A RARE Cold War jet fighter will perform its first flying display in the UK for almost a decade when it appears at next summer’s Royal International Air Tattoo at RAF Fairford in Gloucestershire.
The Romanian Air Force (RoAF) has agreed to send two MiG-21 ‘Lancers’ to the Cotswolds: one for static display and the other to take part in the flying display. It also plans to send its latest support aircraft – the C-27 Spartan – to the airshow on July 17-18.
Air Tattoo organisers welcomed the news and said it reflected the excellent relationship the airshow enjoyed with the Romanians stretching back to 2001. Then, Air Tattoo co-founders Tim Prince and Paul Bowen helped the Romanians stage the Romanian International Air Show at Mihail Kogalniceanu Airbase – the first truly international airshow to take place in the country since the 1930s.
As a token of their thanks, the Romanians sent a MiG-21 to display at the Air Tattoo in the same year – though not at RAF Fairford. In 2000-2001, the Air Tattoo was staged at RAF Cottesmore whilst repairs were made to the Fairford runway.
Air Tattoo Chief Executive Tim Prince has thanked the Romanians and said the build-up to next’s summer’s airshow could not have been given a better start. “The Air Tattoo’s success is built on a unique spirit of friendship and professionalism that we share with air forces around the world. In some cases, foreign pilots who displayed with us in the 1970s have since risen through the ranks to now occupy senior military positions. Over the years, we’ve also been keen to share our experience of staging airshows with other countries and in doing so, have established genuine friendships.
“Displays in the UK by MiG aircraft are always a great treat not only because they come over so rarely but also because of their illustrious history. I think most British aircraft enthusiasts will consider that Christmas has come early!”
The ‘Lancer’ fleet constitutes the backbone of the Romanian Air Force, performing air defence, close air support and training roles. Whilst the aircraft has more recently participated successfully in various NATO exercises, during the Cold War, it was one of the Eastern Bloc fighters feared most by the West.
Earlier variants took part in the Vietnam War, the Middle East conflicts of the 1960s-1980s, the Indo-Pakistani wars of 1965 and 1971, the Angolan Civil War and the Balkans War of the 1990s. The Romanians are due to replace the aircraft in 2012