A Romanian Air Force MiG-21 crashed in Constanta County on June 12 during manoeuvres being held as part of the Thracian Eagle 2017 exercise with counterparts from Bulgaria, media in Bucharest said, quoting the Romanian defence ministry.
The pilot, Lieutenant-Commander Adrian Stancu, ejected and parachuted. After being given first aid, he was taken to hospital where he was reported to be in stable condition.
The crash happened after the MiG-21 Lancer had been in flight for more than an hour. As Stancu was carrying out landing manoeuvres, he reported that the fighter was undergoing major engine failure and he ejected.
The aircraft crashed outside inhabited areas.
The crash is being investigated by Romanian military prosecutors. There will be a formal commission of inquiry, to be appointed by the chief of the Romanian Air Force staff.
The Soviet Union began manufacturing MiG-21s in the 1950s. Romania’s Air Force began using them in 1962.
Between 1993 and 2002, Romania modernised 110 MiG-21 Lancers. Considerably less than half of these remain operational.
There have been a number of accidents, several fatal, involving Romanian Air Force MiG-21s over the past decade or so.
The Romanian MiG-21 Lancer 2000 fleet was grounded due to difficulties maintaining the aircraft, and since 1996 it has had an accident rate of over 30 per 100 000 hours. Serviceability rates below 50 per cent are not uncommon, according to previous reports.
The accident took place as Bulgaria’s Air Force continues to face the unanswered question of when it will get new multi-role aircraft to bring it up to the standards of the Nato alliance that it joined in 2004.
Bulgaria continues to operate a handful of Soviet-made MiG-29 fighters, spending huge sums on engine overhauls for them. Recently, it emerged that because of a delay in procurement, engine lubricant for the Bulgarian MiG-29s was at risk of running out. The government is accelerating efforts to keep the ageing Russian-made aircraft flying.
The caretaker cabinet that was in office from January to May 2017 examined three bids to supply new fighters to Bulgaria, ranking the bid to provide Gripens from Sweden the highest. But it remains unclear what the current government will do.
Romania bought second-hand US-made F-16s from Portugal, taking delivery of the first six in September 2016.