cockpit of the aircraft is entirely made of glass. The aircraft are used by the Romanian Air Force for making maps and photographing plants from the air.

The latest transport aircraft which is in use at the Romanian Air Force is the Alenia C-27J Spartan. The C-27J Spartan is an aircraft designed and built by Alenia Aeronautica for use as a tactical transport aircraft. The C-27J is a remarkable aircraft and is a one of its kind aircraft, because it has a superior capacity and is able to perform difficult tactical maneuvers. The aircraft is designed to perform tactical missions during peacekeeping operations and humanitarian missions and is usable in all weather conditions. Like the An-30 the C-27 Spartan is flying within Esc.902 Av. Tr. Oper. si Photo at Otopeni. The Romanian government decided to buy the Spartan to replace the aging An-26 fleet in 2007. The aircraft must also ensure that the transport capacity of the country would comply with the NATO standard. There were a total of seven Spartans purchased. The first aircraft of this series was delivered to the Romanian Air Force at Otopeni on April 12, 2010. The last Spartan aircraft was handed over to the Romanians on January 12, 2014 when it arrived at his home base at Otopeni. Since the Spartan was delivered the aircraft was immediately deployment on operational missions included Afghanistan missions. Since its introduction, the C-27 fleet flew more than 3500 flying hours for the Romanian Air Force. The introduction of the Spartan has ensured that the Hercules fleet, which was until then the only heavy transport aircraft, was heavily relieved.

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