Romania and the Czech Republic are the next countries vying to add the F-35 Lighting II stealth fighter jet to their arsenal.
The interest in the most advanced fighter jet in the world comes in the backdrop of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
More F-35s Over Europe
The Romanian Ministry of Defense announced its intention to buy a total of 48 F-35A Lighting II fighter jets, or the equivalent of two full squadrons.
The Romanians are looking to split the order into two phases. In the first phase, they would receive 32 F-35s and 16 in the second.
“After the Parliament approval, such as the law requires, the procedures specific to the purchase G-to-G [government to government] type will be started,” a Romanian Ministry of Defense spokesperson told Breaking Defense in a statement. “Therefore, it is expected that the signing of the acquisition contract type Letter of Acceptance (LoA) to take place in 2024, and the first aircraft will be delivered to the Romanian Air Force starting in 2030.”
Meanwhile, the Czech Republic is also interested in the F-35. According to the Czech Ministry of Defense, Prague will soon send a request for 24 fighter jets.
Increasingly, more air forces are showing their confidence in the F-35 aircraft. Some of the latest countries to have chosen the stealth aircraft as their first fifth-generation fighter jet besides Romania and the Czech Republic include Germany, Finland, Greece, and Switzerland.
Beside being an extremely capable platform, the F-35 can operate very well with other aircraft. The fifth-generation fighter jet can essentially act as a quarterback of the skies by spotting threats and vectoring friendly aircraft toward them.
The Most Advanced Fighter Jet in the World
Although the designing and manufacturing process took decades, today, the F-35 Lighting II is the most advanced fighter jet in the world. The fifth-generation fighter jet comes in three variants designed to address different operational needs.
The F-35A is the conventional version that can take off and land on runaways; the U.S. Air Force uses this version. The F-35B is the short take-off and vertical landing (STOVL) version of the fighter jet and has the ability to take off and land vertically like a helicopter; this version was designed for the U.S. Marine Corps, though several other countries, such as Italy and the United Kingdom, have chosen it for its flexibility. Finally, the F-35C is the aircraft carrier version of the fifth-generation aircraft; this iteration was designed for the U.S. Navy.
When it comes to technology and capabilities, the three versions of the aircraft are pretty much the same. However, there are some structural differences that affect their avionics and operations.
The F-35B, for example, carries less fuel than the other two, while the F-35C—designed to operate over vast water expanses—carries the most fuel out of the three.
Another difference among the three aircraft is in the main gun. Only the F-35A packs an internal gun (a four-barrel 25mm Gatling gun with 220 rounds). The other two variants have the option to carry a gun pod but don’t have an organic capability because room and weight were needed to account for their particular needs.
The F-35 Lighting II isn’t just a fighter jet. Indeed, the fifth-generation aircraft can accomplish several different mission sets, including Strategic Attack, Air Superiority, Close Air Support, Electronic Warfare, Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR), Suppression of Enemy Air Defenses (SEAD), and Destruction Enemy Air Defense (DEAD).
A 19FortyFive Defense and National Security Columnist, Stavros Atlamazoglou is a seasoned defense journalist specializing in special operations and a Hellenic Army veteran (national service with the 575th Marine Battalion and Army HQ). He holds a BA from the Johns Hopkins University, an MA from the Johns Hopkins’ School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS), and is pursuing a J.D. at Boston College Law School. His work has been featured in Business Insider, Sandboxx, and SOFREP.